Why Should You Build Your Own Rain Barrel?

Rain barrels are easy and very inexpensive to make and you'll save lots of water, time and money.

In keeping with our green theme this week for Earth Day on April 22nd, here’s another great project that your plants will appreciate! Our Marketing Director, Caroline and her boyfriend built the one above, for their gardens last summer.

She swears by her backyard barrel, ” This is a great alternative to the chemicals in city water and to paying city water bill prices! My herbs and his tomatoes went wild over this water last summer!”

Reduce your water use considerably by building a rain barrel. Watering your plants with rainwater is better for them than tap water because of all of the minerals that collect in the rainwater that feed the plants. Also, many municipal water systems treat their water with chlorine and fluoride, which can build up in your soil over time and reduce its quality. Watering your gardens may also use quite a bit of water, and especially in the summer when things are extremely dry, some areas institute mandatory water restrictions. Having your own rain barrel also reduces runoff which can carry lots of pollutants back into the water system, and it allows you to have a source of water in a part of your yard that may not have a spigot nearby. A rain barrel will keep your plants healthy and well watered, save water, and save you money! You can also decrease debris and pollutants by installing gutter guards into your gutters around the exterior of your house, companies such as Mastershield Atlanta as well as other companies can provide you with these gutter guards.


Building a rain barrel is easy and very cheap if you have the right resources.

  1. Start with a large food barrel that you’ve rinsed thoroughly. Place it on top of four cinder blocks that are laying flat on the ground. (This will help to give the barrel more height and better gravity, allowing the water to flow better once it gets to a lower level.) Large restaurants receive shipments of these barrels all of the time, and if you can’t get one directly from them, try looking online. We found the barrel pictured above in a garden listing on Craigslist, and it once held A LOT of olives.
  2. Using a Dremmel tool or saw, cut a 6″ hole in the top of the lid, so that the center is hollow but you can still screw the cap onto the top of the barrel.
  3. Take a piece of old window screen and cut it so it just fits the top of the barrel, while still allowing you to screw the top in place. Make sure the screen is well fitting, as this will keep insects and debris out of your water.
  4. Drill a hole at the bottom front of the barrel that is just slightly smaller than a small spigot that you can find at your local hardware store. Fit the spigot into the hole for a very snug fit (this prevents you from having to use chemicals to seal the spigot into place.)
  5. Place beneath or connect to your gutter runoff spout. Then, just wait for it to rain! Your barrel will fill with rainwater and you can water your flowers and herb plants with a watering can or by attaching a short length of hose.

Go Green For Earth Day!


It's actually VERY easy to be green!

“Going Green” is a term that’s often used liberally, and rarely followed through. Written off as an advertising catchphrase or something that “hippies” may be worried about, going green is really about sustainability and choosing to treat our planet better. April 22nd is Earth Day and as a gardener, grower, and outdoorsman, I have a very deep respect for our planet and its natural resources. In sharing a love of gardening and growing plants, I believe we all share the similar belief that we should cherish and preserve the natural gifts that we’re given. Luckily, there are a number of things that people can do to try and conserve the environment. One of the most effective things that people can do to help this issue is to consider switching to solar energy. To compare energy prices, it might be worth visiting an online comparison website. That could really help the environment, so people can learn more here if they’d like to go green. Hopefully, more people can start taking care of the environment.

We stay green at The Growers Exchange by composting excess plants and incorporating organic matter from our cattle. We try to use as little packaging as possible when shipping your plants, and the peanuts we use for packing are made of cornstarch and are biodegradable. We grow our flowers and herb plants without the need for high powered commercial insecticides and sprays, instead opting for applications that are plant based. Around our farm we grow warm weather grasses and leave plenty of buffer area between us and the James River to help filter runoff. We replant and replenish trees around our farm after natural disasters blow through (like Hurricane Irene last year) that knock mature trees down. We then used the downed trees to heat our greenhouse this past winter. These are just a handful of the ways we remain a green company in our daily practices.

Although we should incorporate more ways to conserve everyday, Earth Day is a great chance to reaffirm those sustainable practices. This week, we’ll be sharing gardening tips and ideas on going green.

What ways are you gardening sustainably in your own garden and going green in your community?


Transform Your Food With Fresh Herbs!

Our Marketing Director, Caroline, proves that fresh herbs can make even the worst frozen dish, fantastic!

As a struggling cook with little more than the ambition to want more than take-out every night, cooking can be hard. Probably the biggest thing you need to factor in is the budget and how much you can spend each week. A lot of people use their american express preferred credit card when paying for groceries so they can get big rewards they can use later on to make things more affordable. Cooking something that you’re actually excited to put on your plate can sometimes be even harder, if you’re a frugal yet resourceful, 20-something year old, like myself. So how do you get the most punch for your palate, while on a budget? Dress up inexpensive, everyday foods using fresh culinary herbs.

Between my indoor winter herb garden and the dried or frozen herbs I preserved from last year’s garden, I’ve been getting creative in my kitchen. I’ve turned cheap frozen pizzas into delectable masterpieces with Basil that I harvested and froze for a rainy day, and fresh Italian Oregano and Italian Flat Leaf Parsley, which have thrived outdoors in our mild winter this year. I’ve created every soup imaginable from canned pantry items, frozen veggies and English Thyme, Cutting Celery and Curly Parsley from my garden. And, most recently, I even conquered breakfast by adding freshly dried Rosemary ‘Salem’ to my instant pancakes to create one of my newest favorite foods. (To see WHERE I got these fresh Rosemary ‘Salem’ clippings, check out our video of our herb expert, Briscoe, teaching you how to hard prune your woody perennials!)

