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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

How to Be Awesome at Gardening

Anyone who knows me knows that I am not big on gardening.  In fact, one of my life-rules is, "If you cannot feed and water yourself, I don't have time to take care of you."

(I've had to alter that philosophy slightly since I had a baby.)

My point is, I don't have time for things that can't take at least basic care of themselves.  Even dogs can go get a drink when they need it.  Not plants.  Plants just lie there and die.  In fact, they're always kind of perpetually dying, and any time you water them, it just turns back the meter on how long until they die.

Actually, it's pretty much exactly like those Tamagotchi things we used to have in high school.

All that to say that, while I like the idea of gardening, the practical side of it seems overwhelming and painstaking.  Plus, the plants I've had in the past were always dying, and that's depressing.

Pictured:  The last plant my mother gave me.
Fast forward to my birthday.  I had mentioned previously to my mom, in an offhand way, that I thought I would like to try growing one thing this summer, just to see if I could do it.  My mom, who is an avid gardener, took this to mean that I was jumping into horticulture with both feet, and so for my birthday, she got me a bunch of daily chores herb plants,

Pictured:  Proof that a mother's hope springs eternal.

and a raised gardening bed.

(Some assembly required.)

Oh and dirt.  She got me dirt.

For my birthday.

But it's super special organic dirt, so that's ok.

Mom brought them over this weekend, and she was trying to tell me how to plant them and take care of them, and I swear I started to hyperventilate.  So many instructions!  So many things that could die!  So many things to remember to do every day, like...watering!  And...pinching off flower buds!  And then, THEN, she just goes out there and pulls off a stem of the basil.  She hurt my plant!  I've only owned it for like, an hour, and someone is ravaging it! 

Look, if there's one thing I learned from Ferngully, it's that plants can feel pain. 

Later that day, Brian put the raised bed together, and it is super cool. 

I don't have to get down on my knees or get really dirty or anything to use it, which is awesome.  Also, this way, Cricket won't be able to crawl/walk through it, and hopefully it will keep the critters out, because so help me, if Little Bunny Foofoo starts eating my basil...

Anyway, so here are my 13 steps to creating an awesome herb garden:

1)  Have the right gear.

The pinwheel is absolutely necessary.
Just like any other hobby, there is certain equipment that is vital to being able to do gardening right.  I went to the Dollar Tree and Target and found a small trowel, a spray nozzle for the hose, some gardening gloves (yellow, of course), a watering can, and a pinwheel, all for a dollar a piece.  I already had a floppy hat.

2)  Enlist a reliable assistant.

See her tiny trowel and watering can??
Preferably, you should select someone who has her own gear.  Make sure it's someone who doesn't mind getting dirty.

3)  Watch out for bugs.

This is a stock image.  I would never get this close to a bee.
The moment I walked outside, I was immediately accosted by some flying insect who tried to forcibly drink my tears.  Since I live in Alabama, I also have to keep my feet constantly moving to prevent my skin from being flayed off by fire ants, and several times a minute I had to dodge gigantic bumble bees and give some wasps the stink eye.  Outside is not for the weak.

4)  Take plants out of their pots.

I was kind of at a loss for how to do this at first.  Should I separate all the individual stems?  Do I dig them out of the pot with my trowel?  I finally figured out that the whole thing comes out in one block, sort of like how soup comes out of a can still looking like the shape of the can.  Mom said I should have fluffed the dirt around the roots, but I was afraid of tearing them, so I just left them in the block.  Also, the rest of my plants came in biodegradable pots that you just plant directly into the ground, so that makes it easier.

5)  Figure out where you want your plants.

Apparently my mom remembered that I love basil, so she got me a giant set of regular basil plants, two purple basil plants (which are very different from regular basil because they are purple), and some globe basil (which is totally a thing).  She also gave me two sweet pepper plants and some rosemary.

I put all the basils together because I thought they would like to be with their friends, but then I felt bad because maybe I was being too segregationist, and maybe they wanted to intermingle. I don't know.  I'm not sure how plant politics works.

6)  Dig holes and put plants in the holes.

This part was not hard.  I just moved some dirt out of the way, plopped the little plants in there, and smooshed the dirt back around them.  At this point, I started to think that, much like fishing, maybe I am a gardening genius!  This isn't so hard!  I can totally do this!  I'll never have to go to the grocery store again!

7)  Don't forget the little labels.

These help you remember what you planted.  You know, in case you suddenly draw a blank on which one is basil and which one is more different basil.  They also tell you how to take care of the plant.  And they make it look official.

8)  Water plants.

Use your new watering can, even though it works about as well, or maybe even a little worse than just using a pitcher from your pantry.  It is important to use the right tools.

9)  Call your mother and brag.

Feel free to tell her how awesome your garden looks and how easy it was. 

10)  At the advice of your mother, read directions on biodegradable pots.

PROTIP:  You could also do this before step 6.

11)  Dig up all plants.

Tear off the bottoms of the biodegradable pots and crumble the shards into the holes.  Apparently this is vitally necessary.  By this time, your pots will be soaking wet and falling apart in your hands.  This is normal. 

Side note:  WHY AREN'T GARDENING GLOVES WATERPROOF?  This seems like a no-brainer to me.

12)  Put plants back into their holes.

Smoosh dirt around them more, because now that the pots are in shambles, the plants are flopping around all over the place.  See?  They can't even remain upright on their own!  How are plants not extinct by now?!

13)  Check on plants at least once an hour.

This is to ensure that they do not either:

A)  instantly shrivel and die, or

B)  instantly blossom into a lush and verdant cornucopia of herbage, similar to the hanging gardens of Babylon.

You just never know.

And there you have it!  Now you have an awesome garden. 

Check back later for "How to Be Awesome at Making Ten Gallons of Pesto."

UPDATE:  Read part two of my gardening saga here!


  1. Oh my, this is my favorite post yet! I'll be looking forward to your post "How to STAY Awesome at Gardening"! :) And I love basil, too, so if you find yourself with a bumper crop, i'll be glad to take some off your hands. ;) Good luck! (and you KNOW I mean that, being a fellow member of the black thumb gardening club and all)

  2. This is so how I feel too. Sarah Rose is the master of indoor plants and actually has a solarium. I told her several times that I just though watering plants was prolonging death lol. She can just side glance a plant it looks better. I can give it all the love in the world and everything it's green little planty heart desires and it will still slowly die while giving me the finger. Like a really messed up Terminator that didn't do anything for me in the first place.

  3. This is hilarious! So much fun and I love thie pictures. PS that plant isn't dead at all. "the little green leaves at the bottom ewill blossom into the prettiest mum next Fall. I'll show you how to cut off the dead stems next time I come. Good job! Does your assistant hire out??? Mom

  4. I want one of these!!!! Maybe someone will get me one for Mother's Day. But I can add a #14 . . . get your husband interested, make him think he is better at watering than you. That way, he will make sure the watering gets done and voila . . . NO dead herbs!!!

    1. Pat, that's a great idea. I like the way you think! :o)

  5. Love this! Hopefully next spring I will have an outdoor garden too and not just the solarium, although mallary I have totally lost plants before! Sometimes it's just about picking the right plant for your abilities and available space! My mom is the one who can resurrect last years Christmas tree, she is like ALL green thumbs.

    1. Just the fact that you can say, "I have a solarium" puts you in a class so far above me, I can't even see you anymore!

  6. Welcome to the world of gardening,Me I have to say im an old pro at it.Massive garden with all kinds of goodies and huge perenial flower garden.Herb garden is next on my list.have fun and keep us posted..