How to Use a Rain Barrel to Conserve Energy and Save Money

As utility bills continue to climb and conservation becomes more of a public issue, rain water barrels or rain water tanks are once again the focus of popular attention. What is a rain barrel and why do you need one? How can a rain barrel save you money when it comes to gardening?

Rain water barrels come in all shapes and sizes. Rain barrels can even be purchased as parts of complete systems designed to catch and retain as much rain as humanly possible; water that can then be used to water your garden.

A 55-gallon rain water barrel will water a 4-foot by 10-foot garden for a week at the very most, so if you want to get all your gardening needs met with rain water, you will want a fairly large system. But even a single rain barrel is saves more money than no rain barrel at all.

The simplest is a simple steel drum or plastic drum (the kind used for trash cans) set beneath the rainwater runoff from your roof to catch and hold water. The trouble with that kind of homemade system is that using the stored water requires scooping it out of the open barrel and toting it to the plant by hand.

That gets old fast.

Open containers of water can also become breeding grounds for mosquitos and other insects, and evaporation is another issue. Homemade rain barrels are a fine start, but the drawbacks are many.

A covered rain barrel equipped with a hose at the bottom that you can fasten to a standard garden hose or use to fill a watering can without opening the barrel itself is a much more pleasant and efficient option. Prefabricated PVC and metal rain water barrels are readily available, from sites like Homeclick (or sometimes Woot has a great deal on them), and usually come in 35, 45, 55, 75, or 100 gallon sizes.

Larger tanks of up to 242 gallons are also available. Any of these systems will conveniently trap rainwater runoff from your roof and dispense it as you need it to water your garden. Some of the larger rain water barrel systems can also be hooked up to store ‘grey water’ (water used to wash dishes and clothes), which is especially helpful in arid parts of the U.S. where water shortages are a big issue. Many such areas have periodic bans on watering with tap water, so a rain barrel can really save the day, especially if it includes grey water too.

You can also buy stacking PVC units that give you the capability of expanding your system as your garden grows and your water needs grow with it. Even a small barrel can save you an enormous amount of money over the course of a growing season. It’s easy to just turn on the tap as necessary, forgetting that 99 out of a 100 cities do charge for water use, and in some areas of the country that charge is very high indeed.

A rain barrel or a system of barrels can easily save an avid gardener hundreds of dollars in water charges over the course of a single season, paying for itself in no time. Check out some of the rain barrel options available online to get an idea of which system might work for you, and then give it a try. When the water bill comes, you’ll be happy you did!

How to Choose a Garden Watering Wand

A telescoping watering wand is a great tool for reaching hanging garden planters, window boxes, and other hard to reach places. Choosing a quality garden watering wand the first time out will save you frustration and headache later in the season.

What should you look for in a watering wand?

Garden watering wands are available for as little as $8 or $9, and if you watch for hardware sales you can get one even cheaper, but if you use a watering wand frequently, there are good reasons for passing up the bargain varieties in favor of a wand that costs between $25 and $30.

The more expensive, upscale watering wands include features that make them more durable and easier to use. Cheap wands are usually made of PVC plastic and other lightweight materials that crack and split when you drop them and wear out quickly.

If you live in a part of the country where the winters get very cold, an inexpensive plastic watering wand will suffer from the frequent changes in temperature and may have to be replaced annually. Three years of buying a new $9 wand and you’ll wish you bought the sturdier, more expensive model to begin with, so why not do so your very first time out?

For just under $30 you can purchase a watering wand made of durable aluminum that comes with variable spray patterns and a crush proof head. Telescoping watering wands can be collapsed for shorter reaches or extended as much as 30 inches to reach hard-to-get-at plantings.

If you rarely use a watering wand, you can probably safely buy an off-brand, but do look for aluminum construction and shatterproof plastic. If you use a wand frequently and plant lots of hanging garden planters, take some time and some care when shopping for your watering wand. Look for one with a long reach, sturdy construction, and a trigger shut off.

A wand made by a name brand manufacturer of garden and landscape equipment or a major hardware chain is usually a better bet than a budget off-brand wand that you find at a very low price. Many online shopping sites list dozens of brands and varieties of watering wands at the touch of a key, and will even direct you to the retailer that currently offers the lowest price.

Shopping online for a wand before you buy is a great way to get a sense for competitive pricing and all the latest features available without running all over town to comparison shop. Take a few minutes to do a web search and look around, even if you intend to buy locally. That way, when you bring your garden water wand home, you’ll know it is exactly what you want.

