(ARA) - Now more than ever we are all looking for ways to find affordable, earth-friendly hobbies and leisure activities to bring us moments of pleasure in a stressful world. Investing in a planter or two (or more!) this spring can provide you with colorful blooms or delicious vegetables to brighten each day throughout the summer months.

Start From Scratch To Save
Pre-planted containers at the garden center are beautiful, but you often pay a premium. Consider planting your containers from scratch instead. Spending time in your backyard or balcony amidst your own creations this summer can be a wonderful respite from life's daily stresses without the expense of leaving home for entertainment. You'll feel good because you've saved money and helped the environment too.

Consider using some edibles in your containers. Vegetables, leafy greens and herbs grow well in smaller containers and can decorate your dinner table all summer long. If you have a furry friend in the house, reuse an old watering or food dish and plant cat nip or grass to offer some feline treats.

In order for plants to thrive, a high quality potting soil is recommended, but that can start to add up at the cash register. Save money by mixing your own. Purchase a more affordable generic brand and mix it 50/50 with finely ground bark mulch. Other potting soil recipes can include perlite, peat, vermiculate, sand or lime, but if you're planting a seasonal container, simpler is cheaper and just as effective.

Help The Environment
Composting kitchen waste is one of the easiest, fastest and most affordable ways that each person in America can help our environment. The valuable nutrients contained in kitchen scraps are wasted when put into a landfill. Since it is literally free, adding compost to your container's soil is a great way to reduce or avoid store bought chemical fertilizers and still provide your plants with the nutrients they need.

Select Your Container
Pre-planted containers usually come in petroleum-based plastic pots that end up in the landfill after just one season. By planting your own containers, you are free to select interesting vessels to use for many years to come. Try old kitchen kettles or buckets you no longer use, salvaged old pots found in your garage, or colorful containers found at your local thrift store.

Planting Your Container
Be sure your planter selections have proper drainage. If they don't have drain holes, you'll need to drill them. To ensure proper drainage for your plants, add a material to the bottom of your container to create an air space. This allows oxygen to more easily reach the plant's roots which helps the plant absorb the nutrients it needs with each watering. A great alternative to rocks or broken terra cotta pieces is Better Than Rocks. This planter drainage material is placed in the bottom of containers. It creates a pocket of air within the planter, so it helps provide the critical oxygen your plants need to thrive. Optimal drainage leads to superior plant health and an abundance of blooms. Your pots will be lighter and you'll use up to 1/3 less soil in each container. The product is made in North America from 100 percent post-consumer recycled plastic. Since you can use it year after year, not only will your potting soil savings add up over time, but you'll help keep some of those water and soda bottles out of landfills.

"I wanted my containers to be lighter and drain better," says inventor Sarah Atkins. "The results were better than I imagined. My plants were noticeably healthier and my containers provided even greater personal rewards."

Once your drainage system is in place, fill the container with potting soil until two-thirds full, leaving four to five inches for plants. Next, take the plant plugs and set them in the pot. Rearrange until you are satisfied, fill in with potting soil and water thoroughly.

Water Every Day
Tending your container garden is a daily reward in itself. It's fun to spot new buds, nurture by removing spent blooms and take time to smell the flowers. Daily water is a must. You can save a great deal of water (and money if you pay for your water) by investing in a rain barrel to capture rain as it washes off your roof. Place your barrel at the bottom of your rain spout and use the water for your landscaping or containers.

For a special discount on your Better Than Rocks purchase, log on to www.betterthanrocks.com and use code "btrara09" or call (888) 994-7855. With this special code, you will receive 20 percent off your total order.

Courtesy of ARAcontent