Self Watering Seed Starting Kits

I found something interesting today related to seed starting.  The older I get, the more I think I should simplify.

I was looking around on line for some cool indoor containers that would be fun to grow basil seeds and found this cute little kit.  It seems a bit pricey, but it looks sleek and contained.

This unit is self contained and includes:

  • a grow light
  • a self watering system with water reservoir
  • cartridges of special soil with seeds already embedded in them (evidently these are re-usable)


How it works:

According to the video, you pop in a pre-planted seed thingy that has the perfect amount of nutrients, special soil, etc. all in a cartridge of sorts.

  1. pop in a cartridge,
  2. fill a reservoir with water,
  3. and plug it in.
  4. Self watering seeds are a go.


Who Could Benefit from a Product Like This:

It could potentially be awesome if you are one of those crazy busy people who wants fresh basil, but can’t handle one more thing to remember to take care of.  Or if you are going to be gone for a few days, and don’t want to have your seedlings dry out, this might be something worth checking out.

The company claims you can grow your own cherry tomatoes in it, but I am highly skeptical about that.  Do they have a clue as to how huge a cherry tomato plant gets?  Even if it’s a super dwarf variety meant for containers, I would still not plant a cherry tomato in it, unless you plan to just start the plant and then plant it outside once it gets about 5 inches tall or so.

Plants that I think you would have the most success with using this unit:

  • basil,
  • cilantro,
  • arugula,
  • mizuna (Japanese mustard greens),
  • radishes(if using for microgreens),
  • beets(for microgreens),
  • basically, any kind of plant that you would like to eat regularly for microgreens.

Why I think small leafy greens would work best:

The reason I think it could work well for herbs that you eat regularly, is because you can maintain a small enough size plant that is compatible with the size of the unit because you will be eating your greens regularly.

I would love to test this product out and give a review!  I think it would be great for a city dweller with a small apartment or condo who doesn’t want to mess with a huge garden, but enjoys being able to pick a few tasty herbs to garnish meals, or simply to scratch and sniff!

What do you guys think of the look?

I found this little gizmo intriguing.  What do you think of it?  It’s a self-watering seed starting kit. There is a short video description of how it works with a time-lapse growing video to see it in action.  Click the pic if you want to learn more from the manufacturer.


A New Way to Prevent Soil From Leaking Out of Flower Pots

A New Way to Prevent Soil From Leaking Out of Flower Pots


Well, new to me anyway.

While visiting with family over the past weekend, I learned a great new tip passed down from my hubby’s grandma, down to his mom, and now to me.  It’s the coolest thing I’ve learned all summer!  Yes, I am a nerd, but I know you will come to appreciate the genius in the simplicity of this tip.  Are you ready?


Coffee Filters!  Yes, coffee filters!

They make an excellent screen/filter to place over the hole in the bottom of your ornamental flower pots.  They are readily available in most kitchens, and they filter the water through the pot without leaving that filthy muck under your pots throughout the summer.  Thank you, Grandma Mary!  You.  Are.  Awesome!

What a great idea!  Since it’s July 1st and I haven’t even started doing ornamental pots yet, I think I’ll definitely be giving this a try.


I Garden Because I Can….Pun Intended

This post is about gardening, and why I love it, why I hate it, and why gardening will always be a part of my life!

I garden because I can!

There’s no place I’d rather be.

In this place, treasures abound,

when searching around,

hunting on bended knee.


My arms are getting itchy,

The bugs are beginning to bite!

Yet still,

I feel,

A calm respite.


My buns are sweating, 

My back is breaking, 


I should be staking!

Muscles I never knew I had,

soon will be aching!


Weeds are tall,

My patience is shrinking!

My boobs are sweating!

My armpits are stinking!

And then I start thinking:


How I would love to fall into a pool

But then I look at my haul,

and I begin to drool!


My shirt is stained

My body is drained

My thirst needs quenched

My clothes are drenched




My mind is clear

My soul is cheered

My heart is full

along with my bucket!


