Sunday, June 16, 2013

How is your garden growing?

I'm loving my garden again this year!  How is yours going?

Romaine Lettuce 
 Greek Oregano
 Potatoes, Potatoes, Potatoes!
This picture is already 2 weeks old, but look at all that green!
This is my son helping to water from our rain barrel.  

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Rain Barrel info

I ordered a rain barrel from The Great American Rain Barrel company through the community program in Essex.  They are having another one in Newburyport in June, and I wanted to share the info.

The rain barrel is REALLY nice and very high quality for the money!  I am excited to get mine set up, and to start collecting rain to water my garden!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

unknown seedlings

Can anyone identify these seedlings?  I'm thinking peppers...I misplaced them on my chart, and now I'm not sure what they are (rookie move).  I started kale, swiss chard, cilantro, peppers and tomatoes at the same time.  My guess are peppers.  Do you have a guess?  Please share!  Thanks

Friday, May 3, 2013

Pallet Salad Garden

I made a new garden bed this year.  It is a salad garden made from a recycled pallet.  I stapled landscapers fabric to the bottom, and up around the sides and filled it with compost.  I sprinkled various lettuce seeds into the rows, and I am already starting to see green!   First picture 5/3/13 
Second picture 5/30/13.  I've already harvested 2 whole rows of lettuce, and planted spinach in its place!

Friday, April 19, 2013

The start of a new growing season!

Here is a picture of my garden as it is now, at the start of this growing season. My vidalia onions, scallions, beets, spinach, iceberg & romaine lettuces, and snap & shelling peas are in and starting to sprout! I can't wait to add some kale, Swiss chard this weekend. This summer I'll be trying to grow my own luffa sponges! I have already started my seeds, and I hope to transplant after Memorial Day. For me, waiting is always the hardest part. I've been watering and watching, and waiting and I am so excited to discover what I can grow in my backyard this year.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Recycled water bottles make great planters!

I was about to head to the dollar store to get a few little pots to start some seeds in, when a lightbulb went off in my head (lol)! I ran to my recycle bin and found a bunch of empty water bottles. (I know, not very earth friendly to begin with...insert sheepish grin).

I cut the tops off of them, poked a few holes in the bottom, and for free I had a bunch of little "pots" for starting my seeds. I don't have much place for storing pots during the winter, so I'll jjust send them back to the recycle bin when I'm done.

I know I'm not the first person to think of this, but I thought it was worth sharing!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Gardens in Spring

 Thought I'd take a minute this morning while I was out enjoying the wonderful weather to photograph the gardens as they are now.  Each year I try to photograph them about once a month to see the progress (or lack thereof), and thought it would be fun to share.  As you can see the early spring flowers are beginning to show themselves, so I really need to spend more time tidying the beds for them.

Mary Garden
The Mary Garden is always the first to Bloom.  Vito's mother had this garden created to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary, and I take my responsibility to carry on her tradition quite seriously.  In the past few years we've added more perennials to the Mary Garden, and have worked to ensure that from spring through fall, we will have flowers in bloom.  the crocus' have just past, but as you can see, the daffodils are gorgeous!  Normally there is a creeping rose behind Our Lady, but I had to cut it back dramatically today, so I can put up a new trellis, dig up one of the roses that really isn't placed properly, and train it to surround BVM without getting too overgrown to where it attacks as you enter the driveway or come up the stairs.

Fairy Garden
The Fairy Garden is one of my favorite spots in the yard.  It is mostly shady during the height of the summer, and as someone who can't spend much time in the sun, it's a welcome spot for me to sit, meditate, and relax.  There are plenty of lovely plants and nooks for fairies to play and work.  I rake some of the leaves and remove the debris in the spring, but for the most part that garden is left to nature.  Most fairies love sweets, and ours are no different.  They leave beautiful gems for Sophia to collect because she is generous sharing her fruit snacks and treats with the fairies.  There are lots of different shade tolerant plants that bloom in this garden throughout the season.  Again, crocus' just past, but we can see the Lily of the Valley popping through.

