Flashback Friday - My Green-ish Thumb

For as long as I can remember, my dad's hobby has been his green thumb.  We lived in an apartment until I was 9, and there were houseplants everywhere. I was so excited when we then moved into a house, because there was a perfect space out back for a patio/deck. I asked and asked to get one.  I can't remember if he told me he would build one or not, but he quickly took over the entire back yard for his garden.  And my patio/deck dream was shattered.  

My dad plants all kinds of vegetables, herbs, and flowers.  And grows most of if from seeds.  Pretty much everything he plants thrives. When I still lived in Maryland he had so much that he gave my friends at work beans and peppers.  Whenever I talk to my friend Mona she tells me how much she misses my dad's veggies.  

My thumb is light green at best.  At my old house in Maryland I could barely keep flowers alive.  I didn't even attempt to grow anything else.  And really I didn't need to, because I could get stuff from my dad without doing the work. I had my dad plant flowers in my front yard that needed the least maintenance and were the most tolerant to idiots. 

About 6 years ago I decided to try my hand at gardening.  When I bought my house it was newly built, so the flower beds were looking pretty bare with newly planted greenery that was small. My dad assured me that the greenery would get big over time, but I'm impatient and wanted some color and filler out there. I started with flowers in the flower bed.  I went to Lowe's and bought a bunch of different annuals.
Shockingly, they did pretty well.  And I was really excited.  I buy annuals every year, which I know is kind of expensive, but I like the idea of changing flowers and colors each spring.  And I'm not patient enough to buy the little seedlings and wait for them to grow big, so of course I pick the more expensive pots.  Last year I wasn't going to plant any flowers. I went to Lowe's for a couple of hanging plants, and came back with this

I haven't done flowers yet this year because we had so much rain last month.  It was almost impossible to plant anything. Next weekend I'll go see what catches my eye.  Oh, and a little plug for Lowe's...if you get the credit card, you get 5% off every purchase. Believe me, that adds up with all the flowers and herbs I buy every year.  I think Home Depot might have the same deal, but there's only a Lowe's in Stillwater.

Once I realized I could take care of flowers without killing them, I moved to herbs.  I tried my dad's method of starting from seedlings.  That was a massive failure.  I think one plant poked through the dirt about 1/2". The others, nothing.  So I started buying the mini plants in the Bonnie biodegradable pots.  A lot more expensive than seeds, but at least they lived.  Sometimes. And each pot usually has 3 plants, so when they grow it's a big yield

I do everything in pots, because my back yard faces the West and it's like the Sahara desert out there in the summer.  I really need a pergola so that I can actually sit out there during the heat of the day without melting.  With pots I can start them out underneath the overhang of my patio, move them into direct sunlight once they're established, and then when it gets blazingly hot, move them back under the overhang to keep them alive. The first year I planted the whole biodegradable pot, but they didn't really grow very well. Now I remove the pot and they grow really well. I also buy most of my stuff in late April so that I get as much out of them as I can.  

When I first started, I did the basics of cilantro, basil, and parsley.  My cilantro dies EVERY year.  I think it's the heat.  Because they grow like crazy for a couple weeks, and then die.  I tried one more time this year, and they did the same thing.  So I give up. On the flip side, I've kind of become an expert at basil, parsley, thyme, oregano, and rosemary. 

They last about 2 full years, and then it's time to replace them.  The above picture is the new ones I bought this spring.  But I can't complain about that, because the amount I harvest from them makes it well worth the cost. With basil it took me a couple years to not kill them.  I usually buy 2-3 biodegradable pots at a time. So I end up with mounds of basil.
Just one of my basil pots, and this is after pulling about 20 leaves for last night's pesto
The great thing about the herbs and even the peppers is that I can keep them alive in my house through the winter.  My dining room ends up looking like a garden, but that's okay.

3 years ago I tried tomatoes.  They've got zillions of tomato plants of all kinds of varieties at Lowe's; clearly that means a lot of people buy them because they have to be easy to care for right? Wrong.  The first year I didn't get a single tomato. The second year I got a couple, but the extreme heat killed them before they ripened. Last year I bought the plants specifically for a container pot, finally got tomatoes, and I was so excited!  I probably had about 2 dozen tomatoes over the course of the summer. This year, with all the rain we've had, I already have a few tomatoes and they're growing really big.  This is early for the fruit to be growing, so I hope it's not a bad sign.
3 tomatoes so far!  Already bigger than any grew last year
I also did green & red peppers, and jalapenos 2 years ago.  The jalapenos thrived, the peppers didn't. Last year I tried the peppers again, and got some harvested. 
New pepper & jalapeno plants I bought this year
Last year I planted zucchini, but the container wasn't deep enough so they quickly died. I decided to give them one more shot this year, and they are thriving.  It's too early for any vegetables, but I've seen a bunch of squash blossoms.  I know you can cook with them, but I'm not that adventurous yet.  

About a month ago I was in Lowe's, and decided to try mint and sage.  I'd never cooked with them before, but figured I would buy the plants and come up with recipes later. My first thought for the mint was cocktails, but I also found a bunch of recipes on Pinterest. And tried my hand at orecchiette with pancetta, peas and fresh herbs.  It was so fantastic.  I can't wait to make it again!

I've currently got some bugs outside competing with me to eat some of my herbs.  And that's just not okay. My dad recommended the garden insect killer, so that's what I go with.  I just sprayed a few plants, so that should stop the bug feast. I've heard that soapy water does the trick too, but I've never tried it.

I never thought I would enjoy gardening.  I always thought it was way too much work. And clearly I'm impatient.  But I've found that it soothes me.  And I get excited when I can harvest and eat what I grow.  And it saves me money!  I even sort of enjoy mowing the yard.  I've got a huge yard, and a couple of hills, so it's a workout for me.  Once it hits August and it's 100+ every day I don't like it so much. But at that point my dad's here to do it, and then once he leaves I just give up for the season.  

My dad loves when I call to tell him about my gardening.  I always point out that I will never do as much as he does because I don't have the time or patience.  Even more than that, when he comes to visit in August he takes care of my plants.  Because by then I'm neck-deep in getting ready for football, so my green thumb becomes even lighter.  But I think he really enjoys doing it.

So, kind of like I became a runner, I'm becoming a gardener.