Friday, March 6, 2009

When Plants Attack

Pictured above is what was left of my once totally rad AeroGarden. For a short (very short) period of time it provided me with fresh herbs like basil, thyme, dill, mint and parsley, with minimal effort on my part, Destroyer of All Living Things (or DALT, for short). I thought this very exciting giveaway table find from my old office would work wonders and transform me from massive DALT and epic black thumb into a true gardening diva. I set it up with gusto, and a few weeks later my house was brimming with a few different herbs. They took their time, sprouting in batches atop my fridge, emerging one by one from their tiny hydroponic homes. I got tremendous use out of the creeping thyme, one of my favorite herbs, which flourished and slowly started working it's way down the side of my fridge as it's name would imply. The basil was a force to be reckoned with, growing so tall and strong it eventually fused with the lights that fed it. 

But soon after their glorious appearance, the basil seemed to suck the life out of the other herbs. Evidently there was some sort of cilantro shortage at the factory, so my set of herbs replaced the cilantro (the main reason I wanted the damn thing) with purple basil. I figured it wouldn't matter, but eventually the chives never sprouted, and the mint, dill, parsley and thyme began to fade away, while the two basils teamed up to become one herby supervillain. I tried using as much of it as possible, hoping to diminsh its power, but there was nothing to be done. It was too cold to buy tomatoes, and soon both my fridge and my AeroGarden were overrun with basil stalks and dried basil leaves. I couldn't take one step through my apartment without crunching down on a basil leaf. I tried cutting them down from the stalk, but it was useless. There was no stopping it. My kitchen had been overrun by the basil, and I was once again an official DALT. For a while I considered buying new herb pods to replace the old ones, hoping I wouldn't need to throw out the entire device. But it ended up being defective, with the two indicators lights that instruct you to feed the garden water and minerals constantly going off for no reason and refusing to turn off. I had my own little shop of horrors, and the only solution would be to throw the entire thing out.

My saving grace came when the weather got slightly warmer and a few vendors at the farmers market pulled out small planted herbs. They were super affordable (3 for 5 bucks!) and ready to use. I jumped on them (thyme, sage and rosemary), immediately forgetting my DALT-y ways, but knowing that ultimately it would save me tons of money on fresh herbs. Fortunately, the farmer said that herbs need good light (which is easy to come by at my place), and dry soil. Intrigued, I asked him why and he told me that the herbs that continue to thrive in the winter don't require the larger amounts of water that summer herbs do (I'm looking at you, basil), so they're perfect for forgetful gardeners such as myself. He even promised me that if the weather starts to warm up, he'd have cilantro, chive and yes, even basil plants for me within the next month. After placing them on my living room windowsill with a nice view of Hells Kitchen and my fire escape, I gave them a little sip of water and wished them well. They seem to be holding up nicely so far, and I can't wait to give them a go in a dish next week. I'll keep you posted on any new additions to the herb family, and whether or not I've eschewed my DALT-y ways. If anyone out there has fresh herbs growing at home (especially indoors), let me know your secrets, and any tips and tricks that may help me be a better herb mommy. Wish me luck! 



Elizabeth said...

The only herb I have been able to keep alive indoors is Basil. It requires a lot of light, but I have a southern exposure window in my office. It also likes to be watered at least once a week. It doesn't thrive, but it's alive. Best of luck with your new herbs!

Anna said...

Just came back from the Farmer's Market with my herbs, hope they don't pop. Last spring I had them until the winter started, then of course the heat killed of them. Crossing My Fingers.