A small portion of The Turtle Garden                 More of the Turtle Garden

You can't really see any of the turtles in the Turtle Garden from these shots, well you can't really see much of anything in the Turtle Garden right now.  The Hosta are just poking their heads out of the mulch, and the Sedum is just starting to show itself too.  We also grow a variety of mints in this garden, and this year I'm going to try to grow lettuce in there as well.  It is called the Turtle Garden, because if you look hard enough you can find a dozen or so turtles in a variety of poses hiding throughout this garden in the summer.  You will need to look under leaves and in crevices in the wall to find them all, but it can be a fun game with kids on a summer evening.

You have probably guessed by now that we like naming our gardens.  Okay, I like naming our gardens, but everyone seems to go along with me, and it sure helps when directing someone to locate something in the yard. 

Mother of Grace Garden                                             My Original BYG Bed

 The Mother of Grace Garden on the left got its name because it is directly behind, you guessed it, the Mother of Grace Club.   It had been overgrown with weeds for years, but last year the neighbors and I decided it needed some sprucing up.  You can see the day lilies and tulips starting to grow, and even a bit more sedum in the corner.  On the right is my original Back Yard Growers raised bed, and behind that are a couple of smaller beds that now have strawberries and blueberries respectively.  

That first bed from the BYG was so amazing that Vito created a nice big plot for me behind the pool last year.  As you can see from the photo below, that is in some desperate need for attention, but since I won't be planting there until mid May,  it's on the list.  That plot is where my Three Sisters Garden will be planted this year.

Veggie Plot created last year                                                 The "Lost" Garden
And finally, here is a shot of the "Lost" Garden.  You can see my other neighbor's brand new BYG raised bed there.  This is the spot I'll be making my dry river bed.  It's coming along! 
As you can see, there is always lots to do in the yard, and I love every minute of it!   Can you believe we can fit all of these lovely little spots in our down town back yard?  The Backyard Growers Program is teaching me so much, including how to utilize spaces I never thought possible!

Happy Gardening!


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Finding the time I want/need

Between the weather not being the greatest, and an over-committment of outside activities this spring, I am not getting as much time out in the gardens as I would like.  Usually by now I've had several nice long days that I've been able to spend in the yard doing clean up from the long winter. This year, however, the days I've had available, and the nice spring days have not coincided very often.

As I mentioned last week, I have spent some time cleaning up the "lost" area between our yard and the neighbor's yard, and have been able to clean up the "Mary Garden" in the front of the house, but there is so much work that still needs to be done, and I am itching like crazy to have a couple of days with no committments to get to it!  I did get a bit more done in the "lost" area on Sunday Morning in the light rain, and got my edamame, snap peas, lettuces, arugala and mesclun in as well. 

Wondering what everyone else has planted so far?


Monday, April 8, 2013


Hello all of you Cape Ann Backyard Growers!  It is so exciting to see how many new families have committed to grow their own food this year!  Welcome!  And welcome back to all the Backyard Growers alum, and all of our friends and neighbors her on Cape Ann who love gardening as much as we do!

I have been quite lax in sitting down to chronicle my gardening journey thus far this year, but I am here today to recommit to drop by and share my story every week.  As much as I'd like to think that everyone wants to see and hear everything that I'm doing (said tongue firmly embedded in cheek), wouldn't it be great to see what other folks are up to?  I'm looking for a few, no, several, or even many people and families who would be willing to drop by once in awhile and share your experience.

This isn't my blog, nor is it even Lara's, but it's OUR blog, for everyone and anyone who wants to share, bounce ideas, ask questions, give advice, or even just post some photos.  I would love to find a couple of children who would be willing to document their experience, and share what they love and don't love about growing.  Perhaps their are some folks out there who may not be comfortable writing about their experience, but would be willing to post some photos now and then.  Wouldn't it be fun to have somebody do a photo essay of their garden?  Just post us a picture of your garden every couple of weeks, so we can share in your growing experience.  We need some experienced growers to post too, we want and need to learn from your experience!

