My garden, let me show you it

By Mir
June 30, 2008

I am still earnestly toiling over the containers out on my deck. In some ways, it’s really an ideal set-up—there’s no deer or rabbits willing to venture that high, so I don’t have to worry about putting in all of this effort merely to feed the local wildlife. After all, that’s what our compost pile is for. (I do love the mental image of a couple of deer dragging our scooped-out cantelope rinds down to the pond for a late-night snack.)

At some point, the strawberry plants heaved an enormous sigh and all but died. I’m not sure what happened, although I DO know that the squirrels (unfazed by the climbing needed) ate most of the berries. But then the plants themselves developed some ugly brown splotches and just gave up. It was very sad. But the good news is that the rest of the plants are still going like gangbusters. (Gangbusters apparently go very… ummm… strong! And fast! I think.)

So here is what I mostly do about the plants I’m growing: I go out on the deck and look at them and WORRY. Our county is still under drought water restrictions, which means that we’re only allowed to do outside watering every other day. In theory I agree with this as a sensible approach to water conservation. In practice I would like to point out that my tomato plants didn’t get the memo that they should only require water a few days a week, and furthermore, if they are not watered on a day when the mercury crosses 90, the leaves start to turn yellow and shrivel up and then I fret and grumble and eventually end up illegally watering them because MAH BAYBEES! They’re THIRSTY!

(Summer days in Georgia when the temperature goes above 90: ALL OF THEM.)

So, basically, I am risking a trip to the bighouse for some home-grown tomatoes. Yes.

On the whole, though, my hard work is paying off in spades. For example, I now have LOTS and LOTS of parsley:

I never know what to use it for, so last week in a fit of inspiration I cut off a huge bunch of it and chopped it up and added it to a shrimp linguine dish I was making. That’s one of my favorite recipes, you know, one where I start with a concrete idea (I have shrimp! And lemons! Let’s go!) and proceed by throwing in everything that looks good. So I tossed in a clove or three of garlic and some olive oil and some butter and more pepper and then my chopped-up handful of parsley and the kitchen smelled AMAZING and when we sat down to eat, I asked the kids how they liked it.

“This is DELICIOUS!” said Monkey. “Except for these green things. What IS that, anyway?”

“It’s parsley. That I grew myself,” I muttered. (Note to self: Next year, no parsley.)

But nevermind the parsley. Thanks to my renegade watering, it looks like we’re actually going to have tomatoes VERY SOON:

That’s EXCELLENT news, both because that particular tomato has been on the vine for approximately twelve years and because I am seeing a lot of salsa in our future, for some reason:

The jalapenos are more prolific than the (formerly slug-ravaged) banana peppers, but the banana peppers are fighting back and I have several that are over 6″ long, already:

(I have one banana pepper hiding in the back which is impossible to get a good angle on to photograph, but it is growing out from the vine on a complete horizontal. Whenever I see it I ask it if it’s a banana pepper or if it’s just happy to see me, and it cracks me up EVERY SINGLE TIME.)

This is not technically part of my garden, but bears sharing, anyway. Last year I bought Otto a giant outdoor thermometer:

It’s old-time-y looking and kitschy and absolutely perfect to have out by the grill. I love it. Otto loves it. Otto mounted it on the side of the house this winter, and so it wasn’t until the weather got warm again that we discovered that mounting a tin thermometer on bricks is a really bad idea. Wanna know the temperature? It’s 120 degrees (the top of the thermometer) ALL THE TIME. So, um, we’re going to relocate that sometime soon, I think. Or just freak out all of our visiting relatives. “Oh, that? Yeah, it’s 120 out. You get used to it.”

By the way, I wasn’t bright enough to snap some pictures of my basil before I picked a bunch for the pesto I’m going to make later. You’ll just have to imagine it, I guess.

Yeah, I know, pride over a few plants I didn’t kill is a little silly. I’m easily impressed with myself (hey, someone has to be).


  1. kate


  2. Megan

    I’m impressed! I am very, very impressed! I have an amazing talent for the killing of the vegetables (and a constant, gnawing guilt when I do it – so fun). In fact, in a fit of inspiration I once managed to kill a cactus. That takes serious green-murdering commitment that does. I love the shape of that tomato and the peppers are luscious. Mmmmmmmm…. salsa….

  3. Randi

    never, ever, let me near your garden – I have two black thumbs :). My husband would be drooling over those tomatoes AND peppers!

  4. Julie

    Our solution to the watering restrictions is two rain barrels; we collect enough run-off to water on our “off” days and keep everything alive. EarthFare has good ones for sale now.