My bucket is full

of gardeners’ loot.

I’ve hit the jackpot

in multiple pounds of delicious fruit!


My garden may not be perfect,

after all, it’s full of weeds,

but still it remains

an escape for me.


Not to be alone,

but to live in community

with birds and bees…….

and those stinking rabbits,

the snakes that give me the shivers,

the caterpillars,

other creepy critters

and let’s not forget the coons!

Yes they have a right to be here too,

so I guess I could spare them a tomato or two.

©Marie Stephens 2018

Are You Ready?

If after reading this poem, which is almost a disclaimer stating that gardening is not glam, you still want to give it a try this year, then I found a collection of seed at a decent price to get you started!  I read a little bit about the company, and it warmed my heart!  Take a peek and see for yourself when you click the pic!

The “I Garden Because I Can” Gift Collection, by Marie Stephens Art

Below, is a link to a small collection of “I Garden Because I Can” items that I created as gifts for gardeners and home grown food preservation fanatics!  They can all be personalized and shipped directly to you or to the person you’d like to send the gift to!

So far, I have designed a

  • kitchen floor mat with funny canning puns and phrases,
  • a tshirt that can be ordered in multiple styles and colors,
  • an apron,
  • a bandana to hold your hair back on canning day,
  • and a mason jar mug with the graphics I designed to make your fellow gardener/canner smile, especially if they hate bunnies…even though they really are so cute!

I hope you will get a chuckle, and if you do order something, thanks so very much!  I earn a royalty for the items purchased with my art on them!

Canning and Gardening

Starting Basil Indoors

How to Start Basil In Your Kitchen

I just got a question from Shaina about how to start basil so she could have fresh herbs in her kitchen.  Basil is an easy one to germinate, or start from seed.  And fresh basil tastes wonderful in so many dishes.  So this one is for you, Shaina, hope this helps:)

First and foremost, you’ll need some seeds!  Below are links to where you can order some of my favorite varieties!  And there are tons of different kinds of Basil!

As I was hunting for links for Basil seeds and looking at pictures of this delicious herb, I began smelling Basil!  I told my family, “Man, all of this talk about Basil is making me so hungry, I am starting to smell it!!!”  Then I walked into the kitchen and realized that my son, Harrison, was eating his breakfast, leftover angel hair pasta with basil pesto mixed in!

This is Italian Genovese Basil. If you sprinkle it right on top of the soil and give it a pat, several little seedlings will pop up, and make a nice green stand of basil babies! Kinda like a Chia pet, but with larger leaves.
This is Spicy Globe Basil. It is the cutest, in my opinion of all the basils. It has tiny leaves and makes a cute little ball that you can clip and sprinkle on everything. The flavor is less licorice “y” than other basils and more spicy sweet. Click the pic to order from Amazon.
If you can’t decide on which variety to try, many companies offer collections of seed, like this one that features Dark Opal Basil, Thai Basil, Lemon Basil, Lime Basil, Italian Genovese Basil, Sweet Basil, Spicy Globe Basil, and Cinnamon Basil. Click the pic to order via Amazon.

This is a set of 5 pots from Ceramo, a company I used to order pottery from when I had my flower shop.  The size is 4.25 inches.  You can also order clay saucers from them. I prefer using a pretty plate and then putting 2 or three pots on the same plate.


You will need a basic potting mix to start your basil seeds in.  There are hundreds of brands and recipes out there.  I have always found Miracle grow to be a good basic mix to start with. Click the pic if you want to order some from Amazon.

