I always thought I had a “black thumb.” Over the years, my numerous attempts to garden all ended up in frustration, and me dumping the gardening supplies I impulsively bought. About a decade ago, I decided to start a basil garden. I excitedly went to Home Depot, and bought several 4 inch terracotta pots, soil, and basil seeds. I happily poured the soil into the pots, planted several seeds in each container, and watered. I impatiently waited for my seedlings to sprout. After several days, little green sprouts rose from the soil, greeting me with their small, light green heads. After a few weeks, I had a decent sized basil garden. I thought I had everything made. After all, each of the pots had some fairly tall basil plants.
What I didn’t do, however, was research “basil care.” Back then, the amount of gardening information on the internet was scarce. Nowadays, I can just Google, “growing sweet basil in containers” and I’d get endless number of websites and blogs.
As soon as I started congratulating myself on great gardening skills, these tiny, white bugs began growing on my plants and quickly multiplied. Then, my plants were banished outdoors, where they soon dried up and died. Had I done my research, I would have known these were aphids, and treated my herb babies accordingly.
It would take me another ten years to get over the memory to losing those plants (I’m exaggerating), but I’ve recently ventured back into gardening. Late last year, my friend introduced me to terrarium building, which is an entire art in itself. With many of my hobby dabbling, I tend to dive right into it, on the borderline of obsession. Soon, I had so many terrariums, I barely had space to put them on my IKEA side table.
More importantly, I started to think, “If I can maintain these succulents well enough, what about herb growing?”
Back to Home Depot I went, which quickly became my favorite store. I bought these peat-moss pellet seed starter greenhouses, along with several type of herb seeds: Italian garden (basil, parsley, oregano, and thyme), and some flower seeds (sweet pea and California poppies).
“This will be easy!” I thought, and I prepared my greenhouses by pouring warm water into the trays and watching the dehydrated peat pellets expand and grow to 1.5 inches tall. I popped seeds into the middle of each pellet, covering them with a little soil. I covered the top of the tray with the clear, plastic cover, and placed it on the ground (I’m still furnishing my apartment) away from the window.
A few days later, I jumped for joy when I saw a few seeds sprouting from the pellets. I took off the plastic cover, and (stupidly) left the tray sitting there. Soon, my seedlings became leggy as they stretched to reach the bit of sunlight streaming through the window. Through my research, I found a few solutions to help stop seedlings from being leggy (where the seedlings grow vertically quickly to gain access to light, rather than horizontally). The problem with legginess is it causes the seedling to grow weakly since all of its energy was spent growing upwards (or in my case, sideways).
Out of all the herbs I planted, the basil was the most successful. I had a few parsley and cilantro survive, as most of the thyme and rosemary died. Through these experimentation and close observation, I have a fairly full balcony of plants. Right now, however, I am battle thrips that threaten to destroy my carnations and impatiens (I’m trying to use the soap water method to rid of them).
I hope to continue my garden for years to come and to experiment with different plants (vegetables, herbs, and flowers). My dream is to have an edible garden that I can just step out my back door, harvest what I need, and cook with fresh ingredients. I’ve already done that with basil, mint, and cilantro, but I would like to expand that to other edibles.