  5. Leandra

    Homegrown tomatoes are totally worth a trip to the pokey. I may do harm to somebody if I don’t get at least one tomato off the vine this year. Our are either being devoured by bugs or have some kind of, um, rot.

    Is it wrong that I’m totally coveting your tomatoes? The parsley, not so much, but the tomatoes, yes.

  6. jennielynn

    I am impressed. My herb bed is struggling, though I have baby eggplant and baby tomatoes out the ying yang.

  7. Stacia

    I’m impressed. I have a container garden and I planted late, so I have blooms on my tomato and banana pepper plants, but no veggies yet. My basil looks good though. I use all my cooking water (pasta, veggies) to water my garden. It’s actually really good for the plants.

  8. Jenni

    My first batch of Tomato Plants died due to extreme wind (the kind that blows the roof off of buildings). So my newly planted ones are doing better, but I start from seeds which means maybe I’ll have actually tomatoes sometime around the end of July. Maybe. But my cucumber plant has the little yellow flowers that supposedly mean they are going to start growing cucumbers soon. And I broke down and bought a banana pepper plant at the farmers market for $1. And it was already growing some peppers.

  9. Fran

    Now that you mention this subject again, I can tell you I had slugs on my Thai basil. I was totally grossed out but on your recommendation, I gave them an old Budweiser I found in the back of the drinks fridge (remembering not to give them the coveted Corona). They happily dove in and died, as did a little toad which made me feel horrible. More slugs thought to belly up to the bar but I also moved the basil pots over next to my sage which has been merrily outgrowing it’s pots for a few years now-slug free. No slugs. Oh the joys.

  10. dad

    If you can arrange a shade to prevent the sun from shining directly on the thermometer, you won’t have to move it (the thermometer).

  11. Beverly

    Umm..If you can find the pipe outside where your air conditioning unit dumps out the excess water (humidity) it pulls out of the house and if you can put a bucket or something under it to collect this water, you will have free no-restricted water to use on your plants. At this time of year I collect at least 3 gallons of water a day from this method.

  12. Heidi

    Jennielynn says, “I have baby eggplant and baby tomatoes out the ying yang.”

    Sounds like a painful condition you might want to get taken care of.

  13. RuthWells

    Second on the rain barrels. I only have one, but up here in PA, we don’t go droughty as often as you do.

    Your peppers are gorgeous!

  14. All Adither

    Just convince your defense attorney that you were concerned about salmonella. And then please make some kick ass salsa and send it my way. Thanks.

  15. sherri

    Luckily for us all, watering restrictions were updated today to be more lenient.

  16. elizabeth

    I think there is a loophole in that watering ban for food gardens. your pix make me wish I’d gotten off my butt to do my container gardens this year.

  17. Em

    Silly? Are you kidding? Why do you think I take so many pictures of my kids?

  18. Nancy R

    You could have saved your pasta water and let it cool and then used it, right? Isn’t that good for the plants or something? Of course, that makes draining the pasta a little more of an effort…

    The garden looks lovely!

  19. The Other Leanne

    Water from the bathtub works just as well as water from the hose, and technically it’s not “outside watering,” it’s bathing. Just sayin’.

  20. Kirsetin

    You can write AND garden? I’m not sure we can be friends, but, hey, I’ll take some of that salsa!

  21. hollygee

    The Other Leanne and I had the same idea. Let those dirty kids contribute their bath water — unless they take showers and then, couldn’t you put a bucket in the shower with them for ‘run-off’?

  22. Kristy

    I agree wit hollygee – when I lived in Georgia we kept a bucket in the shower for ‘run-off’ water and used that to water the plants…also, mmmmm homemade salsa!!

  23. Anna Marie

    And the mint? How is the MINT????

  24. Daisy

    Water tip: definitely use “brownwater” to water your plants. It’ll save on your water bill and allow you to water plants more often. I have been known to water my deck plants (herbs and flowers) with leftover coffee, water from cooking pasta (after cooling, of course), sink water from washing dishes (you know, those few that don’t fit in the dishwasher). I’ve made it a habit never to dump fluids down the drain without thinking “Could my plants use this? first.
    Next year? I want a rain barrel.

  25. The Other Lori

    My, my, what big banana peppers you have.

    Oh come on, I had to say it.

    Hey, I made an herbed butter last night that called for parsley and basil so I thought I’d pass it on. 1 cup butter softened (I used soy margarine), 2 T chopped parsley, 2 T chopped basil, 2 T chopped dill, 2 T crushed garlic. Mix together & refrigerate 2 hours. Being the lazy/impatient person I am, I refrigerated it for 15 minutes and then transferred it to the freezer for 10 minutes or so. I slathered it on shucked corn on the cob, wrapped the cobs in foil and grilled them for 15 minutes, turning often. DELISH!

