Throughout the long, cold, wet winter, I had neglected my herb garden quite badly. As a result, almost all of my herbs had died and even the hardier ones only barely survived the cold, the wet, the wind, the damp, the mould, the fungus, the aphids, the snails, the slugs, the hadedas, the cats, the pigeons… and all those other challenges that Mother Nature throws so liberally at herb gardens.
All in all, it was a desperately sad state of affairs.
So, on the 1st of September, it being the first day of spring (whoopee!!) in the southern hemisphere, Mom and I paid a visit to the local nursery (‘paid‘ being the operative word here – let’s just say thank goodness for credit cards and loyalty points) … and, quite some time later, returned home, cornering cautiously because the boot was jam-packed with a very precious and fragrant load.
Over the last few days, I tackled one container and herb barrel at a time. This is what it looks like at the moment – a work in progress!
Herb barrel 1:
The perennial basil was the only one that had really lived up to its name: much to my delight, it was even producing sprigs of those pretty flowers that make one sneeze and that are usually surrounded by happily buzzing bees. In the background of the photo below you can see two basil ‘mother-plants’. I took cuttings from these, and stuck them into all the gaps between the other herbs. Hopefully at least some will take root and flourish.
Between the two mother-basils is a chilli pepper bush, which I’d bought so optimistically in spring last year. It hasn’t produced any chillies in months, and only a few branches with hardly any un-shrivelled leaves remain. Not sure what to do with it yet.
In the foreground, there’s some droopy chives and spring onions in the blue pots and on the left edge of the barrel. Before the winter, these had been so densely clustered together with new shoots that we couldn’t keep up with eating them, but now there are only a few limp strands left. The winter savoury, which had given such a strong, pungent taste to autumn and winter soups and stews, had lost every single leaf, until only a matting of dried stems remained, so I chopped them up and dug them into the compost heap.
This peculiar black-and-yellow beetle was perched on the edge of the wooden barrel. If you know what this is, please tell me?
I have a sneaking suspicion that it has evil intentions for my herbs, but because I don’t know what it is, I didn’t want to hurt it. Generally, my motto (in the garden anyway) is ‘live and let live’, although I draw the line at an invasion of slugs and snails!
Speaking of which, just have a look where this cheeky (pardon the pun :-D) little slime-trail-leaving squatter was having a rest!
Herb barrel 2:
The lemon grass (far side of the barrel in the photo below) too had survived, although its roots seemed to have lost their grip in the soil, as they were all leaning over. … It’s quite likely that the fat pigeons sat on them at some stage. I reanchored them in the soil, spreading them out so they had a bit more room to grow. The remaining strands didn’t look all that healthy, so I cut them back severely, almost to the base.
I’d used up almost all of the oregano the last times we’d eaten focaccios, sprinkling its small, strong-scented, warmth-inducing leaves over a dish of grilled butternut and onion (sigh…. the mere memory is making me drool…), and the remaining twiglets were almost bare of green. I tidied them up, and added some new specimen.
In case you’re wondering, Granny’s gnome has strict instructions to keep an eye on things, and to discourage the fat pigeons from holding another AGM here.
Herb barrel 3:
I gave the curry bush with its fiery curry scent (such a welcome hot smell to inhale in the cold of winter) a good trim – hopefully it’ll bush out nicely again. You can see part of the curry bush in the background of the snail picture above.
The lemon thyme as well as the normal thyme had gone the way of the winter savoury, losing almost all their leaves, until they were just barren twiggies. Even the hardy sage had given up its ghost, one whithered branch at a time. And because one can never have enough time – er, sorry, thyme! – I planted some new lemon thyme – I LOVE their refreshingly crisp scent – it’s so invigorating!
And all the gaps were filled with basil cuttings.
The cos lettuce, which had previously lived here, had gone to seed, shooting up long arms covered with nobbly bits. I think this must have sucked all the life out of the leaves, because they became small and so unpleasantly bitter that I almost gagged eating them. And then an invasion of snails munched their greedy way through the few remaining leaves, and that was that.
The spriglets of parsley in the same container had flopped over and lay rotting in the waterlogged soil. I uprooted everything, together with all the waterlogged soil, and threw everything onto the compost heap, before filling up the now half-empty containers with fresh compost and organic material.
And then I put in a mixture of lettuces, parsley and watercress. Let’s hold thumbs that they survive the snails!
And lastly, because I love my cat, I gave her a present of a brand-new, flourishing catnip plant. Because the other one seems to have been eaten up (or its leaves rubbed to pulp) by other cats.
Man, I do hope this one has a longer life!
I shall post more pics tomorrow. Too dark now to take more photos!