How to Garden with Cats without going Bats

B-but-but, Mom... why can't I eat the pepper plant?

B-but-but, Mom… why can’t I eat the pepper plant?

A few weeks ago I almost gave up gardening entirely, for no particular reason.

Well, ok. A small fuzzy reason, who’s really only doing what is natural for small fuzzy not-quite-two-year-old cats: Getting Into Stuff and Wrecking Stuff.

Meet Wingnut (officially Annie “Godzilla” Wingnut). She’s our gardening helper, alarm clock, licker of butter dishes, collider with large fragile objects, toddler in a feline body, torturer of moths, herder of spiders, and aerial artist in training.

Welcome to the Gardening with Young Cats Rodeo

Though this is not our first time at the cat rodeo, it has been almost 20 years since we had a very young cat in the household – long before I started to learn to garden.  I have to remind myself that there are plenty of highly dangerous plants that I must avoid, store, ditch, destroy or jettison before Wingnut gets it into her very active mind to eat one for lunch.

Step 1 – Stow the fragile and the breakable safely away

If you’ve raised toddlers, you know exactly what I’m talking about when I say “Nothing Is Safe.” Same goes for young cats.

There are steps you can take that will make you feel that something is safe. You are wrong – and it is the small child’s or young cat’s job to prove you are incorrect.

Safe is an illusion. For something to be completely safe, it must be in a different house, distant city, another planet, or parallel dimension.

Step 2 – Always put questionable plants out of reach

I usually stow any questionable plants on top of very tall bookshelves that I can barely reach. Not on top of the refrigerator. Wingnut can get up there without breaking a sweat.

I don’t bother with ‘boundary’ sprays like Kitty No. The ones I’ve tried smelled worse than rotting garbage — and the cats didn’t seem to pay any attention to them.

Step 3 – Research plants before acquiring, keeping, or starting from seed

Here are some good resources for finding out what’s a safe plant and what’s not:

This applies even to lovely Mother’s Day tulip bouquets, housewarming chrysanthemums, and Peruvian lilies for the foyer. Gift status doesn’t make them any less deadly.

Gardening with young cats requires research, common sense and the patience of two saints.

Since Garden Lass is not a cat blog like Grumpy Cat, LOL Cats or the 75% of Facebook that isn’t political diatribe or Maxine cartoons, I won’t cave to the temptation to share more than a handful of proud-grandma photos. (I’ve got dozens. Nay, hundreds.)

2014-06-30 06.17.49Ok, here’s one last photo from this morning, just because she’s so durned cute – and because I’m not really going to give up gardening just because we have a feline toddler in the house.

To your garden success!
Casey – the Garden Lass

 

Sprout, Dang It! When Seeds Forget to Read Instructions

There will be times you’ll wish that seeds would just get on with it and sprout, dang it!

Sprout, dang it!

Sprout, dang it!

You’ll start to crave the sight of green, the delicate hesitant shoots of a seedling peeping out of a peat pot’s soil.

You’ll begin swearing at the fine print on seed packets. “But the package says ‘Seeds will germinate in 1 to 3 weeks’ – it’s been TWENTY-TWO DAYS!”

You’ll be tempted to call up the seed company and point out the misleading “Guaranteed to Grow” stamp on the back: “But you PROMISED!!”

Best Lesson: Nobody told the seeds when to sprout

99% of the time, the expectations that need to be adjusted are our own, not those of the seed.

Seeds are very poor readers. Sure, the package says one to three weeks. But the seed is on the INSIDE of the package, where no instructions are printed.

Seeds don’t sprout overnight (in most cases). If the package says one to three weeks, don’t fret when nothing happens in one to three days.

Seeds don’t sprout just anywhere (in most cases). Does that particular seed crave 99% humidity and deep shade? Do you live in a suburb of Las Vegas? Maybe it’s safer to gamble on something else sprouting, like sagebrush or salt cedar.

Seeds don’t sprout under every condition (in almost all cases). It’s critical to know your hardiness zone – and know what hardiness zones are about.