  26. Sheila

    I water my (struggling) tomato plants with water from the dehumidifier. I feel all smug and earthy when I do it, and I think the universe may just reward me with some vegetables.

    Congratulations on your successful garden offspring!

  27. AmyM

    I’m sooo jealous. Hopefully next year, I’ll have a really nice vegetable garden. Though I’ll probably have to lob off my black thumb first.

  28. Jenn C.

    I think everyone else had all the same suggestions that I did for ways to find excess water – rain barrel, grey water – I particularly liked the AC drip idea.

    I’d also wonder if the outdoor watering ban applies to plants in containers that are water by hand, as opposed to landscape watering – sprinklers etc, with all the waste associated with that? Obv. your drought down there is pretty bad, but I can’t imagine a couple cups of water on your plants is the end of the world.

  29. suburbancorrespondent

    Apparently you don’t have squirrels. Because they are all over here on my deck, eating my grape tomatoes…

  30. Deb@Bird On A Wire

    Mir, don’t despair about all the parsley. It freezes as well as dries beautifully. Then you’ll have your year’s worth of parsley flakes and no need to pay high dollar at publix.

    Of course a nice batch of homemade salsa would use a good bit of it…but you’re like time. *sigH*

  31. StephLove

    Home-grown tomatoes are totally worth jail time. You know that song– “There’s only two things that money can’t buy and that’s true love and home-grown tomatoes”? Pretty much hits the nail on the head.

    We always grow tomatoes, but this year we’ve planted sunflowers, carrots, cucumbers, lettuce, spinach, cilantro and some other stuff. So far all we’ve harvested is cilantro and lettuce but I’m going out to the garden and picking myself a salad almost every day. It’s so fun!

    We started composting this year, too, and we’re thinking of getting a rain barrel next year. We’ve got friends with a big garden and they have one. That could solve your watering dilemma. Come to think of it, you might not be so pretty in an orange jumpsuit.

  32. Tootsie Farklepants

    Heh. You said “six inches”. Heh heh. Yeah, hi, I’m twelve.

  33. Erin

    We’re making pesto with homegrown basil for dinner tonight, too! Great minds and all that…

  34. MomCat

    Lovely! I’m in awe of your pretty, green-thumbiness.

  35. Taylor

    Ok, here’s what you need to do:

    Get a bucket. One that is big enough to hold a lot of water but not so big that you cant carry it when it is full. When you turn on the water to take a shower and let it warm up (or let it luke-warm up in Georgia), put the bucket under the spigot and let it fill up. When it gets full (usually two showers depending on bucket size and alacrity of warming water), take the bucket and water your tomatoes with it.

    I do this all time time and it’s how I keep most of my plants watered. It’s the only way I’ve kept many a tomato alive in hot Alabama summers. And now that I live in MA, I do it anyway just because its conservation-y.

  36. jen

    Check your water restrictions and see if you’re allowed to use “gray” water. That’s water you’ve used for, say, washing the dishes or when waiting for your water to heat up. What Taylor above suggested. Some places allow it, some places don’t.

  37. catnip

    All that parsley will be great in your fresh salsa!

    Gorgeous pictures, but none of the mint? Did you kill it?! ;)

  38. angie

    I would be proud too. Vegetables are a whole new level I can’t imagine at my grass and flowers stage. I feel you on the watering, though. I was a renegade last year trying to boost my lawn.

  39. Brandy

    One trick to finding water, legally, for the garden? When you take a shower, stick a bucket under the faucet as you wait for the water to warm up instead of just letting it drain. We gather (for the 4 of us) a bit over 3 gallons of water a day.

  40. Melisa

    Yeah, here in AZ, sometimes 120 is actually 120. It totally blows.

  41. Mara

    You can hide a LOT of parsley in a basil pesto. Just sayin’.

  42. Katherine

    Food gardens are exempt from the watering rules in GA. That’s how I get away with watering my blueberry bushes. And that way I can use the water I save waiting for it to warm up (from the shower and the sink (when I hand wash dishes)) for my flowering plants.

  43. Daisy

    Graywater. Oops. Wrong color. Anyway, re-use your household water. Lots of suggestions from your other readers; come for the post, stay for the comments!

  44. Flea

    I read somewhere that the water in which you steam or boil veggies (no salt or anything else added to water) is perfect for watering veggies.

    Your garden looks great, Mir! I won’t bore you with pictures of mine. Especially since none of my tomatoes are pink yet.

  45. Lulu

    But, but, but, what about the MIIIIINT?

    Oh. It turned out to be parsley?


