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Start your own garden!

Coonamessett Farm 3

6. Know your plant source

First-time gardeners can start plants from seeds or buy transplants from a farm or garden store, but one should be mindful of a plant’s origins. “It’s important where you buy your plants,” says Ron Smolowitz, owner of Coonamessett Farm in Falmouth. “Many of the big box stores use growth inhibitors on their plants. Know your source well.”

7. Don’t plant everything at once

Big crops like potatoes, tomatoes, onions, squash, peppers and pumpkins are planted once and harvested at the end of the season. Many other crops, such as lettuce, carrots, radishes and spinach, can be planted weekly, or biweekly, because they have shorter growth cycles and can be harvested regularly. “For a small garden,” Cifello says, “plan to have three to four heads of lettuce per week.”

8. Give your garden a little TLC

Watering, weeding and monitoring for pests are important aspects of tending a garden and should be done on a regular basis. Watering in the daytime (morning or afternoon) is best, Cifello says.

Bonus: simply devoting 15 minutes a day to the garden will make a big difference to both the success of the garden, and according to Cifello, the gardener’s overall well-being. “Having contact with the dirt hugely reduces stress, increases happiness, and exposes us to non-harmful bacteria,” Cifello says.

9. Enjoy the process

Like anything worth doing, gardening involves a commitment, but Cook says the key is to take pleasure in the experience. “Gardening should not be stressful,” says Cook, who adds that first-timers should prepare themselves for some amount of failure. “A garden is an ecosystem and ecosystems are messy,” she says. “Your garden is a success if it makes you feel good to be in it.”

10. Reap the rewards

Finally, the benefit any gardener can enjoy is the simple joy of nurturing a plant from a tiny seed to, for example, a full-grown tomato, and then savoring the taste of local plucked-off-the-vine freshness. It’s an incomparable experience, Cook says. “Everybody knows that homegrown tomatoes taste so much better than their store-bought counterparts that they really shouldn’t even be considered the same food!”

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