When I started gardening just a few years ago, I began with some seed packets, one strawberry plant, a few herb plants and no in-ground space — just containers. The strawberry plant was a disaster. I wasn’t ready to confront pests and diseases in plants, and that seems to be the science class of this course on gardening I’ve undertaken.
I know science experiments can be fascinating, but I get bored easily and I forgot to monitor the plants and figure out what was turning my strawberries into mushy red blobs. But I know that studying and understanding pests and diseases is something that I’ll have to confront soon enough, and I can’t play hooky from this science class forever.
The herb plants were great, though, and even now — a few years later — small pots with herbs are the only thing I can confidently grow. You pot them and water them. Some don’t get along with others, and instead of remembering which do or don’t (mint and thyme will invade each other’s personal space, right?), I usually just them a pot of their own.
But this year I got much more ambitious, and fell prey to something that happens to me every single year. March, April, May, I’m raring to go, looking out at a 10° day in April thinking, “Surely I can plant some seeds now.” But then June turns the corner, and going out back to my concrete pad to do the strenuous work of weeding and watering is no longer so exciting. So, while I started out with a bang with a record 35 containers, my garden is now neglected, in the truest sense of the word. I love when gardeners say their garden is neglected because they haven’t weeded in a month. If that’s neglected, then what’s my jungle of weeds, crawling from one pot to the next, up the fence and into my neighbour’s own concrete pad? Some as tall as me?
This year, seed packets that got shaken into some dirt (not on that 10° day in April, I’m not totally hopeless) included lettuce, jalapeno peppers, poppies, snapdragons, herbs and lots of other things I can’t remember (I kept the seed packets, because I know I’m supposed to, but I’m not sure where they are). But in mid-June, when I stopped watering, they stopped growing. Now I have about 12 rogue containers with lots of soil, some weeds and a few surprises. I was thrilled to see two jalapeno plants thriving, as well as a mix of different coloured snapdragons.
Not everything in my containers was from seed. I had overwintered some plants and bought a few already started — basil, sage, thyme, several varieties of mint, a curry plant (strictly because I love the smell), lavender, rosemary, tomatoes, yellow peppers, kale and lupin (that guy is not so happy these days. I think he requires some actual caretaking). Also, lots and lots of pansies, a clematis and probably a few others I don’t remember because of the aforementioned extreme neglect this year.
I have two favourites, like any good mother should, and they’re two new plants that I discovered this year. One is a succulent I bought from the Toronto Botanical Garden at Canada Blooms this spring, and it’s the coolest, happiest plant I have ever had. It looks as though it would be just at home under the sea as it would on my back patio table. This coral-like plant has enjoyed the hot and dry summer more than I have. It’s called Euphorbia tirucalli, the more pronounceable name being fire sticks, and apparently it has corrosive sap. There’s a rumour online that you can make fuel or gasoline from its sap. I’ll let you know if I plan on doing that particular science experiment.
The other really cool plant that was given to me just a few weeks ago is an ornamental pepper I’ve dubbed “The Christmas Bulb Plant.” It has little light bulb-shaped peppers that start a deep purple and then turn to cream, yellow, orange and red later in the summer. I was told that I can dry and save the seeds over the winter and plant them in the spring. I’m so in love with this plant that maybe, just maybe, if I don’t allow myself to try growing too many other plants from seed next spring, I’ll remember to plant these seeds, give them some rare TLC, and get to enjoy this favourite plant again next year. If you know the name of this plant, please let me know!
This is my resume of gardening, thus far. It’s not much, but I do find myself appreciating plants and their individualities more and more. To keep inspired, I’m going to travel around to some gardens over the next few days and report back with tips and ideas that new gardeners might find useful.
If you have any sort of gardening question, just use the comment section below. You can be “Anonymous” if you think the question is lame and embarrassing. I totally understand. I’m the girl who killed a dill plant within two weeks this year, and I’m not the one who will answer your questions. We have experts for that.