Sometimes seeds don’t sprout, period. That’s what happened in my ventures with cardboard palms and eucalyptus seed. After over a year of waiting, I had to just admit that basking in the shade of my very own cardboard palm wasn’t in my future (and not just because the pictures that I found of cardboard palms show them growing very low to the ground).

Next Best Lesson: Ask for help – wisely and armed to the teeth

Ginger and basil working together with astonishing results

Ginger and basil working together with astonishing results

I will keep repeating this until you are muttering it in your sleep: Know Your Hardiness Zone.

When asked for help, most people are going to lead with “Where do you live?” — that determines what advice they give you or where they point you for more information. If you live in Miami, the advice will be different from what you’ll receive if you live in Seattle or Bangor, Maine.

When something fails to happen according to my own imperfect expectations, sometimes I call my friendly Master Gardener and sob on her shoulder. She’ll sympathize and not laugh too loud, remind me that we live in a hot dry desert in temperatures akin to the surface of the sun (see above regarding Know Your Hardiness Zone),

… then she’ll cheer me up by pointing out that hardly anyone living on the surface of the sun gets XYZ to sprout without first soaking the seeds in hot magma at 40,000 degrees Fahrenheit and dedicating the burnt seed packet to Aphidistracia, pagan goddess of annoying insects that chirp and eat concrete.

(Sorry, Mia. I know you wouldn’t use those exact words!)

… then I point out that, even though it’s 127F outside, I garden indoors mainly because we live in a hot dry desert in temperatures that make the surface of the sun jealous.

I hop on the Internet and search for “how to get eucalyptus seeds to germinate without moving to Melbourne for the winter.” Sometimes the results are amazingly informative. Sometimes, though, I have to remind myself that not everything on the Internet is gospel or even anywhere near true, and that soaking seeds in hot magma at 40,000 degrees Fahrenheit is total fiction. Please don’t try this at home or on the surface of your nearby sun.

I visit two of the behemoths of gardening lore: Wikipedia and Dave’s Garden. Dave’s Garden is a lot easier to navigate than when I first visited a few years ago. Both are packed full of advice and knowledgeable people. Check out the Dave’s Garden Community, and dive in.

Next Best Lesson: Fail gracefully and go plant something else.

Sometimes the best lesson is the one learned by knowing when to go do something else. If that eucalyptus seed is not sprouting in your garden in Juneau in March, there’s probably a pretty good reason. (Hint: see above advice – Know Your Hardiness Zone)

I’ve got no problem at all admitting that something just ain’t gonna. If nothing happens after I’ve followed the instructions to the letter, I don’t mind ditching the whole project into the drum compost bin and trying something else.

I keep my failures —or at least photographic evidence— to remind me what works and what didn’t. It helps keep the successes in perspective.


Failure only happens if you try. When you’re facing a failure, remember that it’s a sure sign that you’re trying!

To your garden success!
Casey – the Garden Lass

25 Household Essentials for the Budding Gardener

At some point in your gardening career, you’re going to find yourself reaching for a ‘thing’ to prop up a sagging seedling, or a ‘thing’ to stow a broken seed packet, or a ‘thing’ to revive a disinterested parsley clump.

household essentials include a labeling kit

Labeling kit – cat not included

When that happens, the last thing you want to do is stop working, get in the car and drive to the big box garden center for a ‘thing’ — especially when you’ve already got practically everything you need stowed in your handy dandy catch-all box of ‘household essentials.’

  1. dry erase markers
  2. stick-on dry erase sheets
  3. toothpicks for securing potato cuttings and avocado seeds over water
  4. bulldog clips – I use them to clip watering instructions to the sides of pots
  5. zip storage bags – thousands of uses, including organizing your garden household essentials
  6. panty hose for tying stuff up
  7. glass jars for storing, seed soaking
  8. soda bottles make great impromptu watering cans
  9. yarn remnants for tying up stuff
  10. bamboo skewers for holding labels and aerating small soil pots
  11. twist ties for tying up sturdy stuff
  12. old serving spoons work great for stirring small bits of soil
  13. old colanders
  14. sturdy scissors
  15. an old white t-shirt if you don’t happen to have old panty hose laying around
  16. paper towels for cleanup – you’ll need ’em
  17. coffee filters for soaking seeds before planting
  18. coffee cans with plastic lids
  19. aluminum foil remnants can be used to make heat traps
  20. prescription bottles for storing loose seeds
  21. old spice jars with shakers for seed spreading
  22. paper towel cores
  23. painters tape
  24. eggshells – add calcium to water when sterilized and soaked into a tea
  25. Epsom salt – gives a magnesium boost to flagging plants

