The herb garden, August 2009.

It’s been a while since I updated about my balcony herb garden. In fact, the last time I posted about it was August of 2009. Back then the headline read “Everything is alive,” but sadly, I’m not sure I can boast such wonderful news these days. It’s been a rough few months for my plants. Since August, they’ve suffered through a taxing heat wave, an accidental week of no watering (I was out of town!), and a general lack of pruning on my part. It’s been bad. Real bad.

Even worse, I seem to have built up some resentment towards my herbs. It’s like we’re in a small passive-aggressive battle. If they don’t want to grow, then FINE. I won’t water them every two days. THEN we’ll see who’s the boss. Sadly, this approach has not been helpful, mostly because plants don’t have the emotional capacity to feel guilt, and so things have gotten a touch out of hand.

A look at my herb garden after the jump…

Once again a look at the herbs from last summer.

The herbs now.

Chives, thyme, and rosemary. Not in dire straits, but certainly not as lush and abundant as one would have hoped after nearly a YEAR on my balcony.

The good news is that the parsley is still alive. The bad news is that it seems ensconced in a giant nest of DEATH.

As you can see, there have been a few setbacks on the balcony. The once vibrant and lush basil has since transformed into an anemic collection of stalks. I know one is not supposed to let basil flower, but when it became apparent that the plant was no longer yielding useful leaves, I just decided to ignore it, letting it grow all the way out while dousing it occasionally with some perfunctory waterings. The truth was I knew I’d have to eventually chop down the entire plant. According to my friend and ardent balcony gardener Katherine Spiers, the basil would in fact come back. But would it? I’ll be honest: I was scared. I almost preferred having the stalks than nothing at all.

The miserable state of my basil.

However, the time had come. Like Ramona from The Real Housewives of New York City, my blog — and by extension, my apartment — has been going through a renewal. And part of that renewal meant finally taking the first steps toward horticultural resuscitation. With a thumping heart (okay, it wasn’t THAT thumping), I did the inevitable:

I chopped down the basil. Oh, and I put a $1 garden gnome in the pot too.

I wasn’t sure if the basil would ever come back, but I at least took solace in knowing that after some simple maintenance, I had managed to make my parsley look fairly healthy and presentable. Truth be told, it actually has grown quite nicely since last year.

I also cleared out all the dead chives and thyme branches. These two plants were supposed to have spread like wildfire, but they’re pretty much just as big as they were last June. I suppose that’s my fault, what with the sporadic watering and such. I’m determined to see better results out of this pot though, and accordingly, I have moved it to a prime position next to the parsley (it’s more easily accessible for increased doting).

The basil has since been demoted to the back; although, some find this move a bit foolhardy. One could argue that the basil needs the most doting of all, but we’ll see about that. I’m still a little mad at the plant, to be honest. If it grows, then I’ll dote. But for now, it stays behind the satellite dish.

As for the rosemary, it’s not as bushy as I would have liked, but it has certainly grown in size. I tried to pluck off as many of the pale leaves as possible, but this was a bit thankless. The good news is that this plant is a stalwart. I have faith it will continue to prosper.

And so here it is: the herb garden groomed and ready for renewed love. I’ve called a truce with the plants and promise to care for them as best I can…

The good news is that I’m not a total horticultural mess. The nifty spider plant seen here has thrived in my apartment since its arrival in January.

In fact, today I had to upgrade it from little Ikea vase to big red beach pail (courtesy of Target). I plan to find a mini plastic dinosaur to go under the umbrella.


13 replies on “STATE OF THE HERBS: A Turning Point”

  1. Here’s some unsolicited advice!

    Usually you need to replace basil yearly. One way to keep it going is to not let it go to seed. You need to trim it back if it flowers. Where I live in Northern Cal, chives usually go dormant in the winter and grow come back in the spring. Your rosemary looks like it needs fertilizer.

  2. Get a Aero Garden, grow the herbs right in your apt, within easy reach when finishing off that perfect main course entree, Ina would be so proud

  3. Sadly, I have no advice. I just love punishing inanimate objects that piss me off. If I had a nickel for every time I threw an object across the room that I had just stubbed my toe on….

  4. It’s probably not normal a post about herbs is so amusing to me. I’ve been looking forward to this post since you teased (and spoiled) about it.

  5. It looks like you may have gotten a TOUCH overenthusiastic about cutting the basil back….but good job taking a stand against flowering! Oh, and basil likes sun! And moist roots, but not too, too wet.

  6. You really should buy a bottle of liquid fertilizer for them, or perhaps some slow-release fertilizer tablets, the chives look a bit anemic…

  7. I hate watering as well which is one of the things that holds me back from planting some herbs myself. Have you considered an aqua globe for your plants to help them out a bit? I have one water hungry impatient that I use it on and granted I fill the thing often it does seem to help me remember to water them. I am considering getting more of them and doing some more potted flowers or even gasp herbs!

        1. I’ve used the globes myself, but not on herbs.
          I’m glad you cleaned them up, the renewal looks great, not de’classe at all!

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