Killing thyme

Sipping wine with the hubs on our tiny balcony this past weekend, I had the opportunity to make an observation.

Namely: that most of our neighbors seem to have things growing on their tiny balconies.  And I don’t mean mold.  Flowers.  Plants.  Shrubs. Things that need to be watered and…well, watered.  I guess that’s all you really have to do with most flora.  I mean…right?  Remind me of why they are so intimidating?

“We should get some plants to put out here,” I remarked casually to the hubs, swirling the wine in my glass.  He paused, mid-sip, and looked at me like I’d just grown an extra nose.

“Um.  I don’t see that ending well.”

“But look!” I pressed.  “Those plants inside, the ones that I got last fall.  They’re still alive.”  It was true.  The snake plants are indeed still alive.  I mean, they are essentially cacti that only need to be watered like once a month, but still.  Alive is alive!

Well.  Perhaps I’ve grown overconfident in my abilities, but today I bit the bullet.  I made an investment.  I purchased a set of terra cotta planters and a host of tender young herblings.

And as soon as I unloaded them, I realized that I’d probably just wasted $50.

Because…the poor little things.  They’ve hardly had a chance at life.  And here they find themselves at the mercy of my dubious botanical abilities.  In the square pot: we’ve got mint.  The round pot on the top: rosemary.  And buddied up in the round pot on the bottom: oregano, thyme and sage.  (I can only hope that particular pot doesn’t become a mass grave.)

And then we’ve got the basil.

Sissy-footed little basil.  Apparently it needs to be “taken in at night” for the next few weeks because it can’t handle the cold. According to the guy at the garden store.

I’m not sure he realized that the cold would be least of this little guy’s problems.  Wait until it meets the cat.  Or the oops-I-forgot-to-water-you-for-three-weeks.


When you buy plants, apparently you also must buy dirt.  I didn’t realize that I needed to pay for something that coats most of the earth’s terrestrial surface,  but…okay.

$15 worth of Organic Dirt.  Packaged in a tidy plastic bag.  Pretty sure I’m going to have some left over.  (Anyone want to come over and make Organic Mud Pies?  To fling on to those neighboring balconies with their thriving container gardens?)

Anyway.  Tomorrow is planting day.  Is there a green thumb under that glove – or will this be the hand that rocks the cradle straight into the grave?

Only time will tell.

Today’s EAT: I wanted to make fish tacos for dinner.  And I really thought I had a pack of corn tortillas in the freezer somewhere.  Turns out, not so much.

Improvisation: a massive flour tortilla, cut in to chunks and baked in a muffin tin to create crispy “cups.”

This worked out quite well!  I stuffed each cup with battered and fried mahi mahi chunks…

….and then topped them with avocado and grapefruit salsa and greek yogurt.

A little messy to eat, but totally tasty!  And no, you don’t have to fry the fish.  I fried it because I like fried things and by my rough mental math, the whole dish seemed to be rather lacking in calories so I figured I had some leeway.  But it would be almost as great with grilled fish, or shrimp, or chicken, or tofu, or whatever the hell else you want to put in there.

Recipe: Mahi Taco Cups with Pink Grapefruit Salsa (original)

Today’s DRINK: I’d been hanging on to this Great Divide Fresh Hop Pale Ale for a few weeks now.  It seemed like it would go well with my citrus-y dinner, so I finally popped it open tonight!

I loved it.  It was…well, fresh.  While I feel like some pale ales can get a little cloying and flowery (*cough*SierraNevada*cough*), this Fresh Hop had none of that.  It was light and refreshing.  Definitely some strong citrus flavors in there too, which complimented dinner nicely.

Today’s RUN: An easy 7 miler.  Yesterday ended up being an impromptu rest day, so I tacked a couple of extra miles on to today’s run.   Now it’s all downhill until Shamrock, mileage-wise.  Five days to go!

Today’s QUESTION: Um…anyone have any tips on growing sage, thyme or oregano?

With the basil, I know not to let it get frost exposure (I’ve got it all tucked in for the night indoors!)

And the guy at the nursery said that mint is basically indestructible (“mint would take over the world if it could,” I believe were his exact words.)

Rosemary is basically a pine tree in shrub form so I’m not too worried about it.

But the others…they just seem so tender and destructible!  I’ll take any advice I can get to avoid accidental herbicide.


33 responses to “Killing thyme

  1. See… I’ve gotten to that “oh I should totally plant something this spring” mentality. The actual action hasn’t happened yet. Still waiting…

    Good luck with the herbs. I’ve considered buying one of those super super mini sets before. But I’m just not sure if I’m ready for the commitment yet. 😉

  2. i am pretty sure i have a brown, mucky killer thumb which explains why i’ll be one of those people with an empty balcony forever (wow, that seems like a depressing metaphor for something). so i have no words of advice except good luck 🙂

  3. Flowery, yes. Good word. I pretty much love everything GD does. If you haven’t tried their Hercules DIPA, it’s a mouthful.

    It’s too bad Lulu doesn’t make a $60 gardening glove. At least you’d look trendy whilstttt killing your plants.

    • DIPA = double IPA? I think I would enjoy that indeed.