While Waiting for Sprouts to Sprout, Gather Household Essentials

While you’re waiting for that first seed to turn into a seedling, gather up a few “household essentials” from that list and stow them in a safe place in your garden center (yep, that shelf over there where you’re keeping those pots you’ll need in a few months).

Put a great big label on the side that reads “GARDEN HOUSEHOLD ESSENTIALS – KEEP – DO NOT TOSS!” This will stop some helpful soul from throwing out a box full of what appears to be junk to the untrained gardening eye.

Labeling the box as “household essentials” also keeps the contents from feeling like they’re refugees from an old junk drawer. Stuff loves to be repurposed!

Speaking of Labeling …

Addicted as I am to the painters tape-and-bamboo-skewer label method, there are times that’s not practical – and they don’t stand up well to water splashes – plus they can’t be repurposed. A label that says ‘Parsley’ will always be for parsley. So I’ve changed my approach to labeling.

I’ve recently become a huge fan of Avery Peel and Stick Dry Erase Sheets. I cut them into strips and attach them to the sides of boxes, flats, pots, planters – whatever I need to mark. They stay put, and come off when it’s time to repot (or reuse the label), and the dry-erase marker ink makes it easy to repurpose the label as needed. A full sheet attached to the wall lets me keep quick garden notes and shopping lists – and it removes without grief or damage.

The occasional dribble of water won’t damage the sheet or labels, and won’t make the dry erase ink run.

Of course, you can buy prepackaged fancy schmancy labeling kits that do basically the same thing. But since I only use an inch or so per label, these 8.5″ by 11″ sheets can make a LOT of labels. Use your bamboo skewers as posts.

Then I use neon ‘dots’ (actually I use Avery Round Color Coding Labels) to show which pots get watered daily or every other day. They stick right on the dry erase labels. (I also use these dots to mark the ‘up’ side of USB and micro-USB connectors — otherwise I can NEVER get them to connect without trying each direction multiple times. Dot ‘up’ and the connection is done.)

So, there you have it. A few ‘household essentials’ to gather and save for when you need them the most!

To your garden success! Casey – the Garden Lass

Why Planting a First Garden can be Scary

"Planting Ocimum basilicum? Always pinch your basil before it goes to flower."

“Planting Ocimum basilicum? Always pinch your basil back before the plant goes to flower.”

If you follow recipes to the letter, measure every ingredient precisely, fret if you accidentally use 1/32nd of an ounce of flour more than the instructions call for – you may want to skip this post. It may drive you bat-guano crazy.

But if you’re the person to whom a ‘pinch of salt’ means ‘grab the salt shaker, throw it at the bowl, and hope some salt gets inside’ – this post is for you, adventurer.

Planting a First Garden? Or thinking about it..?

Some people plant their first garden like they raise their first baby. With precision, trepidation and panic.

  • The exact temperature and composition of soil calculated and documented
  • Specific amounts of water distributed at exactly the right time of day
  • Copious notes on feeding, checking, moving, resting
  • Contact information posted on the refrigerator at all times – “If you see signs of sprouting, call me. I don’t care if I’m in a board meeting or in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean on a life raft. CALL ME!!”
  • Light and heat measured and charted on perfectly executed spreadsheets, printed and inserted into the garden’s journal, updated hourly.

We new gardeners come unhinged if someone walks too heavily past the spot where the baby garden sleeps – quietly (so as not to wake the wee seedlings) – SHH! You’ll wake the Ocimum basilicum!!

We obsessively scrapbook each millimeter of progress.

And we can drive the rest of the world up the wall as we delve into the alchemy of how a garden grows.