How to Choose a Garden Hand Pruner

The best garden hand pruners are made by Felco, Corona, and Fiskars, and the hands down industry standard is the Felco bypass pruner. Any of these major brands will set you back $75-$100 or even more, and yet buying a good name brand pruner is worth every penny. No self-respecting landscape professional would buy anything less.

Why would anyone be that picky about a garden hand pruner?

First, of all the tools in a gardener’s arsenal, few have more moving parts than a hand pruner. A cheaply made pruner will break before you get a decent season’s wear out of it, and you can’t really repair a cheap pruner effectively. You have to throw it out.

If the pruner simply breaks and must be replaced, that is aggravating enough; but hand pruners are sharp, and so you are always faced with the possibility of personal injury if your cheap pruner snaps apart unexpectedly while you are applying pressure.

Second, hand pruners have to be sharpened regularly in order to cut cleanly. A cheap hand pruner will not accept repeated sharpening; the blade will quickly become thin and will crack or break with use. If the blade breaks during sharpening, you are lucky. If it breaks during use, once again you face the possibility of personal injury.

Just as dull knives cause more injuries than sharp ones (because of the extra and unnecessary pressure applied to compensate for the dullness), cheap dull hand pruners injure more gardeners than sharp professional-quality pruners.

Last of all, sharp pruning blades and clean working parts are essential to healthy pruning. Pruners that leave jagged edges, that rust, or that can’t be cleaned well or used without excessive force can injure trees and shrubs and infect open wounds on bark with diseases and other problems.

When pruning any tree or shrub, the ideal cut is a clean, smooth, and flat. If you have to chew through the branch you are pruning, you are either using a cheap pruner or the wrong tool.

So look for one of the major name brands when buying a garden hand pruner, and while you are at it purchase a holster for the blade that you can attach to your belt while you are working. This keeps the blade rust-free and clean, and keeps the point of the blade from stabbing you in the thigh or butt when you shove it into your pants pocket.

Plan to spend more than you want to spend, and then push yourself a bit and spend a little more than that. Always buy from a reputable shop, preferably one that will also be able to repair and sharpen your name brand hand pruner when necessary.

Spending the money required to buy a professional grade hand pruner will serve you well in the long run. Your pruner will last for years, your plants will be healthier, your will be able to  learn and execute effective and correct pruning techniques, and you will learn how and why using the right tool makes all the difference when it comes to doing a good job.

Plus, when you walk into a garden center with a Felco garden hand pruner in a holster on your belt, you will be taken seriously and treated with the respect you deserve.

Who doesn’t want that?

How to Choose a Garden Spade that Lasts a Lifetime

Some gardening tools are so important and so heavily used that it just doesn’t make sense to try to save money by skimping on cost. Few tools are more crucial to gardening than a durable, sturdy garden spade. Choosing a gardening spade that lasts and works the way it should, instead of a spade that looks like a spade but breaks in half or bends the first time it is used, is vital to the health of your garden and to your own sanity.

Garden spades are available at any major home improvement store, but they are definitely not all the same. First, make sure a spade is the tool you are shopping for. While many people use the words ‘spade’ and ‘shovel’ interchangeably, a garden spade is a not the same as a shovel.

A shovel is a heart-shaped tool with a pointed blade and a scooped business end. Shovels are used for all kinds of earth work and digging, but the most practical tool for garden use is a spade. The business end of a spade is shaped like a rectangle, with a straight flat blade and a square shallow pan for lifting, rather than scooping dirt. The old phrase, “call a spade a spade,” refers to the little known fact that spades are specialized garden tools and shovels are general digging implements.

A spade and a shovel are two different tools.

Look for a garden spade with 8 x 12 inch blade for general digging and a smaller, lighter edging spade for more detailed work. The top edge of the garden spade should have a heavy, corrugated ridge on it to set your foot upon so you can push down. While you may not think of this detail in the store, if you forget to look for it you will definitely notice when you start to use the spade. Without the corrugated ledge your foot quickly tires and you cannot get the push you really need.

A carbon steel blade is the best and longest lasting all-around spade edge, but tempered steel is lighter and won’t rust. If you are buying only one spade, choose the most expensive one you afford and look for a major name brand label and a warranty if possible.

The handle on the spade should fit your own height comfortably. Spade handles come in different lengths to fit different people. If the handle is too short, it will be hard for you to handle the spade without hurting your back. If the handle is too long, you will end up snapping the handle instead of applying the full weight of your effort to the blade. The handle should be long enough so that you don’t have to stoop unnaturally to dig, but short enough so that you can use the metal hilt on the end for leverage.

