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Thursday, June 4 News

Create a garden and reap the benefits of an organic, sustainable hobby

Before the coronavirus threat that has made even a trip to the market into a challenge, there were intermittent food safety concerns over E. coli bacteria and other pathogens. While most produce in supermarkets is safe, you have more control with a home garden, which makes for a satisfying hobby that pays off in great food and flowers.

It’s also cost-effective: A single staked plant of cherry tomatoes and a couple plantings of lettuce and kale will provide two people salads for three months or so.

Gardeners know that not only is a home garden a good workout and provides the freshest produce but it reduces the need to ship vegetables hundreds and thousands of miles, thereby fighting climate change. So it’s more sustainable.

You don’t even need to be a homeowner; some condos and apartments will allow you a small space for flowers and vegetables (of just be discreet). First-timers should read up on the best ways to plant compactly, with early peas (plant now!) and lettuce giving way to herbs, flowers, potatoes and tomatoes in the same area or nearby.

You don’t need to have a lot of space; you can produce some nice herbs in a whiskey barrel planter, plastic raised planter or wooden container on your deck, as long as you have at least some good sun. Use a container potting soil or planting mix for that (or mix garden soil with peat moss, perlite and sand).

It only takes a little knowledge of soil, seeds and nutrients. Some towns offer free leaf mulch that can worked into your soil, then you can add composted cow manure and organic fertilizer from the big-box home stores or Agway. A little lime also helps. There’s nothing like a meal later that includes some of your own herbs and one of your home-grown vegetables.

If you do own a home, by the way, do compost your vegetable scraps with leaves for another rich soil component. And if you can’t have your own garden, visit a local farm stand, farm store or farmer’s market that sells fresh produce from late April until the frost in late October. (And urge your supermarkets to buy from local growers.)

Working the soil in organic fashion is the opposite of going out in public during this trying time; the dirt in your garden is actually good for you. Because of your garden’s own biome, playing in your garden, digging in your garden and even breathing in your garden can be healthy for you, according to studies and published reports.

Joe Amarante|Arts and Entertainment Editor

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