Planting the Second Garden is Less Traumatic

By the time the second garden comes around, reality starts to set in. Our garden-planting shoulders are loosened. Hovering over the seed incubation trays with a sunlight calculator, while informative (and still fun), does not consume every waking hour.

We start to (*gasp*) reuse potting soil.

Our plant markers no longer need to be carefully printed calligraphic masterpieces. We discover that a magic marker-written length of painter’s tape atop a recycled bamboo skewer works pretty darned well.

We begin to buy into the process of gardening. That a garden is more of a journey than a destination.

We start to ‘get’ that things like germination time, watering needs, sunlight preferences are not set in stone but reside within a rhythm that does not warrant panic over lack of overnight growth, or fretful trips to Wikipedia every time a marker gets misplaced.

And as we settle in, our gardens grow with more confidence and less worry. After all, if we’re not freaking out, neither will that philodendron.

With this settling in comes membership in a vast and solid society of Those Who Garden. Welcome to the club.

So Get to the Point, Garden Lass…

The point is simple: If you’re just starting out, first garden and all, or thinking of a first garden, or petrified of the thought of starting your first garden: Breathe in, exhale, and dive in.

Don’t stress out — this garden isn’t your first born infant. No need to drive yourself (and everyone around you) crazy.

Start with what you see. You already have a sense of what’s growing where you live. If you look around your local landscape and see 999,999 acres of sunflowers and one lonely palm tree… start with sunflowers.

By doing this look-around before you start planting anything, you’ll be sure that the odds will be ever in your favor (to butcher a quote from The Hunger Games).

To your garden success!
Casey – the Garden Lass

Watering: How to avoid drowning your garden

Tough to achieve too much watering when you have to squeeze each water molecule through a sieve.

Tough to do too much watering when you have to squeeze each water molecule through a sieve.

They say more plants die from overly enthusiastic watering than from any other cause. Whoever “they” are, they’re probably right. I confess I’ve contributed many an innocent seedling to that sopping wet statistic.

The Cure for Too Much Watering? Overwork.

I think I may have stumbled onto a cure for overwatering. In fact, the only way I managed to get my tendency to overindulge my whining seedlings was to change my watering methods. I carry every bit of water myself. No hose in sight.

Well, not quite true. I can see a hose, out there by the two mutant rose bushes that are skyrocketing branches into the air.

But as far as the rest, I can safely (and a bit self-righteously) say that I tote, carry, lug and haul every ounce of water my plants get.

Besides, hoses are catastrophic when dragged through the living room.

Overwatering is still possible, but I have to work hard to do so

First, fill two 24-ounce drinking glasses.

Head for the indoor garden and give each of the two tamarinds a hefty gulp. Back to the kitchen for a refill.

Give the European cypress, the basil planter, the herb garden and the funny looking thing with the curled up leaves a sip. Maybe two. Give the weird houseplant with the mottled striped leaves a few ounces.

Drinking glasses go back to the kitchen, and out comes the plastic drinking water bottle with the watering-can nozzle on top. Fill that, and moisten the soil around the perimeter of each of the peat starter pots. One water bottle should easily cover a dozen peat pots. Don’t use the one with the red nozzle. It leaks.

Back to the kitchen for two towels to clean up the red nozzle’s spills.

Clean, wipe, mop, traipse.

Now fill up the empty gallon milk jug, 3/4 of the way up. Any higher and it leaks, and we’ll be mopping the floor.

Out to the patio, jug in hand, to water (in no particular order) jalapeño plant that refuses to die, yellow squash plants in 12″ indoor pot now living on outdoor patio, sumac “tree,” and what may or may not be a russet potato plant.

 

 

Cardboard Palm Fate in Hands of the Saints

The now-famous Cardboard Palm Project almost came to a halt earlier this month after “meeting” Mia Myers of SmartSeeds by email. I got some straight scoop about cardboard palms from her, without boot-piss.

Cycad, cardboard palm

At the rate mine are germinating, this cycad must be ancient!

Cardboard Palms without Boot-Piss?

Let me take a side road a moment. A dear friend of mine from New Jersey mentioned that she appreciated my candor about a topic we were discussing recently, because (as she put it), I would not “piss on my boots and tell me it’s raining.” When she said that, I had to laugh. Her comment reminded me how much I also appreciate people who don’t piss on my boots – and Mia is no boot-pisser.

