Monday, January 16, 2006

Jenny, Jenny, how does your garden grow?

It's hit an miss, really. I have a little herb/culinary garden by the front porch, and some things do really well, and some just never take (too much sun - the curse of having a south-facing yard). I spent the weekend cleaning out the garden, and planting a few new herbs (the little guys towards the right)

Shy little mint just outside the garden (the mojitos will be a-flowing again this summer!)

And ok, temperamental basil (take 3), I've learned my lesson, and you can live inside the house

In general I don't consider myself to have a green thumb. But, then again, I've never really lived in a place that has optimal conditions for growing plants, particularly indoor ones. The window the basil is enjoying is the only one in our house that receives the proper amount of diffused sunlight and has a shelf or some platform next to it for the plants to rest on (all of the windows in our house are situated high up from the floor for some reason). It seems all of the apartments I have lived have been dark tombs. I know, supposedly there are plants that like minimal light, but they are not necessarily the plants I am interested in tending.

Keeping plants outdoors has been a little easier. So long as the weather follows the typical conditions for the southern California coast (72 degrees, a little balmy), I know my plants will do alright with a little watering. This past year, however, was hotter than normal. November and December, which are my usual planting months for potted herbs, had temperatures in the 90s and not a speck of moisture in the air. I myself felt dried out, so I can only imagine what would happen to new plants that hadn't established deep roots (I prefer to do my own herb drying, not leave it up to Mother Nature).

I may not know everything about gardening, but I have enjoyed learning how the herbs adapt and grow in the garden. For example, cilantro grows into a giant overgrown stalk after only a few weeks, and needs to be replaced if you want to use the leaves for cooking. The lavender and rosemary bushes LOVED the hot weather the last few months, and were in a battle to see who could grow the largest. Marjoram continually creeps towards the sun, leaving its old stalks behind. I'm afraid it's going to creep its way out of the garden.

Finally, I love cooking with fresh herbs from my garden. Fresh herbs also make good last-minute gifts, or thank you gifts for sweet neighbors who bring you back Belgian chocolates from their trip to Europe (yum).
The herbs I do dry look and taste so much better than the freeze-dried and often dyed scraps you get at the grocery store. I have grown vegetables as well in my garden, but there are only so many tomatoes you can pawn off on you co-workers and friends. The herbs look pretty all year, and continue to mature and develop in taste. I'm sure I'll share some more stories from the garden when new sprouts appear.


Will Powers said...

that's a luscious looking mint...great with roast lamb

my house is cuter than yours said...

I wish I lived near to you to get some of those unwanted extra tomatoes! your garden is lovely!