I’ve mentioned before that I have a terrible way with plants. I always have so much hope with a new plant, and for a while it seems to be thriving, but then I inevitably kill it. My cherry tomato plant happens to be doing very well at the moment (knock wood), but my herbs all died while I was away house-sitting for my friend. I did come by and water them every other day, but something went wrong. My friend CW says I must be really good with them if my mere absence from the household prompted their death, but I suspect he was just being nice.
A few months ago, my beloved jade plant I have had for two years started to die slowly. The branches were sagging and shriveling; chunks were falling off. I tried to save it. Sun? Water? Less water? Shade? I had no idea what to do so I tried everything. Eventually I just left it sitting on the patio and sadly ignored it. The last few branches fell off the plant and there seemed to be nothing I could do.
These days, however, I think there might be some new life forming:
Some of these fallen-off chunks have started to take root. They’re hanging out, quietly, doing their thing, possibly growing. If I had thrown them away when they fell off instead of just letting them be, they would’ve never had that chance. My inaction may be allowing them to grow anew. I don’t want to get too hasty, though: like I said, I have a terrible way with plants. In spite of the current promising situation, there could still be some way for me to fuck this up and kill it for good.
I am exercising caution and, for now, letting the jade plant do its thing without much intervention. I’m sure the plant knows better than I do what it needs, and my manic and desperate measures to try to fix it, to make it grow the way I want it to, to corral its behavior like some kind of succulent bonsai artist, are likely to just make things worse. For the moment, I am following the path of inaction.
This post is literally true. As are most other things in life, though, it is also a metaphor.
Growing plants in pots is so much harder than growing them in ground. If they’re in the ground and there’s a deficiency of the right nutrients or moisture in the immediate vicinity, the plant can extend its roots and find whatever it needs; if it’s in a pot, all it’s got is what’s in the pot. Pots can overheat and dry out in Summer, the roots can easily be flooded, you can poison the soil with too much nitrogen and phosphorus, or not give the plant enough. I wouldn’t judge the greenth of your thumb on the basis of what happens to pot plants.
The authorities do say that you should repot your pot plants annually – i.e., tip the plant out of its pot, shake most of the soil from its roots, give the roots and shoots a trim (the shoots should be pruned quite severely, the roots only an inch or so all round), and then repot with fresh potting soil. If you have any home-made well-composted compost (I know, tricky to come by in an apartment) then mulching the top of the pot an inch deep, every six months or so, is a safe way of replenishing nutrients without overdosing the soil.
Gah, I meant to respond to this ages ago and didn’t. Sorry! Thanks for the advice and commiseration. I’m not really sure what went wrong with the herbs, but I’m going to try again. The tomatoes are doing really well so far, so at least I have that on which to hang my hat!