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It’s just about time to bring my herb garden inside. I hope the plants don’t mind the move because I’ve been loving the touch that homegrown herbs add to my dishes. It goes even beyond the taste, although there’s nothing better than freshly picked mint to garnish just-brewed iced tea, or my own basil, straight from the earth (read: large planting pot on my NYC tenement building roof!) for pesto. There’s something very rewarding about not just making a meal, but knowing that you grew the spices yourself.
Rooftop herb garden was definitely one of my most fruitful projects of the summer, though it almost didn’t turn out that way. The first couple weeks were not great. Marjoram looked more like some sickly weed than anything I’d want to feature in a dish. The same went for Tarragon and Rosemary. Basil was droopy and looked unhappily singed. Mint straight-out refused to grow for me. I was beyond frustrated. I had heard that herbs like to be misted, so I crouched down among my pots and sprayed away in futility, and then one day I noticed my plants had been moved. “No biggie,” I thought, “I’ll move them back and someone will get the hint.”
Not so. Every day they were moved out of the shade of a neighbor’s fern and right into the glaring sun! I started visiting rooftop garden at different times throughout the day, until finally, I caught the culprit: a well-meaning neighbor with a much greener thumb than mine… Turns out, misting was the wrong move, since it brings about the equally undesirable results of moldy or burnt leaves. Gardening-Wonder Neighbor showed me how to water them down near their roots, and he let me know that herbs actually love full sun! (“Who doesn’t?” I thought to myself.)
He also told me to harvest, harvest, harvest. And then harvest some more. I was hesitant, since it looked like my poor little guys wouldn’t be able to recover if I cut them back. Neighbor just shook his head and advised me to cut away and see how much grows back. Reluctantly, I took his advice and the next day, to my surprise, they were thriving! It sort of reminded me of that old wives tale about shaving your legs—the more you cut down, the more it grows right back…Now herb garden is in all its glory, and I’ve made more pesto than I ever could’ve imagined. Come first frost, I can only hope they will be happy in my tiny one-window apartment. I think next year I’ll have heirloom tomatoes for, of course, a gorgeous Caprese-ala-Village Rooftop!