A couple of years ago, I didn’t dare to grow anything. Once I killed a cactus. I was instructed to give it half a wineglass of water every 2 months or so. One day, I was sitting on the chair next to it and it just keeled over with a plop.
After transplanting some basil plants today, my summer container herb garden is complete. I have ten herbs going this year – sweet basil, italian parsley, coriander/cilantro, two kinds of mint, oregano, sage, rosemary, chives and thyme. One container holds the annuals, the other perennials (plants that die off and come back rule). Plus I have a tomato plant which is growing so fast it’s fucking scary. I don’t know if I would bother with growing things I can’t eat or use.
Maybe the fact that I want them for food and fragrance makes me take it more personally when I discover spiderwebs hanging themselves from the rosemary, or catch grey plagues of mites trying to colonize the parsley. It pisses me off. Get off my plants you parasites! I know, ease up. Those annoyingly relaxed gardeners would counsel a little benevolent neglect.
For reassurance, I pore over the Time-Life Encyclopedia of Gardening: Fruits and Vegetables, All About Herbs, and Gardening for the Faint of Heart. The last is one of those expert gardening books that pretends to be for beginners. The chapter on herbs starts with a sentence like “Growing herbs is so easy I don’t even think we need a chapter! But my publisher made me.” Its written by some hippie woman up on the Sunshine Coast who digs that “recycle old bathtubs into a unique flower bed” aesthetic. All About Herbs is my favourite because it includes a picture encyclopedia of popular herbs and actually assumes I might be growing them on my city-fied patio. What a concept!
(Scorn them if you must, but those Time-Life books are great. Nobody does encyclopedias and multi-volume references for the masses anymore. If you find any of the international Cooking Of… series in a secondhand shop, send them this way!)
This is only the second year I’ve done the herb garden thing, so I’m still working on that laissez-faire attitude to letting things grow as they may. I’m focussed on my goal of great spaghetti sauces all summer with my own tomatoes and basil. Die bugs, die!