Cardboard Palm / Cycads are Old-Man Slow

I should have gotten a clue when comment after comment lamented that cardboard palm are “slow to grow.” If you have a Gardener Decoder Ring, you’ll find this means “a rock will germinate faster.”  One group of forum posters over at PlantSwap.net was encouraging each other along as they waited for their cardboard palms to germinate. I stopped reading after a year – and no germination.

(I went back today and read further – one cardboard palm did sprout after a year and a half, on page 6 of the forum posts!)

Cardboard Palms May or May Not Germinate in my Lifetime

Somewhere up there in my family tree is a very strong branch of Scottish blood, complete with never-say-die mentality and the ability to withstand properly hideous moor weather. This Scottish backbone got itself in a twist when it came time to drop the wee darlin’s on the trash heap. Well – ah cannae do aet, lass. I paid good coin for that batch of seed and by Saint Jude, Saint Andrew and Saint Maud (Queen Margaret of Scotland), I will get $9 worth of gardening entertainment out of ’em if it’s the last thing I do.

Bottom Line

Well, we’ll just see about that, won’t we? I kicked the planter full of procrastinating palms under the supplies shelf in the planting room, not so close I can trip over it, but not so far that I can’t imperiously toss a jug of water its direction when I so choose. We’ll see.

 

Confessions of a Befuddled Beginning Gardener

Beginning Gardeners go into gardening without much of a plan on their side. We approach gardening with open arms, brand new garden gloves still stapled together at the cuff, price tag still on our trowels, and go “HI, THERE!”

We overwater and underthink.

This means whatever good happens is a happy problem, and whatever bad happens is a complete and utter mystery.

Flowers are not where the seeds are found

The seeds will eventually grow in pods at the end of the stems once the flowers are spent. The seeds are not the dark thingies found inside the flowers. Don’t ask why I did not know this.

Beginning Gardener Optimism is Contagious

In March, when I started gardening (practically by accident), I was completely wide-eyed and optimistic, with not a lot of fact to back me up. Of course I could grow a winter’s worth of vegetables in my dining room. Naturally I would be able to stock the neighborhood with yellow squash by July. Bugs will not take over my zucchini if I grow it indoors.

Beginning Gardener Mythology is Believable

Add to this the fact that the Beginning Gardener may not have a host of resources to fall back on, beyond old wives’ tales and gardening mythology:

Plant two orange-colored marigolds next to each beanstalk, under the full moon, on a Wednesday in  March, May or Movember, and any passing deer will avoid the four-way intersection near the grocery store.

And we Beginning Gardeners believe this stuff like Moses himself brought it down off the mount.

Beginning Gardener Faith is Unshakeable (until it isn’t)

We Beginning Gardeners just KNOW that if we plant something in dirt, something will grow. It says so on the package, on the seed pack, on the Internet (and you know everything is true on the Internet). My new acquaintance, Master Gardener Mia Myers at SmartSeeds, was so wonderfully polite yesterday on the phone when she did NOT laugh at me for trying to grow cardboard palms in my patio room.

But the Internetpeople SAID… and I saw PICTURES… and … and …

Beginning Gardener Hope is Unlimited

Later I’ll tell you about my Peruvian lilies venture. Maybe tomorrow. I’m still feeling pretty stupid about …Oh, what the heck. I’ll tell you now.

I decided to try my hand at harvesting some Peruvian lily seeds from the remains of the bouquet I bought a couple of weeks or so, “just because I can.” The thingies in the blossom looked just like the thingies in the seed pack I bought.

I very carefully removed each “seed” that I found in each blossom and very carefully stored about a hundred of various sizes and colors away in preparation for planting them.

I very carefully placed them in warm water to soak for a few days, per the instructions I found on the Interwebnetwww thing.

An hour later I peeked in on the hundred or more very carefully soaking “seeds,” and found that most of them had basically dissolved, leaving a thin yellow scum of what I think was pollen on the surface of the warm bath.

I’d harvested dozens of stamens full of Alstroemeria Ligtu pollen.