Getting Started

Potting Soil Prep:  

One thing that nobody seems to tell you is that potting mix is hard to moisten in the beginning.  It usually has peat moss in it, which can hold a ton of water….but because of that, it takes a while to soak up!  I would advise that prior to planting any seeds………

  1. grab an old bucket
  2. grab an old large spoon or trowel
  3. pour the amount of soil you need into the bucket
  4. turn on some warm water in your kitchen sink
  5. turn the spray nozzle on
  6. gently spray some water into the bucket, being careful not to spray directly onto the soil, because if it’s really dried out, the soil particles might poof into your face and make you sneeze:)
  7. start mixing the soil, to work in the water
  8. add squirts of water until the soil feels moist, and will clump together when you squeeze it…kind of like shortbread cookie dough, or pie crust…still crumbly, but will hold together if you squeeze it.
  9. Once it has enough water, put the soil in the pot
  10. You are now ready to plant your yummy Basil seeds!
  11. Doing this soil prep will make it much easier to water in your seeds after you plant them. Why?  Really dry potting mix tends to float and repel water at first.  If you are trying to get the soil to soak up the water after you have already planted the seeds….think flash flooding of baby seeds and drowning and suffocation of baby seeds…not good:)

What if you Don’t have time for soil prep as described above?

  1. Here’s a cheat.  In plant nerd terms, we call this process capillary action.  Just set the pot that you planted your seed in, in a saucer and fill the saucer with water
  2. Let the water soak in from the bottom, up through the soil, from the drainage hole in the pot.
  3. refill the saucer until the soil appears to be moist on top.  This may take a few hours.

Planting the Basil Seeds

1.  Find a small 4 inch pot.  I prefer clay pots, because they are cute, and because they allow the soil to dry out faster, which helps me to avoid rotting my seedlings from overwatering.

2.  Get your favorite variety of Basil seed

3.  Sprinkle the Basil seeds right on top of the soil

4.  Gently scratch the soil surface to let the Basil seeds fall into place

5.  Water in the Basil seeds with a gentle shower from your kitchen sprayer

6.  Make a mini greenhouse environment for your newly sown basil seeds by

     a. covering the soil with a clear baggy dome, or

     b. you could set the whole pot inside one of those clear plastic lidded spinach

         boxes from the grocery store that acts as a saucer to catch the drips and

         keeps the air humid which will make the seeds germinate faster.

7.  Place your mini greenhouse with your newly sown basil seeds on the top of your      refrigerator, as the bottom heating of the soil from the fridge will stimulate them to sprout.

8.  After they sprout, take the baggy off  or remove the salad container lid and keep them in a bright place.  Away from heat vents and scorching sunlight.  A foot or 2 away from a sunny window would be good to start out.

9.  Once the sprouts get 4 leaves, pinch off the top 2 to get the plant to branch, each place you pinch, you should get 2 new branches right below the pinch. Once those get big enough, pinch and use for cooking, and you’ll then have 4, then 8 then 16 branches and so on. Feed at least once or twice/month and don’t let it flower, so you can get more greens off it. mmmm, now I want to try it!  I think I will be trying spicy globe basil, because it branches so easily and is a nice looking plant, plus, it should have great flavor too.

After all of this talk about planting seeds, I think I am ready to start some of my own for this year.  It seems quite appropriate given this weeks weather of snow, snow and more snow!  Thank goodness we don’t have to wait until spring to start gardening!!!  Check back for updates and maybe even some pics of our planting day. Or follow along on @gardenshapers on Instagram!

Learn How to Plant Basil Seeds from a 7 year old!

Houseplants: 8 Things to Remember When Bringing Them Indoors For the Winter

What to do before bringing your house plants, like this hibiscus, indoors, in the fall.

8 tips for bringing you houseplants indoors in the fall.
Hate saying goodbye to the lush patio plants you lovingly cared for all summer? Learn how to give them a boost before bringing them indoors this fall!


8 Things to Remember When Bringing Houseplants Inside for Winter

One of my followers asked me for some tips on how to make her patio tropicals stay happy after she brings them indoors for the winter.  My recommendation would be to:

1.  Slowly reacclimate your plant to your indoor environment at least 2 weeks prior to bringing them in.                                                                                                                                                              2.  Start bringing them in at night to begin with.
3.  Also, you should plan not to leave it outside at night if temps drop below 60 degrees F.
4.  Avoiding the stress of cold temps is the best way to give your patio tropical a head start for happy house living for the winter.
5.  Be sure to remove any bugs or pests by cleaning or spraying the plant, or physically pruning away leaves and stems with bugs on them.
6.  Lastly, be sure to repot the plant to give it a fresh start with some new soil full of nutrients for the long winter ahead.
7. Once it’s in and acclimated to your house, be sure to feed it at least once or twice a month,
8. and when you water, be sure that you water until the water has drained out of the bottom of the pot and the plant feels heavy like the soil is completely saturated.

