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The first time, I was ambitious. I had never had a garden before. My parents could hardly maintain a lawn, let alone a garden. I didn't know anybody who had one. I was a graduate student, and my friends were equally clueless. I was on my own. But I wanted to do it.
So, I started by spending a good part of two weeks turning over the soil in my 10 by 15 foot patch with a shovel, and pulling out ever vestige of root and weed by hand. It seemed like a good idea. Before that, I'd had to cut away a huge growth of feral, thorny rosebush. I think this plant had a serious grudge against some previous owners, as it did nothing but send long, LONG branches covered with thorns in all directions.
I was reading a bunch of stuff about asian peasants at the time, so at first, I wanted to grow rice. Sure, it was Michigan, and I was in a suburb next to other houses and stuff, but I thought it would be really cool to have a rice paddy. I would feel solidarity with the peasantry! My peasant studies teacher said he'd give me an automatic A for growing rice! However, I found that it was next to impossible to find proper cultivation tips for growing rice. I had no clue what to do. I also sort of worried about the whole fetid swamp effect.
Then I went to the store, and bought a bunch of seedlings. I mostly got pepeprs, bell and jalapeno and habanero and bananna peppers. I love cooking with peppers, so I figured I'd use them. I also planted some swiss chard, because I had some left over space, it was there in the market, I didn't know what it was and was tempted by its exotic lure, and couldn't think of anything else to do. I grew up in a household where we ate virtually no vegetables or fish, and had only recently come to a basic understanding with green vegetables.
So, I planted things. I soon realized that I'd planted everythign way too close together, but whatever. The plants grew straight up, instead of out, so to keep them from falling over, I tied them to stakes. They got used to this after a while. Bugs attacked, so I spent time picking bugs off my plants, and treated them with some organic home remedies I read about online. One of them involved tabasco sauce and urine, if I recall correctly. It worked, and all my plants survived. Peppers are pretty hardy, I guess.
The plants grew, and then they started producing tasty peppers. I was happy! I ate them. Then I realized how many peppers I was to have, and started giving them away. There were too many peppers! Arg! I had no idea what to do with them, so I either ate them fresh, gave them away (most memorably, I gave away a few pounds once in a big basket as a housewarming present), or let them rot.
Then winter came and everything died. The circle of life and all. The next year I was lazy, and after the spring planting season had passed, I put down a few flowers, just so I wasn't stuck with a big empty patch of dirt.
My first year in Japan, I again decided to try growing stuff. I got some window boxes, and again wanted to grow peppers. They are hard to find here, and I missed them. I also wanted to grow cilantro, which is impossible to find here. I planted some habaneros (lord knows why I could find them - far too hot for most Japanese people to touch, let alone eat), togarashi (domestic red chilis, very mild), a couple bell peppers, and a box of cilantro from seed.
The cilantro died, as I didn't know how to sprout it right. Also, it was getting too much sun, I think. The togarashi and habaneros did quite well. For a while, they were being attacked rather mercilessly by some sort of insect, until one day a bunch of ants showed up. From that day forward, the ants took care of my insect-killing work, and my plants were bug free. Yay, ants! Sadly, the bell peppers never grew properly - I think the boxes were too small.
Since then, I've been lazy. Random stuff sprouts in my boxes. I let it do what it likes, and it dies eventually.
It would be helpful if the posters say where they live. The information would then be more meaningful.
Amsterdam, garden: coriander, parsley, garden sorrel (zuring?), chives, peppermint, basil all did very well. I've had some luck with basil in a glass terrarium on a sunny windowsill. The tomatoes were a disaster: there is too little sun and too much moisture here. The peppers failed too. The neighbor two buildings down the street has an old apple tree with large, bright green apples which make the most delicious apple sauce I've ever tasted.
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