I can just hear Mia giggling with delight.

Bottom Line

As much fun as it may be to act all Gregor Mendel and pretend I know what I’m doing whilst dissecting decrepit wilted Peruvian lilies for seeds, from here on out, I’m going to buy my Peruvian Lily seeds from SmartSeeds – and I highly recommend that you do the same.

A note about SmartSeeds: Mia Myers is an internationally respected garden and landscape expert – a Master Gardener and Landscape Designer. SmartSeeds is not for the faint of heart. Don’t order and expect your seeds to come with operating instructions. You need to do the appropriate research, reading, Googling, Binging, studying, thinking. I’m in WAY over my head at the SmartSeeds site, but in a good way – I love getting lost and confused, and digging my way out if at all possible. If you’re the same, you’ll love SmartSeeds as well. I love her quote from the front page of the site:  “These are plants for experienced gardeners and they may try your patience. But if they were easy, they’d be in Home Depot.”

YARGH! Put THAT in your pipe and smoke ’em.

P.S. I Missed You

Yes, I missed you, too. I’m back, well into the middle of the third quarter of my freshman year of Seat Of The Pants Gardening 101. I am learning just how little I know about this magic called “gardening.” I’m still an incurable optimist, although the months of August and September kicked the slats out from under several of my closely held assumptions – and the Cardboard Palm Project is on its way to becoming something I can chuckle about.

Stay tuned. I may be too late to plant pumpkins (for this year), but I’ve still got my arms wide open, shouting “HI, THERE!”

Cayenne Pepper as Pest Repellent

Did you know you can sprinkle cayenne pepper on vegetable leaves to make the neighborhood animals leave them alone? Neither did I.

household pepper for pest control

Using household spices and peppers for pest and animal control is a great idea until you run into a deer that’s fond of curry

Cayenne Pepper Repels Bunnies?

So far so good, right? Sounds like a definite hot tip (please, do pardon the pun) for the aspiring gardener who’s plagued by bunnies, lizards, cats, snakes, coyotes, jackelopes, roadrunners, Bigfoot and other woodland creatures in the desert.

That said,  think twice. Think what happens when you get a surprise dose of cayenne pepper or pepper spray –  your eyes water, your face sweats; if you’re like me, you might even scream a bit.

Try not to be a Pepper

Now I’m not saying NOT to use cayenne pepper for pest control. What I am saying is don’t just go out on a breezy day and pepper the garden, while standing downwind, without a set of safety goggles and a face mask, nowhere near a garden hose. At the very least, take your contact lenses out first.

Counteracting Pepper in Eyes

First step – DO NOT RUB YOUR EYES. I’ll say this twice – maybe more often because the first impulse is to rub your eyes. Don’t do that.

We’ll assume you’re acting alone and there’s no support system or neighbor nearby to take point on a cure. So I’ll make the steps simple and easy to remember.

  • Do not rub your eyes.
  • Take out contact lenses, if any.
  • Turn your face toward the wind or go stand in front of a fan.
  • Flush your eyes out with cool running water.
  • Put a cold compress over eyes for half an hour or more.
  • Clean and soak contact lenses, if any.

It’ll take about 45 minutes to an hour for the effects to dissipate.

Bottom Line

The basic premise is the same: Capsicum burns like heck. And capsicum is the key ingredient in cayenne pepper and pepper spray. This applies equally to cayenne pepper for the garden pests or a dose of pepper spray for the purse snatcher.

 

Herb Garden Cautions for New Gardeners [Video]

Sometimes when I write tips and clues, I get advice from more masterful gardeners. This time, though, I’m writing about the indoor herb garden I started myself and my tips and clues come from my own personal experience.

P Allen Smith planting herbs

P Allen Smith does herb planting right in his video about Herbs for Beginners

How Not to Start a Herb Garden

First, I am not going to name brands, especially as the results were probably not the brand’s fault – good or bad. I followed the instructions up until the point I lost the package.

  • Wet the soil,
  • sprinkle with seed,
  • cover with a thin layer of soil,
  • water,
  • grow.

