Jul 072007

All spring and summer I’ve been humming a snug self-satisfied little tune to myself. Why, you ask?

Because I am growing my own herbs in my back yard. Oh yes, glorious rosemary, sage, and oregano, oh-so-fresh and free for the harvesting to better make my dishes so yummy! Raspberries bursting out of pods and ripening! And thyme, Italian parsley, and cilantro, on the way! But these were to pale in comparison to the prize plant in my herb garden, the crown jewel that was to grow in abundance and make my kitchen floweth over with the deliciousness that would be produced within.

Those pods harbor raspberries that have since burst out of the pods and are ripening as we speak!
Nikon D50

I am speaking of course of that king of herbs (no, really, that’s what the name translates to) — basil!

I was so proud of myself, planting the seeds, watching with delight as the little sprouts poked their heads out of the soil and unfurled themselves, sprouting leaves with exponential abandon.

My dad — gardener extraordinaire — sounded impressed. “I’ve never grown basil from seeds before…. well, intentionally that is.” (I should mention that my parents live in Texas, whose climate basil loves maybe even more than I love chocolate, and at the end of each summer there is a literal basil forest in their garden. Needless to say, they get enough volunteers from the previous year’s flowers and seeds to supply pesto to all of Italy. Twice.) I was well pleased. There was life — it was germination, biology, SCIENCE ITSELF — happening in my own backyard! How cool is that?

Golden sage enjoys a glorious June morning
Nikon D50

Well, before long, my basil got too tall to support itself. “No matter,” I thought, “it’s just these really long (20 hours long) Alaska days. The plant is growing too tall too fast to grow any supporting, er, infrastructure.” So I staked the plants. I had also noticed that some weird other spouts were coming up in the pots. This wasn’t terribly surprising since weeds compose, oh, about 50% of the plant life in my yard, so I pulled those sprouts out, again well pleased with myself. I was keeping invasive plants at bay, thus FURTHERING SCIENCE!

Before long, I noticed the plant itself wasn’t really growing in the shape I thought it would, but having only previously bought basil pre-sprouted and never having experienced BASIL SCIENCE before I figured it was just an awkward teenage phase and it would soon grow into the shape I associated with basil. And the lack of scent in the leaves could totally be explained by the lack of scorching heat in Alaska that the herb loves so much.

A drop of water rests on a perfect sage leaf
Nikon D50


These illusions were to crumble like a cookie before me today, when I abruptly stopped singing my little self-satisfied tune. I’m no longer walking tall, proud of my contribution to science. It turns out that those sprouts — the ones that had first appeared in the pots, growing so expediently — were weeds. I’ve been nurturing invasive plants in pots on my back deck, and those smug little bastards were all too happy to keep the wool pulled over my eyes!

Oregano enjoys a glorious June morning
Nikon D50

And the worst part?

Those sprouts I pulled up in the name of SCIENCE? As photos from the internet were able to verify, (Google Images knows all) those were the real basil sprouts! Oh, the horror. I killed the very thing I was trying to cultivate! Instead of preening a lovely and understated herb, I may as well have been helping along the plant from Little Shop of Horrors. You’d better believe that it was screaming “FEED ME, SEYMOUR!” when I came ’round each day with the watering can (maybe that’s why they call it horticulture. It should really be horrorculture.).

Little green terranean terrorists. You’re about to get a taste of your own medicine tomorrow when you get pulled up and shredded.

And this time, I shall be sprouting the seeds indoors!

An Italian parsley sprout gets a good start on that growing thang
Nikon D50

  4 Responses to “Basil betrayal in my own back yard”

  1. I feel your pain!!!!!
    Now you know why I leave the gardening scheming to Dad. I’ll do the manual labor, but please don’t ask me to be the decision-maker. Your weed story was hysterical! Brought me back to your 2nd grade days and “The Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” series of books.
    Love you, Mom

  2. Oh, beautiful photos! Beautiful pictures to illustrate such a tragic story… The poor Basil, once wide-eyed, expectant, un-tarnished in their youth and now… gone. So sad. I hope that your next Basil growing ordeal will provide more satisfying results! Good luck with all of your herb endeavors!

  3. “I went to sleep with gum in my mouth, and now there’s gum in my hair. And when I got out of bed this morning, I tripped on a skateboard and, by mistake, I dropped my sweater in the sink while the water was running. I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.”
    Greatest book ever!

  4. It’s a super great book, I’ll give you that, but I don’t know if I could call it the best book ever…. I mean, that means it’s better than classics like Harold and the Purple Crayon and Cars and Trucks and Things That Go. You can’t forget Bill and Pete Go Down the Nile, either. Pretty stiff competition there.

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