And while I was busy experimenting with a lot of herbs from my garden, I came across this book which was suggested by one of my friends. The book is called ‘The Plant Paradox Cookbook’ and it gives about 100 recipes, all of which could be used to lose weight and heal the gut. It also talks about the health benefits of living lectin-free. If you’re interested to find more about this book, check gundry md.

Herbs offer a terrific way to really jazz up your culinary routine, or if you’re cooking on a budget like me, they add tons of flavor and lots of valuable vitamins and nutrients to otherwise bland food. Don’t forget that your herb garden is a valuable investment that offers many flavorful rewards, so try experimenting with your favorite dishes by incorporating fresh herbs into your next meal and take your culinary skills from “ramen” to “righteous”! Check out our Cook’s Exchange for more herbal recipes, or try the one below.

After watching a Top Chef marathon and deciding it was time for brunch this past weekend, I tried my hand at some VERY creative pancake combinations. Luckily, a few of them were worth eating, so here’s one to try:

Caroline’s Accidentally Awesome Rosemary Pancakes


  • Instant Pancake Mix
  • Water
  • Oil
  • Fresh Rosemary (pick your favorite, they’re all great!)
  • Andes Mints, chopped (optional)


  • Just follow the follow the directions for the desired amount of pancakes, on the back of the box,and mix the batter until there are no lumps.
  • Add oil to your frying pan on medium-hot heat.
  • Wash, dry and crush or chop the fresh Rosemary.
  • Pour pancakes to desired size in your frying pan, and top with a generous sprinkle of Rosemary. (I was also making Andes Mint pancakes during this experiment, and some of the chocolate get mixed in with the Rosemary. It tasted terrific together, so for a sweeter pancake, try adding a little chocolate and Mint to compliment the Rosemary.)
  • Cook til golden brown on both sides and eat until you’re full!

Our New Catalog

We are VERY excited to announce that our 2012 Catalog is coming to a mailbox near you! We have a polished new look, and some great new features to help you save this year!

Full of great growing tips for your favorite culinary, medicinal and aromatic herbs and flowers, as well as interesting facts, high quality pictures and more! We’ve also added more pages this year to include even more of our Potted Herbs and Potted Herb Garden Kits, Tools and Garden Accessories to give you the best selection possible. And, just for requesting a catalog, you’ll get multiple discounts found inside and even some additional savings  for referring your friends. This is definitely a resource worth holding onto for reference while planting.

Request a catalog today and start planning your spring herb garden early — if you haven’t signed up for your free copy, click here!

Forget The "Vapor Rub" — Grow Your Own Cold Remedy!

Thought Eucalyptus was just a delicacy for koala bears?  Think again!  It’s actually a potent medicinal herb with a myriad of benefits. We were overjoyed a few years ago, when we discovered “Silver Drop” Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus gunnii), which is a much more cold hardy version of this Tasmanian native herb. After planting it throughout our farm, here in zone 7, it now thrives in our gardens and towers over us.


Used medicinally to relieve respiratory and chest congestion, ease coughs and soothe burns, Eucalyptus has long been used by Aboriginal tribes for its healing properties. Antiseptic components in the plant’s oil, like cineole- a chemical found in the herb’s oil that gives the plant its camphor-like, pungent aroma adds the active ingredient that makes Eucalyptus an expectorant. Often compared to Vick’s Vapor Rub, Eucalyptus has a strong, piney smell that aids in decongestion when inhaled.


To create your own decongestant, forget about the artificial drugstore remedies like Vick’s, and opt for the grease-less, natural source. Just boil some water, crush a cup of fresh ‘Silver Drop’ Eucalyptus leaves. Remove the water from the stove top, wait for it to stop bubbling, and toss in the leaves. Hover over the hot concoction with a towel over your head to collect the steam and breathe deeply until the water cools. You can then use the cooled Eucalyptus water as a fragrant hair or skin wash, to infuse your body with the plant’s fresh fragrance. I like to add lots of freshly crushed leaves to a satchel and place it in the floor of my shower where the hot water will release the essential oils into the steam. It’s a great way to open up your lungs if you’re asthmatic, clear a stuffy nose if you’re sick, or just relax and treat your body to a fresh fragrance after a long day.



Meeting Southern Living's James Farmer

When our Co Owner, Kenan White, recently found an opportunity to see James Farmer speak, she immediately booked her flight to the AmericasMart show in Atlanta, Ga. Meeting him after his talk was an exciting added bonus! Read on to see why we are so impressed  with this brilliant Southern gentleman.

James Farmer’s lecture on “Herban Gardening” at the Atlanta Mart was the highlight of my buying trip!

This true Southern gentleman would make his mama proud!  Handsome, polite, self-effacing, and oh so talented.  Since I have been following James’ work for some time, I didn’t quite know what to expect, but this one is the ‘real deal’!  I’ve been in this business for over a decade, seen them come and go, but my guess is that James is here to stay.  Talented for sure, but authenticity counts almost as much.

I’ve tried to recreate his gorgeous arrangements and delicious recipes at home, but after spending an hour watching him arrange and cook and entertain, I realized I have a lot to learn.  His seamless and gracious presentation had me imagining myself on his front porch, a late afternoon summer breeze making it all bearable, sipping on his mint infused tea and taking a bite of Mimi’s Apple Cake.

For anyone who’s unfamiliar James, check out his website … and go out and get his book – A Time to Plant: Southern Style Garden Living.   For all of us below the Mason Dixon, he reads like a well known novel.  For those of you outside of the real South, get ready to experience ‘our’ way of life!

Bless him for sharing.