The Garden Potential

Thursday, February 11, 2010

-These are the "Before" pictures.-

Honestly, I'm not sure what makes me keep trying to garden. My notorious black thumb, a dark cloud that envelopes green life and with wave ends it, is stubborn, but eager to change its color.

My friend, Sarah, an avid gardener with a knowledge of Greek mythology once referred to me as "Demeter's Harbinger." I find that to be a bit harsh, but given it was after the death of my third rosemary plant, which was soon met in greenery heaven with a cactus that committed suicide rather than face a prolonged and, no doubt, horrible suffering under my hands, the kind of which government war tribunals are held over. Then there was that orchid that never stood a chance.

But I'm getting better. Honestly. Remember that lemongrass? It's still alive, and though it may not look it in the dead of winter as it's gone a bit back and bare I have been reassured by other, more experienced gardener's that I have done surprisingly well. I even have a mint and rosemary bush in pots at my work that are flourishing.

(The thyme, basil, and rhubarb we will not speak of. I say frost and kids on skateboards are to blame and that's how we're remembering it.)

My old place wasn't much for growing anything. Too much shade and the earth was shallow and dead. What few things I tried to grow simply passed away in what can only be described as an awful struggle.

Yet the new apartment has pleasant and quaint small yard, though it was somewhat uncared for. When we moved in it was an utter jungle, and upon our signing the lease we conditioned that the yard had to be cleared of brush and tangle.

The day the gardeners came they uttered, "Sweet Jesus," followed by screams when upon ripping up the carpet of ivy rats swarmed out, escaping under the fence. Joseph Conrad couldn't have portrayed it any darker than it actually was: the brush, destruction, and gnashing of teeth that became a backyard cleansing - five feet by fifteen.

So now we have an empty and unappealing (at least, to the eye who doesn't see a potential garden) spot of dirt with various stones and rotted plants of wood buried here and there. To make my stake in this yard-to-be I've decided to move my lemongrass, rosemary, and mint plants from work to here.

-Not sure what Korea marmalade is, but I dig the idea of it.-

Furthermore, I have adopted two brave little (and unwilling) citrus trees. A two year-old yuzu, and a three year-old kaffir lime tree are potted and on my patio. Both of these citrus I use extensively when I am able to locate them and are favorites of mine. The kaffir lime leaves add a unique floral-lime fragrance to soups and curries, whereas the yuzu provides sour-tartness to stirfrys and whose juice can withstand extreme heat without scorching and becoming bitter.

A Nagami kumquat or Rangpur tree may very well be added to the mix.

To ensure their survival I have been studying and researching like a crazy person on how to keep these little bastard healthy. Lucky, living in Northern California, the climate here is very citrus friendly (though not like So Cal) and I expect that they should thrive with proper care.

*knock on wood*

Be sure to wish me luck, and whisper a little prayer for this garden that is partially under my doomgaze.

-Or makrud lime leaves. We've had this discussion.-


  1. Good luck! I always thought I was just destined to never have a garden eversince I was a kid and the sunflower seeds I bought wouldn't grow. Then I realized it was the weather Singapore has-humid, warm. Not very sunflower-friendly. hehe Hopefully the garden works out for u!

  2. I think everyone can learn to garden. Press on, my friend! And I'm only DREAMING of my garden because I'm still buried under three feet of snow until April. Or May. Or June. Sigh. And I ate all of my butternut squash by November.

  3. I'm rooting for you, you CAN do this! I used to be just like you and I still have a tendency to kill indoor plants. BUT, I have a thriving large organic garden of vegetables, fruit, and herbs mostly in raised beds that consume nearly all of the space in my backyard. I also have fruit trees (one orange, one plum, one nectarine). FYI, lettuces and greens grow like weeds. So does mint and parsley. Plant your peas and carrots side by side--peas make nitrogen and carrots use it. I've had years of trial and error; let me know if I can help in any way.

  4. Congratulations on having a sunny spot at the new place! And I've killed many a potted herb in my time as well... so much so that I don't even bother to grow rosemary anymore. Admittedly conditions are a touch harsher here in the northeast, but I feel good about your new yard! I think you can do it.

  5. Ah! Something in common. I also have a brown thumb. Last year's attempt at garden - no edible zucchini when they are notorious for being prolific. Low yield on tomatoes, but OK since I only like fresh tomatoes for salsa. Failed: strawberries, onions, and watermelon. Success: basil. Hoping for better this year.

  6. Youll do great! Give pole beans a shot, as they grow really well here...and a tomato seedling in April could be great too!

  7. Good for you! My first garden was in containers on my Chicago balcony, and I grew basil, peppers, and tomatoes that summer. Also fought off white flies, but overall it worked. I'm totally envious of your kaffir lime...

  8. Good luck with the garden!
    I am also not so lucky with the whole keeping-plants-alive thing. But this year I grew carrots! That actually were edible! And looked like carrots!
    So there really is hope for anyone with a black thumb :)

  9. Good luck with the herbs! I would totally love to grow ones like yours when I get my own place.

    To answer one of your questions in the captions--I think by Korean marmalade they're referring to yuzucha (in Japanese), where they take the peels and mix them with honey. You usually drink it on cold days to keep from getting sick. And it's awesome if you can mix it with ginger.

  10. As a fellow black-thumb I feel for you! I LOVE gardens and I love gardening, but everything I touch seems to wilt. My husband got me an AeroGarden, which is pretty much fool-proof, but really feels like cheating. But if you can manage to keep your plants alive, it will give me hope that someday I will too. Good luck!

  11. Rats?!? Ugh!

    I'm so jealous. Those two specimens have no chance of growing in our climate. Certainly not under the Snowmageddon blanket we currently have. So look at it this way, you're halfway there! Good weather conditions are a good start!

  12. Whenever I see ivy, I see "rat hotel". For some reason they just love to nest in it. I'm sure the citrus will do fine, especially once they get established. Remember to put the rosemary some place where it will get plenty of sun, but not plenty of water. Nothing kills rosemary faster than overwatering. I'm so excited for you! :-)

  13. Rosemary is a mystery to me... It always starts out well for a few weeks, then it just gives up. I try not to take it personally, but it's so hard... Good luck!

  14. If you are wanting to be successful at gardening, beware that rosemary, orchids and cacti are a challenge even for the Master Gardeners around us. :-) Try something easier and you might be surprised!

  15. Good for you to climb back onto the proverbial horse. It sounds as though you have as much gardening luck as I do, which is why my husband has confiscated the hose and trowel from me.

  16. Fervent prayers are being continuously said for the poor plants now under your care. That said, the trees should be easier. At lease Eat Beast won't attack the things outside, unless his hungry stares out the back door make all the plants wilt in fear. Good luck!


  17. I will send green thoughts your way, Garrett! But in return, my price is a yuzu or 2...

    Seriously, if you need help, I've grown citrus before, as well as all those herbs you've killed. Did I mention I have a rosemary hedge large enough for The Shining?


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