Spade hilt handles come in ‘D’ and ‘Y’ shapes and are made of steel. The ‘D’ shape is more durable and easier to use than the ‘Y’. The ‘Y’ shape is also much more likely to crack under pressure. If the end of your spade handle is not fitted with a ‘D’ or a ‘Y’ shaped steel hilt, then you probably are looking at a shovel, not a spade.

The main reason for choosing a garden spade over a shovel is that spades are suitable to more of the tasks specific to gardening and landscaping than shovels are. A sharp flat spade edge can cut and lift sod, cut through tree roots when digging holes for planting, and create more defined shapes in turf or soil than a shovel can.

Shopping for a spade online is a good way to get an idea of current prices, brands, and availability, but a spade by its very nature is one tool you really should purchase in person. Pick your garden spade up right in the store, feel it, and handle it as much as you need to in order to get a good feel for its fit in your hand and with your body. Then, make your purchase with confidence knowing that you have chosen a tool that will serve you well for many years.

How to Buy and Use a Compost Tumbler

A compost tumbler is an efficient, easy to use alternative to a compost bin or open compost pile. Great for urban applications, small spaces, and city gardening, compost tumblers take most of the guesswork and hassle out of making your own ‘black gold’ soil enhancement while keeping your gardening space tidy and clean at the same time.

An urban compost tumbler is usually made of lightweight PVC plastic and is mounted on a frame that keeps the bin portion up off the ground and enclosed. A locking hatch opens to allow both the addition of fresh material and the extraction of finished compost. Instead of turning the compost with a pitchfork (as you would with an open compost pile), with a tumbler you simply turn a handle or crank to rotate the entire bin and mix the contents inside.

Some compost tumblers are shaped like large round beach balls mounted on a tripod so you can turn the ball by hand without a crank. Others look like closed PVC barrels on a spit with a handle on one end. Most come with instructions that include regular additions of water and microbiotic powders to speed decomposition inside the bin.

Making your own compost is beneficial for many reasons. First, making compost at home reduces the amount of waste in your kitchen and your yard, allowing you to feed vegetable scraps and leaves that you would normally send to the landfill to the compost tumbler instead. It is an ecologically sound practice that reduces the carbon emissions from trash trucks and land fills and makes natural use of natural waste right where it is created.

Secondly, making your own compost saves you money. Compost is one of the most nutrient rich natural plant foods available and one of the best soil amendments in existence. Unlike peat, compost is also a renewable resource. And unlike the treated manure you purchase at garden supply stores, compost is free, easy to make, and you don’t need a domestic animal to get it.

Last but by no means least, an urban compost tumbler allows you incorporate organic farming methods into city gardening. In an era in which everyone is becoming more conscious of food safety and soil and water conservation, learning how to work with nature instead of against her is not just interesting, it’s becoming a necessity.

A steady supply of rich dark compost can help a city gardener grow an amazing amount of produce, greens, and flowers in a very small space. The concentrated nutrients in homemade compost allow intensive cultivation of small spaces. A compost tumbler takes up very little space and is safe, clean, and odorless.

Urban compost tumblers come in many different sizes and are widely available online and at garden supply and home improvement stores. Check out the various types and price points and give compost a try. You’ll be amazed at the results.

Self Watering Planters – How To Make Them Yourself!

Do you want to have a beautiful garden, but don’t have all the time for watering? Have no fear – we’ll show you how to make your own self watering planters.

Making Planters Yourself
A Self watering planter automatically water themselves, saving you time and energy. But the best thing about these planters is that you can make them yourself – and we’ll show you how.

Start by getting two different size terra cotta planters, soil, plants, a drip plate for the largest terra cotta pot, and some glue. Make sure that the smaller terra cotta container will fit inside of the larger one. You also want to make sure that both terra cotta planters have drainage holes at the bottom. These rules apply whether you’re building any planter.

First, paint the larger planter or box all over except for the inside bottom. The paint will help retain moisture. Now you’re ready to make the self watering system. Spread the glue along the bottom base of the smaller terra cotta planter and inside the bottom of the larger one. Now place the smaller planter inside of the larger one.  Allow the glue to dry for a full day before proceeding. If you want to decorate your planters, then this is a great time to do it.

