Some people have pets, I have plants. There is nothing more rewarding to me than to be able to feed my family and friends not only a meal I’ve cooked from scratch, but a meal made with ingredients that I’ve nurtured from a little seed.
So imagine my shock and horror to wake up and discover that in the dead of the night, my plants have been stolen.
Unlike my mother, I’m not the most natural gardener around. I tend to forget – often – to tend to them, sometimes finding them on the edge of peril before I remember to water them. I think it’s more to do with me spreading them at all available places of sun around the apartment, so much so that I forget where they actually are at home. But anyway.
So last year – near the end of summer – I received a basil growing kit as a present. It would be my first time germinating seeds, and I eagerly checked the little pot every day until I saw new sprouts poking shyly through the earth. Much like this.
This gave me so much joy that I started planting chilli as well – from seed – in a soup mug. Tacky, I know, but I thought it was cute. Both the plants looked a bit malnourished to start off with – it was getting cold and they were going into hibernation.
But I persevered. They were lovingly kept alive through winter, and kept warm where I could. At one point I even kept a place for them on our heated clothes airer when we had it out. Then the heat hit and my plants restarted, with the basil clearly outgrowing the pot that I had it in. I had no balcony, so I had to find a way to move them outside to get some fresh air and sun. That, and my windowsill was getting really crowded with all the seedlings I managed to grow.
A little research online turned me on to milk crate gardening, and a quick ask-around from shopkeepers near my apartment got me a couple of milk crates to grow my plants in. (By the way, shopkeepers tend to be quite happy to help out. Don’t just take milk crates, ask for them.) I was going to have my very own milk crate garden in my car space.
I filled up a crate with soil, and thought to put my basil in one corner and my chilli in the other. What I didn’t realise was that the basil was so overgrown that I couldn’t plant the chilli too, but I could place the little soup mug on a corner, so it could get some sun.
A month or so passed and my birthday rolled around. On my way out to dinner, I stopped by to water the plants. Lo and behold, my chilli plant in its cute soup mug was gone. STOLEN. Needless to say I was upset enough to lose my appetite – and that takes a lot – but I thought that some kid might have thought it was cute and taken the plant.
So I put up a sign asking people not to steal my plants and tried to let it go.
Fast forward to today, and my plants are growing at a rate I’m incredibly proud of (as a non-gardener). I had expanded my little garden to 6 crates, with dill, lettuce, beetroot, tomatoes, thyme, chives, mint and the original basil. I water them daily, and harvest enough to send around jars of pesto to my friends and throw dinner parties.
Imagine then, my surprise when I got downstairs and found this:
Gaping holes where my plants were, and the cable ties holding my crates together ruthlessly cut. Not content with stealing my little mug of chilli, they decided to uproot entire plants, and even tried to remove an entire milk crate, with the sign on. Now I won’t even get to taste the beetroot from my garden, and the one tomato plant that was left behind – they took the larger plant – is relegated to a tiny pot back on the windowsill, where it doesn’t have space to reach its full potential. The dill, chives and lettuce have just been hacked off for dinner, and I don’t think I’ll be expanding my garden any further.
This has been an incredibly heartbreaking experience, and I thought I’d share the pain of fellow growers out there who have had their plants unceremoniously nicked from their garden. This invasion of trust now makes me feel like the neighbourhood is no longer safe, and that people aren’t as gracious as they used to be.
I had even thought of throwing a dinner party for my neighbours out of my produce to share the love, but that won’t be an option anymore. I don’t know what kind of low life steals plants – I would have been happy to give away seedlings and produce – but these scumbags exist, and we can only try our best.