True Confessions of a Talentless Horticulturist

Shannon Carlton

I did it. I confess. I took a thriving, healthy little basil that was gifted to me and I killed it. A slow, sad death in my backyard.

​​See, what happened was that I was gifted a basil plant from my friends down the street. I was so excited to get the basil, that I immediately went and got some soil and replanted it in a beautiful pot outside my back porch. I put it where it could get lots of sun, because it’s a plant and don’t plants need lots of sun? Well for a few weeks my basil was growing like crazy, we put fresh basil on everything because I had so much of it. (I even tried basil infused water, not recommended). I was so proud every evening when I cut off some basil to flavor our dishes.

​Then several weeks in I started noticing the leaves looked a little wilty so I watered it. Then the rains came and it got a ton of water and started looking worse, the leaves were turning black. So I moved the basil to the porch because I thought it was getting too much water. Then I called my mom because her plants ALWAYS look amazing. HELP! How do I save my basil? Too late, basil was dead and I was sad and my dinners were not nearly as flavorful.

​​I told this story to a couple of friends and their response was, ok, it’s $3, go get another one. That’s all well and good but I still don’t know how to grow a basil so the next $3 basil plant will suffer the same fate.

​​Why did you just have to read through the tragic story of my sad basil plant? Because, how often do we start something without any idea of how to actually grow it consistently, over time? How can we do better by the basil plant and starting a new project/business/relationship?

​​A better way to start a project:

  • What is the end goal? For the basil it was to have a plant that provided flavoring for a long time to come. For a work project perhaps it’s the completion of the project, perhaps it's a steady income, perhaps it’s picking up a new skill.
  • Who has done it previously and how did they make it work? For the basil, I could have asked my friend’s husband what to do, because clearly he successfully grew a large enough basil to gift me part of it!
  • Research. Google, youtube, facebook, books. There is no lack of information out there. Find what works best for you and do your research. I most definitely would have benefitted from knowing what kind of sun, water, drainage, etc would have been good for my plant.
  • Pivot- my favorite. When something is not working, go back to the research and find out how to course correct. Go back to more research. Don’t just try one thing and then another. That’s what I did to the detriment of my poor plant and subsequent dinners.
  • Have fun! Enjoy the project, the fruits of your labor, the gift that you have been given.


​I hope that my dead basil story was beneficial to you as you begin any new project this summer, this year.

​​What do you want to start? How can I help?