We want to hear from you!  Of course we also love the folks that just want to come by and see what's going on with others that are gardening on Cape Ann.  Ask yourself this:

* Do I have or know a child who would enjoy blogging and sharing their experience?
* Am I brand new to gardening and want a place to ask questions, and share my triumphs?
* Do I enjoy taking pictures, and would I be willing to post some?
* Am I an experienced gardener who would enjoy blogging about my gardening?
* Can I offer advice and help to answer questions for other gardeners?
* Do I enjoy writing, and would love to have a welcome place to share my writing on topics that would interest gardeners?
* Am I willing to put myself out there to help grow this blog, and help other gardeners connect?

If you answered YES to any of these questions, then please email me at, so I can set you up to be a contributor to the blog!

Happy Gardening!


Look at my little seedlings!!!

I am so very excited that my little indoor greenhouses I talked about a few weeks ago are doing so well!  Everything Sophia and I started has sprouted, and This weekend Sophia and I started more seeds inside for Memorial Day planting.  

As much as I am excited about the indoor plants, nothing compares to the feeling of getting out in the yard, with my hands in the dirt to me!  I was able to spend all of Sunday afternoon out in the yard doing some clean-up.  Oh, there is still much to do, but I love that I have a long list of excuses to be playing in the yard!

I spent the better part of 4 hours yesterday clearing a long overlooked area of our yard.  The fact is, you really can't see it from the street, or from our yard, so it's easy to overlook, however this year I had a great incentive to do something with it!  My next door neighbor is one of the newest members of the Backyard Growers, and the most perfect unused part of her yard, just happened to be the section that borders my unsightly spot.

I raked, and pulled weeds, and dug up stumps of the lovely, but terribly invasive Japanese Knotwood that has plagued our neighborhood for awhile now.  We are fighting the good fight, but it's still an uphill battle. By the end of the four hours, the muscles in my back and legs were begging me to take a rest, but I did have a lovely cleared section of yard just begging to become a dry river bed.  I should have taken some before pictures, unfortunately I didn't, but I assure you I'll be sharing my new dry river bed once it is completed!

Happy Gardening!


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Companion Planting

Over the past few years I have been experimenting with companion planting.  I love the idea that certain plants benefit each other, and I especially love the plants that keep the "bad" bugs at bay.  There are certain plants that shouldn't be planted together too!  There are lots of great web sites with information about companion planting, and it's one of the things I like to look at while I'm planning my garden.

Certain flowers and herbs are a great way to help your garden succeed without chemicals.  Did you know that basil repels mosquitos?  One of my very favorite plants to put throughout my vegetable gardens is Marigolds.  Not only do they detract aphids, but they look colorful in the early spring garden before the veggies are growing.  If kept deadheaded throughout the summer, you'll still have marigolds in the fall when your harvest is just about done.

Nastursium is another easy grow flower that when planted with cucumbers and squash help deter the squash bugs, potato bugs and whiteflies.  Another great thing about Nastursium is that the entire plant is edible.  The pretty colorful flowers look amazing in a salad or floating on a nice cold summer soup.  Nastursium are viney plants, and can take over if you let them, but they are great growing with your viney veggies!

This year I am planning to plant a Three Sister's Garden.  A Native American tradition of planting corn, beans and squash together. The Iroquois believe corn, beans and squash are precious gifts from the Great Spirit, each watched over by one of three sisters spirits.

Corn provides a natural pole for bean vines to climb. Beans fix nitrogen on their roots, improving the overall fertility of the plot by providing nitrogen to the following years corn. Bean vines also help stabilize the corn plants, making them less vulnerable to blowing over in the wind. Shallow-rooted squash vines become a living mulch, shading emerging weeds and preventing soil moisture from evaporating, thereby improving the overall crops chances of survival in dry years. Spiny squash plants also help discourage predators from approaching the corn and beans. The large amount of crop residue from this planting combination can be incorporated back into the soil at the end of the season, to build up the organic matter and improve its structure.
I planted a Three Sister's Garden several years ago, and it was wonderful!  The past few years I didn't really have the space, but last year Vito made me a nice big garden in the back, and it's just waiting for the three sisters!

