Gardening Tips & Tricks from the New England Dairy Team

Jusmine Martin| View Author Bio
You might not be surprised to learn the New England Dairy team is full of gardeners – We do love farming, after all. From peppers to potatoes, we’re spotlighting our favorite gardeners’ backyard oasis. They share their experiences with gardening, their favorite hauls from past seasons, and tips for beginners. 

Becca Story | Senior School Nutrition Specialist


Becca and her backyard garden.I gardened with my parents growing up. As an adult, I dabbled in container gardening in 5-gallon buckets, large flower pots, and window boxes. We built raised beds in 2015, where I have been doing most of my vegetable gardening.

What’s your favorite thing to plant?

I love to grow fresh herbs like garlic chives, basil, mint (in containers), parsley, Brandywine tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots and Italian flat beans. Those are the items that have been the most successful in my garden space. Last year I added more flowers to attract pollinators and for cutting, those included echinacea, gladiolas and French lavender 

What advice would you give to a gardening beginner?

Start with vegetables and herbs that are less finicky. I have the most luck with chives, parsley, carrots, tomatoes, and beans where I am. Some years are complete busts due to temperatures, weather or even just the location in the garden. Don’t get discouraged if things don’t work out well the first year! 


Celia Dolan | Administrative Assistant


Celia poses with potatoes, carrots, cucumbers and squash from her garden.

I usually make pickles with my cucumbers, but a fun recipe is cucumber, tomato, and feta salad. This is also great, because our tomato plants are always productive as well.

What’s your favorite thing to plant?

Hard to decide! I’d say cucumbers. They’re super easy to grow in our soil and always very productive.  

What advice would you give to a gardening beginner?

Don’t let hiccups stand in your way, especially ones out of your control. The weather, pests, weeds, etc. can put a damper on the process of gardening. Focus on your successes, and the delicious food you get out of the deal, not the hard work or the “fails” it takes to get there.

Heidi Harkopf | Director, Nutrition Programs


Heidi poses with potatoes, tomatoes and squash from her garden.As a child, my parents gave me a very small area to create a garden in front of our house. I still remember that proud feeling of growing flowers. I have been growing vegetables for the last 15 years.

What’s your favorite thing to plant?

Potatoes! Last year I planted six versions of potatoes and grew 100 pounds. This year I am only planting the 2 best performers of the batch from last year.

Tell us about this rogue crop of yours.

Last year I had an accidental crop of spaghetti squash. I planted another type of winter squash and all I can figure is that the spaghetti squash was mixed in the seed packet by accident. It presented an exciting challenge of finding ways to eat something I don’t normally buy.

What advice would you give to a gardening beginner?

When mother nature ruins the crop (too much rain, not enough rain, bugs and other critters), sit back and just take a moment to feel gratitude for the real farmers who grow our food. Without them, we would all be pretty hungry!

Lisa Robinson | Vice President, Operations


Hot peppers growing in the garden

I have a small yard, so I focus on an herb garden and some pots with tomatoes and peppers. Each year, I plant a different kind of hot pepper.

What’s your favorite recipe to make with ingredients from your garden?

Any kind of taco or quesadilla recipe. It’s also fun to add some spice to pesto with parmesan and fresh basil or garden herbs.

What advice would you give to a gardening beginner?

Do your research, but you also learn as you go. Everything is an experiment, so have fun.

Explore our recipes page for delicious inspiration to use your garden bounty.

Sign up for our monthly newsletter!