      No joke: the garden store had some ridiculous $25 neoprene ultra-wicking fancypants gloves. I was like…wow. This is an item of clothing purchased specifically for getting dirty. I’ll stick with the $4 version. 🙂

  4. He’s right about the mint. Do not EVER plant it in a garden without some kind of containment strategy. Take it from me you will never get rid of it. The other herbs will be fine on the balcony, esp in NC, including the basil. Keep an eye on weather, make sure it doesn’t get too cold. If it does get cold, since the plants are small, put a small sandwich bag over them temporarily to weather the temps (don’t leave them on more than a day at a time since the plants need ventilation). I can’t imagine you are even getting close to freezing there for your lows at night.

    The rosemary is going to be your star this summer, with the heat and humidity. It will grow like crazy and it loves to dry out a bit, which appears to fit your watering schedule. 🙂

  5. Fun! I would actually love to do an herb garden (rather than spending $$$ on fresh herbs we can only ever use 1/2 of before they go back), but we don’t get much sun on our porch. And I don’t think the Basil would like it outside even during the day here.

    • Ugh I know, those packets of fresh herbs are infuriating when you’re only cooking for one or two people! By my calculations, if I can keep these plants alive through the summer they’ll pay for themselves. But that is a big IF. 🙂

  6. I planted herbs last year… the biggest thing I learned was that because the posts are small and it gets so hot you need to make sure that they stay watered (by the looks of your post this is going to be the most difficult thing to remember). I’m going to try to replant my herbs this year… so I’ll definitely take some of your fancy organic dirt!

  7. Have you checked out the State Farmer’s Market yet? It’s open 7 days a week year round. Obviously not fabulous in the winter months, but soon it will be bustling for Spring, Summer & Fall. Definitely check it out! And they have some great herbs & flowering plants, and they give pretty good advice on everything.

    • Oh man…I didn’t even think to go to the FM for plants! I haven’t been out there since last fall – got pumpkins there. Thanks for the tip, I will def check it out!

  8. The only herb I’ve ever really thought that I NEEDED to grow was cilantro and apparently that’s one of the hardest ones to keep alive. So I spend my paycheck on it year round. I admire your gumption, though. 🙂

  9. I’m right there with ya – planting my herb garden this weekend! I’m looking at growing the same herbs you are as well as one pot of green onions and one of leeks… Fingers crossed! We’ll have to compare TX vs NC growing notes

  10. I always gets a wild hair about being a gardening, waste tons of money, then kill everything I planted. 🙂

    What about growing hops? 🙂

  11. good luck with the gardening! my mom keeps pushing for me to plant some herbs and/or flowers on my balcony but i keep resisting. i know it won’t end well. so no tips from me. so sad because i worked at a nursery for 4 years. guess it goes to show how much i DIDN’T want to do gardening stuff hahah

  12. I do not have a green thumb either. Regualr houseplants don’t stand a chance in my care. It’s amazing they let me have a kid. Herbs are very resilient though, especially basil, rosemary, and mint.

    The Mahi Mahi cups look amazing. What a great idea to turn them into cups instead of a messy burrito type thing.

  13. Based on my family’s garden… I don’t know if we grow some particular strain of basil or what, but our basil has always seemed SUPER sturdy. Not sure what kind of temperatures you’re getting there right now though. It may well be fine on the porch. And that guy is right — mint will become an invasive menace in a garden, so it’s good that you have it in it’s own little pot — (I’ve helped run a gardening class/club with kids; we planted mint in a bed with other stuff because we are dumb, and it choked the shit out of the other two things… then we used mint as a mini-example of an invasive plant like kudzu. EDUCATIONAL SAVE!)

  14. Oh, good for you! I’m also terrified of having plants and not doing something right and killing the poor little guys. Good luck, maybe you’ll surprise yourself! 🙂

  15. Not only will your mint grow like crazy, but the sage will too.
    Why did you choose to plant 3 in one planter?

    • Is sage invasive? The guy at the garden place seemed to think those three would be okay together. I put them together because I didn’t want a zillion planters, and I think it looks nice!

      • No it’s not invasive, but it will grow faster and higher than oregano & thyme so you may just have to cut it back more often so that oregano and thyme grows and so that sage doesn’t take over the whole pot. 🙂 Good Luck! You can do it.

  16. I would love to play organic mud pies with you. ANd next time you make those freakin’ tacos give me a ring. ::Drooling::

  17. Hmmm… I’ve wanted to grow herbs for quite some time. I wonder if my window gets enough sun to actually grow something. I have a ledge big enough for some herbs.

    I want to come over and make mud pies!!!

  18. Just last year I managed to kill of two basil plants (at different times) one cilantro plant, and a giant mess of parsley. The parsley actually hung itself in my blinds, and the basil, well one day it was alive, the next day it was dead. I clearly can’t have plants.

  19. Does your balcony connect or come really close to the neighbors? If so, just make sure your plants are as close to the neighbors as possible…maybe they will see them dieing, feel bad, and water them for you!

    Now I want to go plant things…but our cat eats anything in his reach and if he doesn’t kill the plant I probably will..

  20. My ‘indestructible mint’ seems to be withering after 2 seasons…and my rosemary died after a couple of months. And they were planted in the ground. But, my sage and oregano are doing very well.

    I enjoy your writing–looking forward to reading more!

  21. Pingback: Updates on things you didn’t ask about | eat, drink, run

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