  46. ksgrandma

    Parsley plays well in tabouli type salads. And this year I find that I can make tabouli with quinoa instead of wheat (yes, you can develop a gluten intolerance in your old age – and in fact, I suspect lots of us will) and it tastes just fine. (I also ate a lot of it with cilantro instead of parsley, because the cilantro came up volunteer in my garden and had to be eaten, doncha’ know.) So, easy recipe base from which to deviate. But always such a fresh taste.

  47. Evil Genius

    Ohhhhh, what I’d do for some home grown tomatoes right now. Everybody around here still has no tomatoes because of the salmonella scare, and our one source of home grown (hubby’s aunt & uncle) decided not to bother with their garden this year. Maybe next year I’ll take the plunge and start up a little patio garden of my own.

  48. susie

    It rained last night and my husband was out in our yard with every vessel that could hold more than a teaspoon of water to collect it. I’m guessing we have about 100 gallons of water on my deck right now. Don’t give up on the strawberries – this is what they do when they are hot and dry. They will come back next year. Welcome to gardening, southern style!

  49. susie

    It rained last night and my husband was out in our yard with every vessel that could hold more than a teaspoon of water to collect it. I’m guessing we have about 100 gallons of water on my deck right now. Don’t give up on the strawberries – this is what they do when they are hot and dry. They will come back next year. Welcome to gardening, southern style!

  50. Sue @ My Party of 6

    Totally worth a trip to the Big House for homegrown tomatoes. Dude, the grocery store ones can KILL you!

  51. Mom101

    Dude, I’m coming over for a home cooked meal. Just as soon as the temperature is back to a reasonable 74.

  52. Zee

    A pal of mine – who has worked at a nursery (the plant kind) for years – told me that tomatoes like to be drenched and then left to dry out completely… and then you drench them again and let them dry out… Lather, rinse repeat. Apparently it helps the fruit grow well and get ripe more quickly? Or something? I’m not sure. (I just did what he said and my tomato plant seems to be doing pretty well so far.)

    Granted, I live in Portland, Oregon, where the average temperature for the last month has been about 60 so it probably takes a considerably longer period of time for the container to dry out here… but I thought I’d share. :)

    I am jealous of your jalapenos. Mine are, like the tomatoes, victims of our lousy summer weather.

  53. Mother Chaos

    Mir, I’m using this kind of thing on my too-many rose bushes right now:

    Nutshell: Take a liter-sized soda pop bottle, drill a hole or three in the lid, cut off the bottom, bury it slightly into the soil around the plants you’re worried about (thus hiding it pretty much from sight, too). Fill with water and ignore until empty – I’ve got two per rose bush right now, and they dry up about every third day…but my roses are a lot happier than they are with every-other-day mechanical drip system.

  54. Cele

    When I make homemade red sauce I use lots of fresh parsley… unfortunately I only make it once or twice a year. Plus you can use it in salads.

    Wow, I just got an education in water conservation from reading the comments.

  55. Shannon

    I am duly impressed. My Texas plants need water every day as well. My basil is wonderful, the peppers are okay, the green beans have many, many leaves, but not many green beans. And the cilantro is dead.

    Oh but I have catnip! My cats are in for a good time here soon. Nothing spells fun like giving your pet hallucinogens.

  56. Brigitte

    Leandra’s tomatoes (if the rot starts on the bottom ends), I think that’s called “blossom end rot”. There’s stuff called “Rot Stop” (I think) that’ll stop that problem.

    I had some woolly thyme growing beatifully between some rocks on my front walk. I went out yesterday and it’s BLACK and DEAD. Weh.

  57. prophet

    I’m with Anna Marie: What about the mint?!

    I’m growing 4 different kinds this year: regular (read: purloined from my mother), curly leafed, julep, and (I kid you not) chocolate.

    Contrary to the dire predictions of your mint-haters, mint can die, to wit, my orange mint, which did not survive the neglect of the back yard. . . .

  58. Jenny

    I’m so mad the others beat me to asking about the mint. (MIIIINNNNNT!!!)

  59. mommytherobot

    jealous. after all the torrential rain we’ve had i’m afraid all my veg plants have drowned their sorrows. read: they are all barren!

  60. Lisa

    Our drought restrictions are on watering with a sprinkler or washing your car. Hand watering is allowed. Sprinklers only every other day, and only after 7pm.

  61. Jen

    Wonderful job! Mmmmm salsa! My favorite, especially fresh!

  62. hermia

    Yep, get with the graywater. Another good source is the water you use to rinse your fruits and vegetables. Put the colander on top of a bowl. It’s my favorite because then the water is there in the kitchen, which opens onto the deck where the herbs are at my house!

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