Friday, May 30, 2008

Attempts at "Gardening"

Growing one's own herbs is a wonderful thing, not least because it resolves that age-old dilemma all cooks have faced at one time or another:

should I buy a whole big bunch of parsely at my expensive New York City grocery store
for $1.99 just for the 2 tsp my recipe requires, or should I omit it altogether?

When you're growing your own, you can just snip off the amount you want! With that principle of frugality and avoiding waste in mind, I am trying to grow some herbs at home this summer.



Unfortunately, in my eagerness to get started on the project right away, I did not employ the most successful strategy. While all aspiring herb growers in their right minds go to the farmer's market and get promising-looking little seedlings, I decided it would be a good idea to plant seeds in the dirt and watch them grow. Not for any philosophical reason, mind you, I just forgot that if I waited a few weeks, the markets would be awash with little parsely, basil, and sage plants--already looking hardy, smelling fragrant, and destined for long-term survival.


As soon as I saw the little starter plants in the green market a few weekends ago, looking far healthier than my wispy little stalks ever could, I knew that I had made a mistake. And then I remembered how I did this very same thing last year and, when my stunted basil never produced enough for a single respectable batch of pesto, I vowed I would remember to start with seedlings rather than seeds the next time. (Fortunately last year we were saved when our neighbors--so green-thumbed that they have been known to grow watermelons on their fire escape--gave us a healthy basil plant that did last the summer.)


Well, I can report that we have had two losses this year already: rosemary (never even sprouted) and thyme (sudden death due to causes unknown). The dill looked promising early on but has since progressed very little. Could it be because I dropped all the herbs on the floor twice in the process of repotting them? I suspect they were not ready for quite such a shake-up. (And that's the bedroom floor I'm referring to--yes, gardening in a little apartment has its risks.)


The surviving little plants are looking so forlorn on our windowsill that I despair of them ever becoming substantial enough to actually cook with. Should I start over with the seedlings I should have used from the outset? Or should I have faith that with enough sun and water, these little plants will eventually come around? It's an either/or decision here because windowsill space is limited. Any suggestions?

8 comments:

evan said...

I just bought my first plant the other day! Although I have no idea what it is, or when to water it, or anything about it for that matter, but it looks awesome! My living room is like Jurassic Park!

Ashkon said...

I say start over with seedlings... i want some pesto.

bbg. said...

i definitely recommend buying the ones that have already started growing... summer is way too short and they die quick :) even the pre-grown ones take a while to get moving. the last picture looks great though! oh-and at least the basil should grow much faster than the rest of the herbs.

amy said...

my vote goes for biting the bullet and buying some young plants. it will make your life a lot easier...
frankly, the seeds can be so temperamental!

Sabrina said...

When I lived in the city, I always had a hard time growing herbs and veggies on my porch. There never seemed to be enough light and the plants dried out so quickly.

Maybe thinning the dill (is that in the second from last photo?) would help it out? And the last one (is it cilantro?) looks happy. I never can have enough basil...

Do you ever chop and freeze the excess from big bunches of purchased herbs? I guess that doesn't work unless you plan to cook the dish.
Ugh... sorry so wordy.

Elizabeth said...

Thanks for the encouragement everyone. I decided to give the plants a few more days, but now I think I'll take your advice and go get myself some seedlings. I will report back on their progress in a few weeks!

Chessa said...

I am more than happy to discuss this at length...I went to home depot and bought a beautiful pot and planted a basil plant, a rosemary plant and a thyme plant (the one on 23rd St pots them for you in the store and they deliver!). I also planted some marigolds since they keep the bugs away (or so my green thumbed sister told me)...They are so happy on my window sill that I could cry. Until recently (about two years) I killed any plant that I brought home...Now I have a jungle in m apartment and I love it. The key is to not water them too much. All it takes for the house plant is once every ten days or so. The herbs need little more love and water - make sure you pick the dead things out and make sure they don't get too dry. :)

btw, thanks for the shout out on your page with a link to ciao chessa:)

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