 Some simple House Plant Care guidelines: 

How often should I water?
Here is the rule of thumb I use: plants with thick,tough, juicy leaves and a waxy covering don’t need as much water…allow them to dry out completely between waterings. For example, an Aloe Vera plant really only needs to be watered about once or twice a month, depending on how hot and dry the room is that you keep it in.  Plants with very thin, non juicy, non waxy leaves, need to be watered about once a week.

How often should I fertilize?

For most houseplants, if using a liquid fertilizer, you should fertilize at least once a month.  If you are not one who remembers these sorts of things, you can incorporate a slow release fertilizer into your potting mix, or put some slow release fertilizer sticks into the soil, and then you will be good for about 3 months!

How often should I repot my houseplants?
Once a year is a good rule of thumb.

It’s always a good idea for house plants is to have a light, soil that has good drainage.  Good ingredients to find in it would be fir bark, perlite, milled peat moss, a little charcoal, and possibly a slow release fertilizer, so you can get by without having to remember to fertilize for a few months.  Of course, you can get really specific on your potting mix recipe depending on the type of plant you are growing.  Just remember, the less water a plant needs, the lighter the potting soil(lighter meaning increased drainage and dries out quickly)


Always just repot into the next size up which is usually an increase in 1 or 2 inches in diameter. Repotting is a good thing to do if you had your plant outside all summer, to get rid of any bugs that might have made a nest in the pot.

How deep do I plant my houseplants when repotting?
Always make sure that the new soil does not bury the top of the old soil of the rootball, to avoid rotting out the main stem of the plant.

What kind of soil or growing media should I use?
This is a toughy, but to simplify, you can go to your local garden center, and find a bag of potting mix specific to what you are repotting…for example, you can buy cacti and succulent potting mix, african violet potting mix, orchid bark, general tropical plant potting mix, and so on.

What are some unique, but easy to grow houseplants?
My favorites are the ones that look cool, don’t need lots of light, and don’t need lots of water.  Yes, they do exist!  I love pepperomias, sanseverias, aglaeonemas, and hoyas for tropical house plants.

How do I prune my houseplants?
This depends on the type of plant.  I think this might have to be a separate article.

One thing I do recommend before you do before you prune your houseplants, would be to invest in a decent pair of pruners.  I have been using Felco pruners for more than 20 years, in fact, I still have some that are at least 15 years old!  I like them because they are well made, the springs and blades are replaceable, and they even make a pair for lefties like me!  Pictured here are the Felco# 9 for left handers.  If you are a righty, you would go with the Felco#2 pruner.

These are the Felco #2 pruners for right handed gardeners.  My husband is also a professional horticulturist and has used this model for more than 20 years!

How do I winterize my patio tropicals?
Before bringing them in for the season, ideally, you should repot and spray them with a mild insecticidal soap.

If you can, try to use an organic spray to kill those little buggers after you repot your plants and before bringing them indoors.  

If you don’t want to mess with spraying, you could just grab an old pair of panty hose, wadd them up into a ball, and dunk them into some warm soapy water.  Gently scrub the upper and undersides of the leaves to physically remove any little mites or other critters and their eggs.  Trouble with this is, that you might not get them off the stems.   Give them a good shower with your water wand.  If your plant does show any signs of a bug problem prior to bringing it in, you could spray it once or twice at intervals recommended on the instructions of the spray bottle, to be sure you got rid of all the life stages of the bugs.  Pruning the plant back is another way to physically remove those problem bugs.