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Start your own garden!

Coonamessett Farm 2

1. Location, location, location

“You want to find a spot that receives as much sun as possible, as almost every food crop prefers full sun,” says Lindsay Cook, who co-owns NewFarm, a micro-farm and garden supply store in Orleans, with her husband, Casey. It’s also advisable to select a location that drains well and is not too close to coniferous trees which make the soil acidic.

2. Consider convenience

Because a successful garden requires regular attention and watering, Justin Cifello, field manager at Bay End Farm in Bourne, advises aspiring green thumbs to ensure the plot they choose can be easily watered. “It’s okay to sacrifice a little sunlight,” he says, “for a little more convenience.”

3. Prepare the soil for success

“The more love you can put into the soil, the better,” says Cifello. He recommends gardeners-to-be purchase compost or manure, or start their own compost pile with food scraps. He also suggests adding an organic mulch—leaves, natural wood chips and seaweed can do the trick—at the top of the garden bed.

If the ground soil is not quite right—perhaps the area is very sandy or drains poorly—don’t abandon your gardening hopes. Raised beds, where soil is placed in a large, typically wooden box above ground; or potted gardens, where plants are grown in containers on a porch or in the yard, are also alternatives.

4. Diversify your plant portfolio

Even a small garden benefits from a wide range of plantings, not only to grow a colorful salad but for other practical reasons. “A diverse garden is less likely to be heavily damaged by pests or diseases,” Cook says, “because most pests and diseases focus on certain crops and/or varieties of crops rather than a wide variety.” Consider a mix of greens, herbs, fruit, root vegetables, and vine vegetables to ensure a good harvest.

5. The hardier, the better

Choose hardy plants that grow relatively easily, such as thyme, oregano, basil, parsley, dill, cilantro and other cooking herbs; tomatoes; lettuce and other greens; radishes; squash; and cucumbers. While diversity is desirable, gardeners should also take care to give each plant enough room to grow, and not to overplant a garden. Cifello says a common mistake is to plant too much, and not be willing to weed out any struggling plants. “There’s a lot of tough love in gardening,” Cifello says. “At the farm, we always plant more than we need, then select the best ones to survive.”

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