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3 Things I’m Learning from Gardening; or, How Not to Decimate Plants

Posted Jan 12 2013 6:23pm


So, I’ve never really been into growing things before.  Read into this: I’ve killed pretty much every plant I’ve ever touched. I had a cactus in my bathroom for years. I murdered the poor, prickly little thing. 

Watering plants was just never something I had time, inclination, or memory for. It seemed like too much effort for not enough payout. And anyway, who grows things in New York City?  

But when we moved to Brisbane, Anthony really wanted to start growing plants and herbs in particular. So, I said “sure” with the caveat that there is no way I was keeping them alive.  

And thanks to some miracle, even with my lack of knowledge, we did really well. 

IMG 0940

We grew heirloom and cherry tomatoes, herbs, and lettuces.  While I often forgot to water them on ‘my day’, and certainly didn’t know soil from compost from fertilizer, there was something very special about harvesting vegetables you grew yourself.  A salad with fresh lettuce and homegrown tomatoes was somehow sweeter than even the fanciest and most artisanal salad from the nicest restaurant in Manhattan, and tea with fresh picked mint was something to write home about. 

When we got back to Australia after being in NY, most of our plants had died (not from lack of care, just from the end of the season.)  So, this time, particularly after my rude awakening ,  I decided to get my hands dirty and take over the garden. I really knew that if I wanted to learn, I had to take responsibility for the plants.  I’ve started reading books on gardening, growing herbs and vegetables, and now know more about compost then I ever thought possible (and trust me, there is way more to learn). I’ve talked to gardeners and farmers, seeking advice and guidance. Here’s what we’re growing: 

IMG 4821

  • Arugula/Rocket
  • Basil
  • Purple basil
  • curly-leaf parsley
  • flat leaf parsley 
  • oregano
  • thyme
  • mint
  • aloe vera
  • cherry tomatoes – from last crops seeds
  • heirloom tomatoes – from last crops seeds
  • sage
  • peppers/capsicum – from new seeds
  • carrots – from new seeds

Three things I’ve learned so far: 

  1. Attention needs to be in balance. Paying too much attention is nearly as bad as paying too little. I overwatered for the first while, and my oregano turned yellow.  There is a balance between paying too much attention and fussing, and neglecting them. Try to listen to the plants needs and don’t assume that they follow any pattern out of any book. I do still talk to them and send them blessings, however. 
  2. No food should be identical to any other food of it’s type. Anthony and I are trying to wean ourselves off the grocery store and onto growing our own foods and going to farmers market. That process is worthy of a post to itself, but suffice it to say that the thing I’m learning both from growing our own and going to local markets is that food grown in the earth looks weird. Comparing a row of ascetic and symmetrical cucumbers in the market to a card-board box filled with oblong, twisty fruit (did you know cucumbers were in the melon and gourd family?) is truly comparing two utterly different creations. Guess which ones taste better?
  3. Sometimes home grown tastes different. And thats ok. Speaking of tasting better, not all foods homegrown/locally grown taste at all similar to their supermarket counterparts.  Capsicum is a great example (or red peppers, for my American readers.) I am used to supermarket capsicum, incredibly sweet and simple in flavor, almost a desert. The locally grown peppers are much less sugary, and also has a more complex flavor.  It is still taking me time to get used to this, but considering I know that capsicum is one of the highest pesticide foods , we’ve chosen to either eat them locally, or skip them all together. 
I’ll keep you posted on the progress. It should be interesting. 

Do you garden? What have you learned from doing so?

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