Why my garden smells like a British pub...
I began a container garden on the "balcony" last year (because to do so on the fire escape would violate condo association rules...) and it's become quite a more central thing in my daily life than I'd anticipated. Others in the neighborhood have begun putting out a pot or two, we've gotten quite used to fresh mint in our iced tea...we've had a hummingbird, butterflies, and tomorrow ladybugs will arrive.
Fresh herbs are so wonderful to use in cooking and you really don't have to do much to grow them successfully. I've got rosemary, lavender, parsley, chives, thyme, lemon thyme, basil (Italian, Thai, Lemon), sage, cilantro. Almost any dish is improved by the fresh herbs and the "garden" is a little separate space mentally and physically which is critical to sharing a loft, no matter how much in love you are with your roommate.
You may recall from my herb garden blog post in Suite101 that my mother always had some garden to relax her and provide at least a few tomatoes and some fresh parsley. Now she has the most gorgeous peonies, too! On extra crabby days, my husband encourages me to "go check on your garden." It works.
Geraniums, Impatiens (above - named after my friend John), marigolds, salvia, lobelia...it was so much fun.
This year's garden
I got excited about expanding my garden this year and trying to grow some tomatoes. We had so many weeks of torrential rains that one trip after another to the nursery got postponed. Finally we took a trip with John (of Impatiens fame) to "the 'po" (Home Depot.) They had cherry tomato plants in several varieties, so cheap, I thought, what's the risk? That's a photo of my first tomatoes! I learned that tomatoes love a fertilizer called fish emulsion. It's about as ickly as it sounds, and I got the "odor-neutralized" formula. But the plants love it.
My motto is always, "if some is good, more is better..." as another friend adds, "...and too much can be just fine."
So here's this year's garden. Well this year, I got a little crazy... (click on the photo to enlarge)
You might be able to see the petunias. They're the purple ones, about in the middle. They were a recent acquisition from a very high end Connecticut nursery. They also introduced APHIDS AND BUDWORMS to my urban oasis.
Now, dear readers, let me assure you, I am not a violent person. My late grandmother used to catch houseflies in her hands and gently release them. When I saw the first little "caterpillar" munching on a petunia, I thought, "that's okay, it's nature, I can share."
From Gandhi to the Terminator in ten clicks
Nothing like a little dip into web research to change a girl. I learned these critters will devour my entire petunia. They camouflage themselves, too. When they're on a green stem, they're green; munching on a purple petunia, they turn purple! And they love to stick their heads into the new buds and eat them up. I started getting swiss cheese blossoms or "blossoms" that were completely chomped down to the stem. I learned that aphids are born gravid - that is to say, bearing the next generation.
It's war now
I found a wonderful "bug farm" on the 'net that ships ladybugs, among other beneficial bugs. I like the idea of using nature and not pesticides, if possible. Ladybugs, it turns out, love to eat aphids.
For the budworms, I need some bacteria I can't find (it's harmless to anything else, but gives a case of fatal stomach flu to budworms.) In the interim, my new best friend and bug guru, Jim Kluttz, told me to mix up a solution to spray on the buggers. Murphy's oil soap, Isopropyl alcohol and water. The alcohol disintegrates their little exoskeletons, the oil soap suffocates their breathing apparatus.
So, between the faint remaining scent of fish, you now also smell a bit of that Murphy's Oil Soap. Hence: the lingering vague feeling that one has just walked by a place that serves fish and has just washed their wood floors...
Perhaps I should have named this post Pubs and Grubs?