April 20, 2012

Lesson 3: Manageable Home Gardening ... One Plant at a Time

It is thoroughly impressive to me to see people my own age posting pictures of pristine gardens, full of bountiful produce and beautiful vegetation. It seems everyone is trying their hand at the gardening thing, thinking to themselves, I too can grow enough spinach to last my family the summer. Last summer, Mark and I got into the craze as well … we filled one pot with four different kinds of flowers and bought a $4 tomato plant. We enjoyed these plants on our sun-filled back porch exactly one week. After that, we left for vacation and returned to witness the brown remnants of their previous glory.

In fact, as a couple we are notorious for killing plants. The bamboo plant Mark gave me for our first anniversary, dead. The tall, palm looking thing for my first mother’s day, dead. The mum to our house an autumn glow, which I was assured could be planted, dead. The white orchid Mark bought me for our third anniversary, dead. Well, and I’ve already told you about our tomato plant. Do you get the picture? We try, we really do. We continue to buy plants to brighten our home, and we continue to kill them. It's suggested that couples keep a plant before they try a dog, and that they definitely try a dog, before they try for a kid. We somehow got the order backwards, kids first, and thankfully, they have managed to survive ...  unlike our plants. (No dog yet, or maybe ever).

Alas, as more and more people post pictures of their sprouting vegetables, we are again convinced that we can make it in the gardening world and have decided to try one more time. This summer we have planted herbs. Four simple little plants: basil, cilantro, rosemary, and parsley. We purchased each at Lowe’s for $4. We chose these four, because they are ones we’d heard a lot about before, though honestly, I wasn’t sure how we would practically use them all.

Since bringing them home two weeks ago, we’ve learned a few things. Though the tags indicate that they can take full sun, this is not true for the basil, cilantro, and parsley. All three have turned brown from an extended stay on the back porch, which receives our morning sun. My mother-in-law informed me they need morning shade and afternoon sun. They have since been moved to the front porch in hopes of preventing them from falling prey to our killing curse. The rosemary is hearty enough to stay in the back.

I have also learned what each of these herbs is actually used for. Basil was the easiest for me. I knew to put it on a salad with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, olive oil, and pepper. Delicious! If we don’t branch out at all with this herb this summer, owning it is worth it just for these occasional salads. Cilantro is for Mexican, who knew? A lot of people actually, but this is new information to me. We plan on improving our fajitas, guacamole, and tacos with this herb. Rosemary went on London Broil last night, and we're almost certain we were able to taste it.  It can also go on pork and in certain chicken dishes. Finally, the parsley be used in Italian, though we forgot to use it on Wednesday's meal, even after discussing it. With these general parameters, we hope to expand our  recipe collection by purposefully seeking ones that include our herbs.

Here’s our conclusion on the matter. Buying any of these herbs fresh in the grocery store will cost $2.60 (Food Lion), so if each herb is used only twice this summer, we’ve still broken even. Also, Lowe’s has a great return policy for dead plants, so if our notorious plant killing trend continues, our investments are insured. Finally, we’re hoping that owning these herbs will encourage us to be a bit more creative in our cooking. We do not have the time to make elaborate meals, so we stick mainly to grilling something delicious, with various fresh fruit and vegetables, and something a little heavier (brown rice, couscous, wheat pasta, sweet potato) on the side. Hopefully, these herbs will provide quick natural flavor to our relatively plain dishes.

I'm curious to know how you use these herbs in your cooking ... let me know!

Lesson Learned: It is possible and profitable to have a summer garden, even if it includes only four herbs.


  1. I used some fresh cilantro on our fajitas tonight! Yummy! Hoping more grows because I used just about all of it. Lesson learned... Just cut it off with kitchen scissors... Pulling it off just about pulls those tender roots out of the pot... Then rinse in cold water and can cut up with scissors instead of chopping it and having to clean the cutting board.

  2. Hey girl...love your blog. I had been a crazy garden girl back before seminary life limited my budget...but I have learned that as far as flowers and herbs go, you absolutely cannot kill the following: lantana (beautiful flowering little bush...butterflies love them), mint (which is so good in sweet tea!), oregano (good in spaghetti sauce) and geraniums. Also, self watering containers are awesome in the south, but they are crazy expensive, so there are all sorts of websites on how to make your own from recyclable stuff. Can't wait to see how your garden grows! :)

    - Jill P.

    1. Thanks Jill! We do need to plant a few more bushes around our house, and I LOVE butterflies! Mint and oregano sound delicious too!!!!

  3. Hi Katherine,
    I am reminded of a garden in Kabul that didn't fare too well.

    1. Yes Dad, It was confusing that our plants died in the middle of a desert when we didn't water them for six weeks. I still do wonder how that happened.


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