10 life lessons I learnt from my herb garden (and another chance to win movie tickets)

I am the sort of person who learns best from harsh personal experience rather than telling and I am always grateful for those learnings that come gently. To this end, my herb garden is an excellent teacher.

20130424 marjoram

My herb garden gives so much more to me than food; it gives me life lessons. Here are just 10:

1. Great things are often borne of the least work. Take my wild rocket [thank you to my lovely neighbour for choosing me organic seeds]. I dug three parallel, shallow trenches with my pointer finger, poured in the seeds [well, I wouldn’t have been so liberal if it wasn’t for the breezy day], and less than a week later I had lots of little green leaves peeking out from the cover of their richly composted bed. Four months later, I am still enjoying the spoils of this shoddy planting.

20130424 wildrocket

And my mint! My glorious mint plants — gifted from a lovely neighbour and a loving sister — were cuttings and offcuts that are growing beautifully with only the occasional watering.

2. Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I believe that organic is always preferable because resistance breeds resilience — for us as well as the plant. I have just started to regrow what I can from kitchen scraps and the results are very telling.

20130424 celery

This image shows the base of an organic celery alongside that of a conventionally grown celery, both sprouted in the same bowl of water at the same time, and pictured right before I planted them. The conventionally grown celery actually had a much larger base, but this became soggy and rotted away as the root soaked. The base from the organically grown celery stayed firm and strong and sprouted much more healthily, and was the only one to survive in the ground.

3. People lie. Sometimes. Not all the time. Or maybe it is just that their frame of reference is offset to your own. My chilli plant is a prime example of this learning. I asked the little grey lady who sold me the plant, “Are the chillis hot?” to which she replied, “I think so. Quite hot.” Prolifically fruiting the plant is, and hot the chillis are not.

20130424 unhot_chilli

4. Sometimes something has to die away in order to be reborn. For example: my very healthy parsley plant died when I dug it up from the crack in the pavement and replanted it into a pot — but then a tiny, new parsley plant grew in its place — for a little while. Then that died too. So I guess sometimes plants don’t survive after replanting.

20130424 parsley

5. Too much care can kill. Well, I’m pretty sure it killed the parsley.

6. Recycle. It’s good for your health. I cut and planted the roots from markets-bought spring onions, and these spring onions sprang up. Yum.

20130424 springonions

7. Some of the sweetest things are the simplest. Fennel seeds. Chewed fresh from the plant. There is nothing better, especially when the seeds are young and soft.

20130424 fennel

8. When you give them the chance, events can happen as they aren’t meant to — and it’s kind of magical. Nasturtiums can grow all year round with enough shade and water.

9. New starts can come from broken branches. Just as this geranium spawned unexpected progeny after its unfortunate break.

20130424 geranium

10. Never, ever, ever give up. Never stop believing — and keep on watering, even when it seems pointless. I learnt this lesson from a ginger root that did nothing for a long time, then it suddenly decided to sprout. I also learnt this lesson from a ‘dead’ lemongrass plant that came back to life after five weeks of persistent care (and that care was offered only because of its obviously alive brother).

20130424 lemongrass_alive

I hope my little list has given you a smile and some food for thought — and I hope you have read far enough to discover my movie ticket giveaway!

TM Publicity have given me five double passes to give away for the new foodie film, Haute Cuisine, based on the story of President François Mitterand’s private cook. It opens in Australian cinemas tomorrow.

Based on the blurb, this looks to be a fun movie that I want to see:

Hortense Laborie, a renowned chef from the Périgord, is astonished when the President of the Republic appoints her his personal cook, responsible for creating all his meals at the Élysée Palace. Despite jealous resentment from the other kitchen staff, Hortense quickly establishes herself, thanks to her indomitable spirit. The authenticity of her cooking soon seduces the President, but the corridors of power are littered with traps…

20130424 HauteCuisine_TM
Image courtesy of Transmission Films.

Leave a comment below about a lesson your garden has taught you by 9am WST on Friday 26 April, and you will go into my random draw for a double pass. Good luck!

H 🙂

Addendum of 26 April 2013: First, I corrected some spelling errors. Sorry about those…

Next, I drew the prize winners for my giveaway, with results provided by random.org‘s sequence generator:

20130426 thedraw

Congratulations to commenters 11, 6, 7, 3 & 12 — otherwise known as Tanya, Kerryanne, Sonya, Kim & Heather! I am just about to email you for address details so that I can mail out your double passes.



  1. I’m living at my dads house temporarily and what his garden has taught me is that he is keeping it alive and so too is the garden keeping him alive! 🙂


  2. My garden has taught me so much. Getting out in the sunshine and tending my little garden leaves me feeling refreshed and relaxed. And the excitement of using your own grown is priceless.


  3. Think everything through carefully. Plan your garden before planting anything… the same applies to other things in life. Think first.


  4. That my garden loves my cat as much as my cat loves my garden. I had a rose bush that just wouldn’t bloom, and since my kitten has been using the garden for his litter box, it has actually grown a bulb!


  5. The best and strongest plants in your garden often come up on their own, like my amazing cherry tomato plant that is now taller than my fence and covered in tomatoes.


  6. There are “positive” and “negative” plants. In the same plot the negative ones just won’t flourish even with great care. Uproot them and move them to somewhere new without the others influence-just like people.


  7. Congratulations to commenters 11, 6, 7, 3 & 12 – otherwise known as Tanya, Kerryanne, Sonya, Kim & Heather! I am just about to email you for address details so that I can mail out your double passes.

    H 🙂


  8. Love this post, just started to grow herbs and veggies in my back yard… My lesson was if you think you’ve dog proofed it enough… double whatever you did 😉


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