After the glue had dried it is ready to be planted. You can plant anything you want in this, from violets to tomatoes. To start the self watering system, just fill the gap between the containers with water and the terra cotta will absorb the water – watering your plants automatically! Now you’ve got a self watering  planter that you made yourself!

How To Make A Tire Planter – For A Garden That Won’t Go Flat!

Tire planters are a great choice for any gardener that wants to give their yard an old-fashioned feeling. If you’re looking to rev up your garden by learning how to make a tire planter, we’ve got all of the information that you need.

Making Your Own Tire Planter
The first thing that you need to make a tire planter is a tire. A lot of car garages will give you used tires for free or for a small charge. This is an excellent place to get the tire for your planter, because it needs to be worn and flexible to convert it into a planter.

You’ll need to remove any leftover air from the tire. Next, you’ll need to turn the tire inside out. You can do this by planting your foot on the bottom and pulling at the top from the far side. Next, place your other foot on the tire and hold down the flattened edge at the bottom with this foot. Now, push the tire over and pull from the opposite side. If your tire is soft enough, it should turn inside out fairly easily. Believe it or not, that’s all it takes!

Your tire is now ready to be used as a planter. If you’re using several of these planters in your garden, make sure to leave about half an inch between the tires. Fill this gap with soil and you can plant a complement to your beds here. Many people will want to paint the rubber to make it coordinate with their garden. Some tire gardeners even shape their tires into designs – such as petals. These painted tires make lovely patio planters as well.

Gardening Tips for Growing Tomatoes in Containers

Growing tomatoes in containers doesn’t require a big vegetable garden or even a small garden bed. Tomatoes are perfectly happy growing in a pot on the patio or in a few containers on a sunny deck. All you need to grow delicious tomatoes successfully on a porch is a big pot, the right tomato plant, lots of water, and a few minutes each day for watering and maintenance.

Start with the right pot and a big bag of rich potting soil with lots of loam for good drainage. The best type of container is a large plastic or clay pot; at least 15 or 16 inches across at the top, and larger if you can manage it. The pot should have a hole in the bottom for excess water to drain, and a saucer to keep it up off the ground.

Place some gravel or small stones in the bottom of your pot and then add some potting soil and a bit of manure to about one half of the way full. Place your plant tomato on top of that mounded soil and manure, then add potting more soil.

Leave a couple of inches of space at the top. Don’t bury the stem of your tomato plant. Stop filling the pot when you get to the place where the stem meets the roots.

Water your tomato immediately after planting with a high phosphorus root stimulator. Then check for water daily by sticking your finger about an inch down into the pot. The soil should be evenly moist but not waterlogged. Aim for consistently moist soil, and don’t let the tomato dry out or get too wet.

Tomatoes are heavy feeders and they like acidic soil conditions. Buy a good all-purpose vegetable fertilizer and follow the instructions on the label for feeding tomatoes in containers. Miracle Grow and Fertilome both make excellent fertilizers for container vegetables.

Anything you would do to enrich ordinary vegetable garden soil will also make your potted tomato happy.  If you already make your own compost at home, work a little into the soil around your tomato each week, or make a tea out of compost or a few teaspoons of bagged manure and water with it every so often.

Tomatoes also appreciate a little blood meal worked into the soil before you water them, or a little fish meal. Bone meal is good for them too, as it helps them to establish and maintain a strong root system.

Tomatoes need lots of air circulation or else they can develop blight. Some tomato diseases cause tomato leaves turn yellow and drop in large numbers, giving the plant a scraggly appearance. Crowding and over watering will also do this, so avoid both. One tomato per pot is plenty.

If you have a little space around the base of the plant, you can plant some lettuce, however, without hurting the tomato a bit. That way you get two vegetables with one effort.

Another way to prevent wilt and other tomato diseases and pests is to buy a disease resistant tomato right from the start. You should look for a ‘patio tomato’ with a thick stem so that you don’t have to stake the plant. These are easy to find at almost any garden center.

Second, look for the initial ‘V’ and/or ‘F’ on the little tag that is stuck into the soil (the one with the varietal name of the tomato on it). The ‘V’ means the tomato is resistant to Verticillium wilt, a common tomato virus, and the ‘F’ means the plant is fungus-resistant.

Tomatoes aren’t troubled by very many insect pests, but should you find some, a single application of Sevin (a mild insecticide) will usually be enough to discourage the unwanted visitors. Patio tomatoes are especially hardy, and the likelihood of an infestation is small.

If you do get a few bugs, don’t overreact. You can usually spray aphids off with a garden hose or discourage them with a single spray of warm water mixed with a little dish soap. Caterpillars can be picked off by hand and squashed. Most bugs are not harmful to you or the tomato, so try not to worry about them.

