HOUSTON-If digging up a patch in your yard to turn it into a garden is too daunting and putting in a raised bed to grow some of your own food is also more work than you care to tackle, then try the bucket method.

Growing produce in a bucket is easy and yields the same quality of food, according to master gardener Betty Heacker, owner of Wabash Antiques & Feed store.

Case in point: Tomatoes are having a hard time in all this Houston heat. But you can beat the heat and grocery store prices by growing your own tomatoes in five-gallon buckets. You can move them indoors once your tomatoes have had enough sun. For tomatoes, that's about five hours.

Growing bucket tomatoes costs only $14: $2 for the five-gallon container, $10 for good dirt and $2 for a tomato seedling that's at least four inches tall. You plant the seedling in the bucket of dirt, up to the first set of leaves. Use good fertilizer and apply it more often than you would if the plant was in the ground. That's because every time you water, you are flushing nutrients straight through the plant. In the ground, the nutrients flow out into the surrounding soil and eventually back into the plant. But in a pot, they are washed away.

You can buy seedlings taller than four inches. Seedlings are plants that have already begun growing in a pot. Taller ones are called "cheaters."

"It's already about (four feet tall)," said Heacker. "You take it home, has tomatoes already on it. You look like a genius."< /p>

If you cannot grow anything else, you should be able to grow herbs.

"They are easy. An herb is actually a weed," said Heacker.

And you know how hard it is to kill those. The only thing you need to remember about herbs is not to fertilize them too much, because herbs and weeds hate the nitrogen in fertilizer, Heacker said. The most popular herbs grown in Houston gardens are mint and basil.

"Don't pick the leaves. Cut it. Cut the whole stem and it will force it to put on more for you," said Heacker.

Herbs are mostly used for seasoning food and making teas.

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