By Caitlin Brown

This year I decided I was going to become a gardener and grow my very own vegetables and herbs in containers. Now, mind you, my mom is a pro and I knew I could defer to her, but I was determined to learn on my own. So, I went and bought the necessary gardening tools and was prepared to get my hands dirty and see if the proverbial green thumb ran in the family.

First thing on the agenda: defer to someone else — the salesperson at the local gardening center was more than happy to help, and I was still happier to get the help. The beginning of my education was going pretty well. I noticed these people were on to something because everyone was so darn smiley. These plants, and just the thought of them ending up in my garden and watching them grow made me almost giddy. My first lesson: plants can do this to you.

Okay, so I’m all excited about the funky colored lettuces, cool sounding ones like Kohlrabi and purple sage in the back of my car with two enormous bags of organic soil, each of which weighs more than I do and then I get the creative bug. I had seen a container garden on Pinterest where veggies and herbs were planted in fancy, vintage wine crates. So, I head to Val’s Putnam Wines in Greenwich, and they are happy to give me a bunch free of charge.

I load them in the car and am exploding with excitement, so I head to Whole Foods, thinking… <I got this> and proceed to go seed crazy. Now, it’s one thing to have lettuces and such that have already started to grow and come with a little marker of what they are to put in the dirt. But, excitement got the better of me. I ran home, drill holes in the bottom of the crates, and start to plant. Within no time the seeds have sprouted and nothing gives me greater joy then checking on their progress, but sadly I have no idea what they are. (Note to other beginners: take notes.) My second lesson: gardening is about learning from mistakes.

Here was my take home: I learned to take a few deep breaths before planting seeds. Unfortunately, I did not read the packets and space accordingly. Also, before splurging at the garden center, think about what you want to plant, what your sun dictates, and what plants can grow in your containers. Luckily, the garden center folks were great resources. If growing vegetables, make sure the soil is organic, and when you plant make sure that you have 10 inches of soil. Leafy vegetables and herbs are okay in a five-hour window of sun.

Most importantly, be kind to yourself and don’t beat yourself up if you get it wrong. The pros will tell you that gardening is all about trial-and-error. Keep a journal and note what worked and what didn’t but never give up, because it’s so darn fun.

I definitely caught green fever. The green thumb torch was passed onto me and I wear the badge of beginner gardener proudly.