Here are a few of some good sites to read about companion planting:

Friday, March 8, 2013

Has anyone tried growing squash vertically?  I'm hearing its possible, but curious if anyone local has tried it...

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Getting Ready

This past weekend my best gardening buddy Sophia and I started a few seeds inside that need 8 to 10 weeks before planting outside.  As you can see by my photos, I have set up my indoor "Shrine" and I'm raring to  go!

Last year I started some of my seeds in last year's left over plastic 6 pack containers that seedlings from the previous year had come in that I steralized, and  many in the cardboard like seed starters.  Then I one day I spotted one of the little plastic boxes my grape tomatoes and spinach came in, and thought to myself "that is a mini green house!"  They were perfect.  In the past I have used egg cartons, but found those got mildewy too fast, but those lovely little plastic boxes are perfect.

So far I've started corn, catnip, spaghetti squash, eggplant, and some peppers.   Now if the weather would just cooperate I'm ready to start cleaning the yard.  Unfortunately, this week's forecast doesn't seem to be cooperating with my desires.  Oh well, there's still plenty we can do now in the planning stages.  If you haven't already read Mommy Melissa's post on garden planning, check it out, she shared a great link!

Happy gardening!


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Question:  I have a Kale plant in my garden from last year.  The leaves have turned brown, but the plant still looks alive.  Do I have to pull it, or will it grow new leaves I the spring if I snip off the dead ones?

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Planning your garden

I have been busy planning, then re-planning my garden for 2013.  I found this great website which has a free garden planner on it.  It also gives a little explanation about the veggie and planting suggestions!   I used it to plan my gardens and it worked great.  It is def. worth checking out!,default,pg.html

This is what my new tomato garden will look like this year:

Innovative, earth-friendly gardening solutions
GardeningYard & LandscapingFor the HomePots & PlantersOUTLET
Dear Kitchen Gardener,
plantingchartThanks for your interest in growing your own herbs and vegetables using our Kitchen Garden Planner. Below is a planting map for the garden you selected or created. Each square represents one square foot, and the easy-to-follow illustration tells you exactly how many plants or seeds to plant for each crop. Underneath the planting map you’ll find several tips for successfully planting each of these crops. For more info, use the Vegetable Encyclopedia and our complete guide to Planting and Care. We hope your Kitchen Garden is fun and bountiful!
Planting Map & Guide for Early Spring
Marigolds, (2)
tomatoes, (1)
tomatoes, (1)
Marigolds, (2)

Not Planted
basil, (2)
basil, (2)

Not Planted
tomatoes, (1)
basil, (2)
tomatoes, (1)

Not Planted
Marigolds, (2)

Not Planted
basil, (2)
Marigolds, (2)


  • Sow seeds directly in the ground in early spring.
  • Spacing: two plants per sq. ft.
  • Replant any time you have a little space in the garden. Fast-growing.
  • Days to bloom: 55 days from planting seeds
  • Hint: Pick off spent flowers to keep plant blooming.
 Learn more about Calendula in our vegetable encyclopedia


  • Plant seeds 1/4″ deep indoors, six to eight weeks before last frost
  • Transplant into garden one to two weeks after last frost or when soil reaches 65 degrees F.
  • Spacing: one plant per sq. ft. Grow early season crops nearby to allow more room later.
  • Days to harvest: 55 to 100 days from transplanting, depending on variety. Not frost-hardy
  • Hint: Remove lower leaves before planting and bury extra stem.
 Learn more about Tomatoes in our vegetable encyclopedia


  • Plant seeds 1/4″ deep indoors six weeks before last frost; outdoors two weeks after last frost.
  • Transplant seedlings two to three weeks after last frost or when soil reaches 70 degrees F.
  • Replant if you have space and want more.
  • Spacing: two plants per sq. ft.
  • Days to harvest: 40-55 days from transplant. Harvest leaves as desired. Not frost-hardy.
  • Hint: Pinch stems early and often to stimulate branching and bushy growth.
 Learn more about Basil in our vegetable encyclopedia