Then, once I found the package a few months later, I noticed that there really weren’t any more instructions to follow – so I don’t go overboard trying to follow what isn’t there.

My first mistake was looking at the pretty pictures. I was enticed into thinking I was actually going to grow lush circles of tasty herbs in a long rectangular’ish oval pot – on my very first try.

My second mistake was believing that it was going to grow everything in the package:

  • Sweet basil,
  • oregano,
  • flat leaf parsley,
  • sage,
  • thyme,
  • cilantro.

It grew basil. LOTS of basil – and one reedy, rangy, thin-leafed gangle of a plant that looked as out of place as a concert violinist at a sumo wrestler convention.

Sprinkle Herb Garden with Seed – NOT

The fact that nothing else grew in my herb garden – no oregano, parsley, sage, cilantro – and MAYBE that rangy stuff is thyme – tells me that broadcasting a handful of seed over a long narrow pot full of dubious soil is not the best way to begin.

It was supposed to sprout better in temperatures over 70F, so I was careful to ensure the herb garden had a nice even temperature, no breezes, good sunlight. Even so, when something did sprout, it was most certainly not the variety I was told to expect. Even now, three months after planting, I have lots of sweet basil and – whatever that is.

Next Time I Plant a “First” Herb Garden

Well, the next time I plant a herb garden, I’m going to follow the advice that I found in this video by P. Allen Smith, and buy individual pots of seedlings, plant them in individual growing pots, and tend them as individual plants with different needs and personalities. I’d like to think I’m done with kits – except they’re so durn fun, and I just know then next time I see one, I’ll have to buy it and try it out – and I’ll be wide-eyed and enthusiastic again like a new gardener should be.

Bottom Line

I am having too much fun to let a little herb garden failure wreck my joy. Any projects that don’t thrill me get taken outside to the evergreen and placed in the Bunny Buffet. I predict that we’ll have many very happy, well-fed neighborhood bunnies for many years to come!

Gardening Containers When Out of Butter Dishes

Planting containers just beg to be recycled, repotted, reused. I’m a huge fan of creative reuse (that’s code for packrat — shhhh) and gardening is no exception.

mixing bowl planter

Terrible as a mixing bowl, but it makes a really nice place for a tree!

Today’s Examiner article is all about finding containers for gardening projects – oh, did I mention I’m now writing with Examiner.com? My title is Bakersfield Gardening Examiner, even though we’re a hundred miles and a large mountain range away.

Gardening Containers are Everywhere

I sort of touched on the fact that gardening containers are everywhere you turn, especially in the slideshow along with that article, including a few bad choices to make. Avoid pill bottles with shoulders that make removing seedlings difficult.

Spaghetti jars make great starting containers for potato vines. Just pick out a likely spud with an eye or two, thread a few toothpicks into it, and balance it on the rim. Fill up with distilled water, place in a windowsill, and forget for a few weeks. The results will amaze you.

Just be careful to use distilled water, otherwise the resulting aroma might stun you.

Get Imaginative with Gardening Containers

I talked a lot about containers over on Examiner.com – but I saved the fun stuff for over here! Got an old mixing bowl that’s seen better days – or you can’t stand the color anymore? Repurpose it into a mini garden by using seedlings started in peat pots and thinned from herb gardens to make an eye-catching and unusual display. See the blue bowl in the picture? Terrible as a mixing bowl but it makes a great place to put a tree!

Now, I’ve recommended that you poke holes in the bottom of many other containers to assure drainage. With the mixing bowl, I got around the drainage issue with rocks. A handful of large bits from the driveway in the bottom – then a nice thick layer of potting soil on that, and then the tree in its peat pot on top of that. Then I mounded more dirt around everything, and tossed a few barely-started herbs yanked out of the herb garden – I think one is basil and the other is parsley.

Bottom Line

The gardening magazines and home decorators steer you toward expensive Grecian urns and towers of terra cotta, and waxing poetic about how lovely your garden will be with that trio of $5,000 marble lions holding petunias on their heads.

Instead, take a good look in the pantry, in the attic, in those cupboards you rarely open – at the retired bowls and jars and jugs and buckets – and imagine what they’ll look like with a collection of your pretty posies growing inside.