How to kill plants and ruin your life.

Plant tags make excellent little tombstones. 

Plant tags make excellent little tombstones. 

It’s one of those rare, absurdly hot days in San Diego. The kind of day where it’s hot in the shade. The kind of day where you turn on the air conditioning. The kind of day when you don’t run, because dealing with heat and hills means you might as well be running through central Texas during summer. It’s the kind of day that you give your plants some extra water and your worms some extra cold food. I’ll comment on the latter in another post, but today, I want to talk about how I took my sad, fleshy-colored thumb and turned it into a green one.

Even before we got to San Diego, I had big dreams of starting a vegetable garden. We would work the land and eat our own homegrown, organic food; tomatoes, peppers, all sorts of herbs. I even researched how to grow potatoes in trash cans and citrus trees in pots.

Little did I realize that growing a couple of low maintenance plants on the window sill of your one room apartment in Chicago is nothing like trying to start a garden in drought-stricken southern California.

Insider Tip:
Not a gardener? Get plants that look like these–––>


A few weeks after we settled in... 

I went to a Co-Op grocer in our neighborhood and impulsively bought three different types of peppers, two types of tomatoes, a squash and a melon starter. They’re all dead now.



My first basil and cilantro plants are also in my garden graveyard. Those deaths weren’t really my fault though. The basil was one of those living herbs that you’re supposed to keep in water. I somehow screwed that up. And some sort of cat, or possum, or coup of ants ate all this cilantro.

Gone in one night.  

Gone in one night.  

Anyway, if you really want to kill a vegetable garden in southern California, don’t water it. That was the mistake Terry and I made. Not that we didn’t water it at all, but we certainly didn’t water it enough. That little circular garden actually holds 6 to 7 very large bags of dirt. It’s kind of huge. And we’d just take the hoes on the sprinkler setting, get the top soil wet and call it a day. Idiots.

When our plants started shriveling, we brainstormed what the culprit could be.

“It’s the soil,” Terry suggested. “There’s something wrong with it.” There was nothing wrong with it. Terry thought I had bought cheap dirt, or weird dirt, or the wrong kind of dirt for the vegetables we were growing. That’s the advertising industry for you. We’ve manipulated people into thinking they can get dirt wrong. Either way, he took it upon himself to buy two additional bags of a different brand of soil and add it to the garden. This did nothing except add more soil as we added the same amount of water, further starving our poor plant babies.

I thought maybe he had a point about quality and suggested we try a fertilizer. This helped in the most insignificant way. The plants did appear to bounce back, but for a short-lived “last gasp” as they say. It was too late. They were too far gone. Had we gotten them to start growing again, they likely wouldn’t fruit.

I decided to give up on this year’s sad little harvest and try to grow a few herbs in pots. Maybe I jumped the gun, I thought. Pots have a nice control to them, much more forgiving of beginners and the dumb things they do. And so far, with the exception of that thief who stole the cilantro, and another who was interested in sage, things have been going great. Basil is on point. Cinnamon Basil is just bursting. Bee Balm is in full force. And to tell you the truth, Sage is bouncing back, slowly but surely.  

I’ve also focused on my cactus and succulent plants, which are doing quite well. You might be saying to yourself, “Of course they are, Mary, you live in a semi-arid climate,” but why don’t you just back off and be happy for me.

Key Take Aways:

  • Just because you are a human cactus doesn’t mean your plants are. Unless they are. Then you’re golden.
  • Understand the soil to water ratio of your garden.
  • When in doubt, just use pots.
  • If you can’t manage any of this, get a cactus and call it a day.
Honoring those who are still with us.  

Honoring those who are still with us.