Choose the largest bedding tomato you can find (bred for patios). You’ll have more success buying a patio tomato in a six inch pot and transplanting it to your large container than you will a one of those tiny bedding plants that come in a teaspoon of soil four to a pack.

One word of warning: Though heirloom vegetables are coming back and are wildly popular, you might want to choose a more conventional variety your first time out. Heirloom tomatoes often don’t have the disease resistance that conventional hybrids like Big Boy and Early Girl do. Cherry tomatoes are especially easy to grow in pots and are a great choice for beginners.

Whichever type of tomato you finally select, give it the richest soil and the sunniest driest home you can find. Check out some of the great resources online at gardening web sites and plant suppliers for tips and tricks from the seasoned gardeners and horticultural pros.

Then take the plunge, and enjoy your patio tomato. A homegrown tomato fresh off the vine in July or August is a rare and special pleasure.

Tips and Tricks for Growing Roses in Containers

Most kinds of roses can be successfully grown in containers with a little planning and special effort. Growing roses in containers has become very popular, especially for patios and decks and for people with not much gardening space and people with limited mobility.

Choosing the right varieties of roses, the best type of container, and the best soil and fertilizer gets container roses off to a strong start. Correct pruning and regular watering will then keep them lovely all through the growing season.

Almost any rose can be raised as a container plant, but larger climbing varieties are too wild for pots, and some of the larger rugosa roses will feel constricted fairly quickly. Choose smaller shrub roses or miniature roses for best results.

Most hybrid tea roses can also be successfully grown in containers for a single season, but since hybrid teas are very susceptible to winter cold, they are not likely to survive unless transplanted and protected before the first hard freeze. Keep in mind that any rose grown in a container will have to be transplanted to a regular bed within three years.

Roses are heavy feeders, and require rich soil, regular fertilizer applications, lots of water, and excellent drainage. Never put any rose in a pot smaller than 15 inches in diameter. The larger the pot the happier the rose will be. The roots of roses are extensive and large, and cramping them produces poor results.

To prepare the pot for planting, place about an inch of gravel or stone in the bottom to encourage good drainage. The pot should have a hole in the bottom for drainage as well, and should have its own saucer to keep it up off the ground and catch run-off after watering.

Choose a rich soil mix (you can purchase potting soil mixed especially for container roses) and add a cup of perlite and a cup of bonemeal to enhance drainage and make the mix even richer. You can also work in a little blood meal or fish meal, both of which are high in the nitrogen that roses love.

Make a mound of soil on top of the gravel and spread the roots of your rose over that, then fill in around the roots with the rest of the potting mix. The soil should be level with the bud union; the place where the rose roots are grafted to the stem. Do not cover up this bud union or bury the stem of the rose.

Water your potted rose with a shot of root-stimulating plant food according to the directions on the bottle. Fertilome makes a great all-purpose root stimulator that smells like B vitamins and can be purchased in gallon jugs and used on all your plant material to get it off to a good strong start.

Water and feed your rose regularly, and place it in a sunny location with good air circulation. Don’t crowd a lot of other pots around your container rose. Roses need good air flow to keep their foliage in clean, green condition. Too close and the leaves become prone to black spot and mildew. While black spot will not kill a rose, it’s unattractive and avoidable, so take steps to avoid it from day one and you won’t have to worry about getting rid of it.

Occasionally roses get hit by aphids; little green bugs that like to suck the juice out of the stems, and Japanese beetles also enjoy eating the leaves. Aphids can be simply sprayed off with a hose, or, if that doesn’t work, you can use a mild solution of dish soap and warm water. Spray the rose down with the soapy solution and the aphids will go away.

For Japanese beetles, you can use Sevin (a mild insecticide) or buy a Japanese beetle trap. Place the trap far away from wherever you are growing your potted rose. Otherwise, you will simply lure even more Japanese beetles to your patio, where they will snack on your rose before dying in the trap. So, for example, if the roses are on your deck, hang the trap at the farthest corner of your back yard.

Many special fertilizer formulations are available for roses. Ask at your garden center for a good one for container roses, and feed your rose according to directs. Anything you can do to enrich the soil will be appreciated, including working a little blood meal or compost into it at regular intervals throughout the growing season.

