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Another year

I don’t think I can point to a particular moment in time and say, “that was when I started liking indoor plants”. Plants have always been a part of the background such that I really only notice them when they’re missing from the scenery.

Growing up, my mum had always filled the house with them for as long as I can recall, and I remember one time when I asked to have a plant that hung from the ceiling alongside the ceiling light in my room because my room just didn’t feel complete otherwise. A similar thing happened when I first moved out of home - one of the things I wanted to take with me were some of her house plants because the apartment just felt a bit too impersonal and un-homely otherwise.

My dad is also a backyard gardener, growing mainly vegetables that we could eat come spring/summer, and the places we moved to always had room enough for him to practice his gardening, so I guess that helped boost my affinity towards plants a little too.

(All of this despite the fact that I’m a hayfever sufferer and mother nature spends a good fraction of the year sending her plant armies to kick my immune system into overdrive.)

So I guess it wasn’t such a surprise to myself that one of the things I wanted to do with my own place was grow some basil in the corner of the kitchen.

Why basil? Well, I learned that, when I have to cook for myself, I spend a lot of time cooking pasta meals - a disproportionate amount of my diet is Italian food (my foodie friend can vouch for that) - and so the herb that I used the most is basil.

I started by taking home some basil plants from the supermarket, then not using it all up at once - letting it grow a bit more so it’d last a long time. The first batch didn’t last very long, and the second one only lasted a few more months when I transferred some of the plants out of the tiny pot that they came with from the supermarket, into their own individual pots.

Turns out the basil mortality rate was par for the course: they’re an annual plant, and they only live for a year. By the time I get them from the supermarket, they’ve basically lived half their life already.

So one year I thought to try growing my own basil so I could be there from the beginning - getting as much use from the plants as I could - and also thinking it might be cool to actually grow my own plants from a seed, instead of just trying to make existing plants survive like I have with the previous supermarket basil, or the house plants.

My first batch of growing basil from scratch started around autumn 2012. Not the most ideal time to grow basil now that I look back at it, what with winter right afterwards giving the plants little incentive to grow. The indoor environment must have helped a lot though, because those basil grew to somewhere around 45cm tall and would have grown further had I not made it a point to start aggressively pruning them and making pesto every time I failed to prune aggressively enough.

Eventually, as the basils’ 1st birthday arrived, the normally green stems started turning wooden and brown, new leaves stopped growing and old leaves yellowed despite my best efforts, and memories of the supermarket basil dying started to resurface.

When I had had enough of yellowing leaves and barren stalks, I chopped-up what remained of the plants for my dad’s compost and cleaned-out the long rectangular pot that had held one of my first real gardening projects. I set aside my pot, seeds, fertilizer, and barbecue skewers (used for keeping the basil balanced as they grew), in my dad’s garage until I felt it was time to grow another batch.

That time was last month; I filled the pot back up with some soil, sowed another set of seeds, and planted my hopes for another good year.