I have struggled tremendously to keep plants alive. Despite the power of nature to thrive in all sorts of environments, I am consistently able to take them out.
I’m not alone in this. The internet is filled with house plant memes. I don’t quite identify with the obsessive streak, but I do know how difficult it can be.
Given my own interest in cooking, I have mainly focused on edible plants, but there are a few others mixed in there.
A few recent plants have had nontrivial lifespans, which is just a reminder of everything that went wrong in the past. Here’s the rundown.
I had a lot of basil plants come and go. Grocery stores often sell living basil plants, and it always felt like a better option than paying just as much for a tiny, plastic container with a countable number of leaves.
It always started with the best of intentions, but none of them made it. Apparently basil doesn’t like the cold. And you can’t water them too much. Or too little. Watering potted plants is surprisingly hard.
I did learn later on that there are incorrect ways to harvest basil leaves, and I had been doing it wrong. Once I learned just to cut off entire stalks above nodes, they lived longer. However, the last one kept getting smaller and smaller until a cold night took it out.
I still have the dead, brown skeleton sitting on the step out back.
Grocery stores also sell living butter lettuce.
Maybe it was alive when I bought it, but it didn’t stay that way.
I don’t have much more to say.
I bought a parsley plant because it seems really useful to have in small amounts. Whenever I buy bundles at the grocery store, I end up using maybe half before the rest of it goes bad.
I kept the parsley in a bay window, and it did okay for awhile. Unfortunately, it never grew big or green enough to actually use it. I might pull a few leaves off, but I would need to buy more at the grocery store to make, say, some shrimp scampi.
It’s still there. The stalks are maybe an inch tall and have a handful of yellow leaves. I still water it occasionally hoping it will come back.
The problem with chives is that I don’t use them very often. And when I cook something that could use chives, I only remember when I’m already sitting to eat and think of a garnish.
Apparently the way to harvest chives is just to cut straight across. However, this does mix in many yellow stalks along with the green bits I want.
I thought the chives had died this last winter, so I just trimmed it short to clear the mess and left the pot because I had no purpose for it.
And then a few weeks ago, I saw some green sprouts again. I’m pleasantly surprised, but I wish it was with a more useful herb.
I had heard about regrowing green onions in water before and done it with minor success. However, it wasn’t until we got the bay window that I really saw it work.
After a few onions had grown back, I realized I should probably put them back in soil, so I arranged three or four into a pot. Two or three weeks later, I had more root ends of green onions and went through the same process.
Green onions undoubtedly been my greatest success. They consistently grow back, and I can trim off a few stalks and get enough to garnish in a variety of dishes. The only unfortunate part is that I only get greens, whereas some recipes call for the white parts as well.
A few months ago, I hadn’t used potatoes quickly enough, and they got soft with lots of eyes. I was going to throw them into food scraps when I decided to try to regrow them. The worst case scenario is that they would just decompose into the ground.
I read online to cut up the potatoes into smaller pieces, each with an eye, then give them a good soak. After that, plant them eyes up and wait. I found a bare spot around the side, dropped them in the ground, and forgot about them.
However, California has been plenty wet this year, so they got regular water. A few weeks ago, I was checking out the yard and saw a few green, leafy stalks maybe six inches tall. Even still, I didn’t quite believe it and figured they might be weeds, but then I remembered the rough arrangement.
The internet says to wait for them to flower and die before digging up the potatoes, so I’ll keep waiting. Even if it makes it that far, I’m actually not certain how comfortable I am eating these regrown potatoes I put entirely in the ground.
Other than those, I have a few succulents at the office, and we have several orchids at home. When we moved and got the bay window, I thought the orchids might like the spot. However, I quickly learned that orchids don’t like light, and pulled them out in time to barely survive.
I think recent plants have done better, which I credit to two, seemingly obvious changes. First, I more recently have taken at least a few minutes to research online how to actually try to keep plants alive. My ignorant attempts at caring for plants had both insufficient trying and too much failure.
Second, I got an app to help. I never made a habit of checking plants, so getting reminders to water them made a big difference.
And the effort has built on itself. As I learned more, I got more interested, and as I developed habits, it felt more satisfying to see plants grow. And a few successes have made it more rewarding. I hope that nature keeps giving.