Hi Everyone,

I’ve never considered myself to be someone who has a green thumb. I still don’t, and that’s not false modesty. I try, and I am just relieved and pleased that my little potted herb garden is thriving. I feel fussy. LOL. It all started last December with 2 sturdy plastic barrels, halved, with holes drilled at the bottom, 4 large bags of soil mix and 5 herbs just at the start of their life. Today, I have 17 herbs. That total includes 5 different types of basil and 2 types of mint. There’s been pleasure and pain but the truth is that here has been more pleasure than pain.

This is not my first foray into having a potted herb garden. Several years ago I had a flourishing herb garden but due to frequent work-related travel and no one to adequately take care of my plants, they eventually died. I was heart-broken. With my heart now finally mended I am ready to have a go at it again.

This time I started with some experienced help from my friend Floyd who is an avid gardener and small farmer. I watched as he dug up the soil from the yard and mixed it with the store-bought soil mix. He did the heavy lifting of filling the 4 half barrels with soil and gave me the honour of planting the herbs myself. Armed with my little shovels and fork, I parted the soil and gently but firmly placed the tiny little herb plants into the soil. Soil was pushed all around the newly planted herbs to secure them in place and that was followed by watering.

20150221tastes like homeA little over a week after planting I noticed that the leaves of my basil plants along with the Tulsi were eaten, some partially and others were completely gone. Crestfallen I wondered if I had done something wrong. Had I over-cared for them in some way? You know like giving them too much water? Or neglected them by failing to give them enough sun, shade, and so on. I took photographs on my phone and rushed off to the gardening store where I’d bought the herbs and my gardening supplies. My first instinct was to call my friend Floyd but I didn’t want him to think I’d already faltered before I had started (not that he would have thought that, but you know…). I bought pellets that would get rid of the African snails that have ravaged a lot of agricultural products over the past few years.

With the pellets scattered around the pots on the ground and the yard, my herbs were given new life. Encouraged by this, every other day, before, and after work, I could be found checking out the aisles at the gardening store. I was cruising for more herbs, buying more soil mix, plant pots, labels to differentiate the herbs, inspecting water cans, buying gardening gloves and just hanging around the store. I’d return home loaded up with my ‘goodies’ only to have one my neighbours tease and hail me, “Farmer!”

Soon I added marjoram, chadon beni (culantro), scallions, hot chili (pepper) and Thai basil to the garden. All was well. I’d water my ‘babies’ either in the morning or in the evening. I’d talk to them as I watered them. I am careful not to show favouritism or more love to one over the other. However, there are some that you can’t help commenting on: like the sweet basil with its big broad shiny leaves, the broad leaf thyme or the bay leaf plant that shoots high into the air with its fragrant leaves, to those plants I simply laugh and tell them that they are showing off!

One morning I woke up to find that the Thai basil leaves were curling and my celery leaves were wrinkling. A quick research on the Internet and YouTube (thank heavens for YouTube!) and I found a solution – a couple of sprays with insecticidal soap solved the problem. Since then I’ve been spending a lot of time online reading about how to plant and grow herbs, soil temperature, soil aeration, soil composition, soil nutrition and so on.

Broad leaf Thyme (Photo by Cynthia Nelson)
Broad leaf Thyme (Photo by Cynthia Nelson)

I’ve been on a roll I tell you. A couple of weeks ago I bought Guyanese-variety of basil to make green seasoning and when I was done picking the leaves off of the stems, I put the stems in a glass with water, and placed it on the patio where sun comes in. Before you knew it, the stalks were rooting! I was so excited. The test would come when I had to now plant them. I was afraid that they

Marjoram (Photo by Cynthia Nelson)
Marjoram (Photo by Cynthia Nelson)

would not grow once removed from the glass. You know what? I now have 4 additional basil plants that are growing very well! Emboldened by my efforts, I grew sage using this method too.

As I continue to enjoy my potted herb garden, I find myself thinking about sun, shade, transplanting, pruning, and harvesting. I now pay more attention to where I position the pots for morning and afternoon sun and morning and afternoon shade.

I cannot begin to describe how happy the potted garden makes me feel. I enjoy taking care of them. I prefer getting close to them so instead of buying a hose and standing from a distance to feed them, I use a watering can making a few trips back and forth from the pipe. I have gloves that I bought but I have never worn them. I can get the job of transplanting, removing fallen leaves from nearby trees and small weeds done best by using my bare hands. I don’t mind my hands getting muddy.

One day I felt so shy and a little intimated when by neighbour from across the street (who is excellent at gardening) came over to see what I was doing. I was transplanting some parsley and Cuban oregano.

We chatted for a bit and then she returned with a small mint plant and a couple of chili plants. I figured that I must be doing something right since she was entrusting me with plants from her garden.

Mint (Photo by Cynthia Nelson)
Mint (Photo by Cynthia Nelson)

As I was editing the photographs of the garden that I have been taking since it was first started, to now, I found myself a little weepy. There were several photographs of the herbs when they were wee little things and now I look at them and they are all big and grown. Life.

I have 2 plants of Guyanese fine thyme, they were growing tall, branching out with rich green leaves and then all of a sudden, the leaves have yellowed, even the new ones coming out are yellow

Planting Chili (long hot peppers) (Photo by Cynthia Nelson)
Planting Chili (long hot peppers) (Photo by Cynthia Nelson)

and they seem to have stopped growing.

The tiny little shoots are all drying up and turning brown. I don’t know what to do about it.

I asked my friend Floyd and a couple of other gardening people, even a vendor at the market who grows them but no one seems to have an answer as they all reported experiencing difficulty in growing the Guyanese thyme.

If anyone of you reading this can offer some advice, it would be greatly appreciated. Email me at: cynthia@tasteslikehome.org

I’ll leave you now as I have to go water my basil, tulsi, rosemary, Mexican tarragon, sage, garlic chives, scallions, marjoram, chadon beni, parsley, celery, mint, Cuban oregano curry leaf, bay leaf, lemongrass, chili and broad leaf thyme.





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