7 Ways to Buy Yourself a Green Thumb for Under $40

Bad gardeners, take heart—there's yet hope for your houseplants. With the help of a few handy (and affordable) tools, you can keep your little garden in health and verdure all year round.

Grow Light

Houseplant Grow Light

Do you dread the coming of winter, fearing of the effect of so many dark days on living things that need sunlight to survive? This year, prevent a die-off by taking steps to prepare. One option: Simply move your most sensitive plants to a sunnier window. If there's no room left—or if none of your windows receive very much natural light this time of year—get a grow light! The OxyLED stands out, because on the one hand, it mounts easily, and on the other, its 360-degree adjustability means you can point the streamlined fixture anywhere you want. Available on Amazon; $19.99.


Seed Incubator

Seed Incubator

For beginners, cultivating a garden typically involves frequent trips to the local nursery. Sooner or later, though, you're likely to discover the virtues of starting plants from seed. For one, it’s a whole lot cheaper to do so, since packets of seeds cost next to nothing. For another, there's the fact growing from seed gives you the chance to grow varieties not always stocked in stores. Of course, while germination can be a unpredictable process a lot of times, the Germination Station from Hydrofarm puts you in full control. You supply the dirt, and the incubator provides all the rest—namely, the warm, humid conditions critical for seed-starting success. Available at Amazon; $34.99.


Miracle-Gro Indoor Plant Food Spikes

Miracle-Gro Indoor Plant Food Spikes

Do your houseplants always seem to turn dull and lifeless after a few seasons spent indoors? The Miracle-Gro Indoor Plant Food spikes are perfect for those without a green thumb—and those who simply can’t remember to feed their greens. Place one of the spikes in the soil of any flowering or foliage houseplant to feed it for two months in the winter and fall, or one month in the spring and summer. The spikes consist of micronutrients that keep plants lush, happy, and healthy. Available at Home Depot; $2.28 for a pack of 8 spikes.


LightningStore Irrigation System

LightningStore Plant Watering Irrigation System

During the cold months, many people pack their bags and embark on long vacations—often at the expense of their houseplants. Keep your plants hydrated when you’re away with the LightningStore Irrigation System, which consists of a self-watering probe. To use, stick the ceramic cone tip into the soil of your houseplant. Put the connected hose into water reservoir (like a glass or bowl of water), and the liquid will travel through the hose to automatically water plants. Available on Amazon; $14.99.


Self Watering Tomato Planter

Back to the Roots Self Watering Tomato Planter

Growing your own salad toppings doesn't require a large backyard or a green thumb. This new kit from Back to the Roots includes all that you need to grow a miniature tomato plant right on your window sill, without fear of over-watering or leaving your plant out to dry thanks to the inclusion of an unglazed ceramic jar that disperses water as the soil dries. Expect to see sprouts after all of your not-so-hard work in one to two weeks. Available on Amazon; $30.


Watering Tower

Houseplant Watering Tower

Put your houseplants on autopilot with a personal-sized replica of a New York water tower. Hoisted up on a powder-coated steel frame, the glass water tower holds 4 ounces at a time and releases it slowly, drip by drip, down a 5-inch stem that cuts through the leaves and into the soil to directly quench your plant's thirst. That leaves your only responsibility as refilling the well when the water supply runs low. Available on Amazon; $22.


Moisture Sensor Meter

Indoor/Outdoor Moisture Sensor Meter

The perennial dilemma of amateur gardeners the world over: To water or not to water? You probably already know that some houseplants, like succulents, thrive in arid conditions, others need watering every other day. Keeping track of the thirst of each of your plants, however, takes a vigilant eye. Take some of the guesswork out of watering by employing a moisture sensor meter. The convenient little device tracks the conditions of the plants' soil, giving you a hint as to when to water and when to skip the liquid. Available on Amazon; $14.99.


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Give the special gardener in your life a little love this holiday season! Go now to see Bob Vila's best gifts for green thumbs.