Prune your rose carefully so as to maintain good air circulation around the branches, removing any branches that criss cross in an awkward fashion, and any deadwood and old wood. Lightly pruning the tips will encourage a full shape. Don’t be afraid to prune; pruning actually encourages growth in rose bushes

Deadheading your container roses will encourage them to bloom more frequently, and cutting roses for bouquets and floral arrangements encourages them to make even more blossoms.

Growing roses in containers can become addictive. Check out the different varieties of roses online before you buy, and read through some of the great free advice available from suppliers and gardening web sites. Most of all enjoy your roses!

Growing Herbs in Pots is Easy and Fun

If you’ve never done much gardening but you love to cook, growing herbs in pots is a great way to get acquainted with the plant kingdom, have some fun, and save money on dried herbs and garnishes. Seasoned gardeners who have never grown their own seasonings will also find the process relaxing and delicious.

Herb gardens (sometimes called ‘kitchen gardens’) are among the easiest kind to start and maintain. Herbs are especially easy to grow in pots, and some varieties are so aggressive it’s hard not to grow them successfully.

No matter how limited your space or time, you almost certainly have room for a few pots outside the kitchen door, or a window box filled with herbs outside your kitchen window. Fresh herbs are quite unlike dried ones in both flavor and quality. Once you get used to cooking with them, you’ll wonder how you ever got by without them.

The best type of container for growing herbs is a plastic window box or a series of attractive glazed pots that you can set in a sunny place on a patio or near a back door. Start with good potting mix of medium weight.

If can you splurge on the kind of potting mix with fertilizer already included, that will get your herb garden off to an even stronger start. Any potting mix marked for vegetables will also work wonderfully for herbs.

Some herbs are so aggressive and spread so rapidly you will want to confine them to their own separate pot instead of mixing them in a window box. These include all varieties of mint, lemon balm, and some herbs that double as ground covers (such as pennyroyal and hoytunia).

Other herbs can be easily combined in a single large pot or window box to make your planting more attractive. Some pretty combinations are chives and variegated oregano, parsley and creeping thyme, and French tarragon with purple basil, and sage with summer savory.

Don’t be afraid to mix edible flowers and miniature vegetables and lettuces into your herb garden. ‘Mesclun’ seed packets that contain a mix of many colors and textures of edible greens are widely available in garden centers, as are decorative miniature multi-colored pepper plants and patio cherry tomatoes.

Edible flowers include violets and dandelions, (both of these will need to be confined to their own containers since they spread aggressively), chamomile (you can make a calming tea out of the flower heads), and borage flowers and nasturtiums (good in salads). Including edible flowers in your container herb gardens is a great way to create beauty while supply yourself with instant garnishes and cake decorations all summer long. Keep in mind however that not all flowers are edible, so make sure of what you are eating before you pop it in a salad.

Water your herb pots regularly but don’t over water. To check the soil for dryness, stick your finger about an inch deep into the pot. It should feel moist but not soaked. If the soil is bone dry, your pots need water. Over time you will learn how frequently to water for optimal growth.

Watch your plants for signs of distress. Crisp leaf edges, drooping plants, and dropped flowers or brown leaves are all signs that your herb pots need water pronto. Some of these signs of plant distress (especially lots of dropped flowers and spindly growth) can also indicate over watering.

If the soil looks wet but your herbs are still unhealthy, gently tug at the base of one of the plants. If it comes right up with little or no root system attached, you are over watering and rotting out the roots. Let the soil dry out completely and then ease up on your watering schedule and they may come back.

Regular feeding is a good idea to encourage lots of green growth. Look for a fertilizer specially formulated for container gardens such as Miracle Grow or Fertilome. You can choose a liquid that you add to water once a month or so, slow release granules, or even solid spikes that dissolve slowly over time.

Some herbs are easier to grow from seed than from bedding starts. Catnip is a one of these. Planting catnip bedding plants or pots is likely to attract a neighborhood cat that will easily dislodge the plant from its pot and drag it away, but if you grow it from seed, it’s much harder for cats to pull out the entire plant (though they may still nibble).

Other herbs that grow easily from seed include parsley, chervil, and nasturtiums. Basil, thyme, and oregano grow easily from seed but get a faster, healthier start if you buy bedding plants. Rosemary is pretty hard to start from seed. If you like to use rosemary, you would do well to buy a fairly large already-grown container plant and take care of it at home.

Check out online nursery catalogues, gardening sites, and herb gardening blogs before you get started in order to get a sense for which herbs are available and which ones you might like to grow. Many online suppliers will deliver everything you need to get started right to your front door. It doesn’t get any easier than that!