Seed Starting

Robert Cleary

Newly sprouted seedlings are exceedingly vulnerable to pests and the elements. This is why seed starting is a very effective way to ensure your crops will prosper and produce a high quality yield. Seed starting is a process of growing seedlings in controlled greenhouses where they can receive precise watering and controlled temperatures. When the crops grow stronger, they are then transplanted into the native soil where they can grow to their complete form. Commercial farms will use large walk-in greenhouses but smaller alternatives can easily be made at home. Once the seeds are almost to the point of being ready for transplant, you should move them to outdoor seedling tables where they can be acclimated to the natural elements before being brought to the soil.

In our garden memoirs class, we are getting hands-on experience with seed starting of our own. We started by making homemade greenhouses where our seedlings can thrive in our dorm rooms. I choose to grow eggplant because my townhouse has a large window that receives an abundance of sunlight perfect for the heat loving plant. To construct our greenhouses, we brought tall boxes to class and cut out two sides with a box cutter to allow for sunlight exposure. We then simply wrapped the box in clear plastic to insulate the seedlings and continue to provide sunlight.

Plastic wrap greenhouse

All that was left was to do was fill our containers with nutrient rich soil and lightly pack in down. I then spread my eggplant seeds throughout the container at the recommended depth of ¼ of an inch. I am currently watering my seedlings every day and awaiting the first signs of life in my homemade greenhouse. I look forward to watching them grow and eventually seeing them flourish in the Merrimack garden.

Seed starting soil

Compost and Flower Beds

Kyle Templeton


Garden Memoirs

Blog Post #2

In 2006 my family moved to Townsend Massachusetts. We moved during the month of June and one of the first things I remember doing that week was build a large wooden compost container. We built our compost pile about 10 feet back into the woods. The location we chose was critical because if it was too far out of the way it would not get used as much but if it was too close to the areas we frequent on the property it would smell bad. To build the composter we first dug six holes in the ground for our 4×4 support posts. We added concrete to each post so they would not move and would have a secure base. We built and double-sided composter and you can see from the picture the far side and walls of the composter have spacing in between for better airflow. The wall in the middle and the front wall of the composter is solid so to help keep the compost contained properly.

We use our compost for everything. We have upwards of 10 flower beds on our property along with two beds that are for growing vegetable crops. Before we mulch in the spring we always put down a nice healthy layer of compost on our beds to help with the nutrients our flowers are getting and to put back some nutrients that were lost from the prior year. We grow a lot of tomatoes (heirlooms, cherry, Roma) and they absolutely love the compost. Compost is amazing for your crop beds and very key to growing strong healthy tomato plants. My father’s grandmother owned a flower nursery and garden supply store. Growing up my dad would always spend a lot of time with her at the nursery learning about all the different kinds of plants. That is where he gets all of his motivation to maintain so many flower beds on our property. It is not easy or cheap to plant, mulch, and maintain a bed of flowers but it is all worth it once it is fully grown and flowered and you get to enjoy the beauty and life they provide. After planting these beds for so many years with my family I am excited to start my own flower beds and compost pile when I get a property of my own.

San Felipe De Puerto Plata

By Kyannah Hernandez

Puerto Plata, officially recognized as San Felipe De Puerto Plata was founded in 1502. Known as the third largest city in the Dominican Republic, it is also the capital of the province of Puerto Plata. This city is a huge tourist attraction, the entire city is a trading port. Similar to a variety of islands, this city has its own hidden gems.

Isabel De Torres National Park, photographed by David Hernandez

Isabel De Torres National Park, one of Puerto Plata’s numerous hidden gems can be seen in the photo above. This gem is referred to as the Teleferico, the Cable Car. While in the cable car you are able to view the park’s forest from 2,625 feet (800 meters). The photo was taken by my father, David Hernandez. The teleferico is the Carribean’s only cable car with sights over a mountain and views of its Christ Statue; as well as a whole city landscape of the island. 

Within this National park resides El Bosque (the garden), the garden is considered as home by birds, such as Carrao, Dove, Zumbador, Cigua Palmera, etc., there are over 594 species of plant life identified of which belong to approximately 90 different families of plants (

I was fortunate enough to visit the city and learn more about my culture. While on vacation, we were guided through El Bosque.

I enjoyed learning about my family’s culture and the beautiful, vibrant plant life hidden in El Bosque. If you make it to Puerto Plata don’t forget to visit these flourishing blossoms!

Hydrangeas Create a Lasting Connection

Written and Photos by: Kaitlyn Foley

My Nana’s House
Photo from Google Maps, September 2011

Ever since I was a baby, my family and I always spend a portion of our spring and summer in Falmouth Heights, Massachusetts, which is part of Cape Cod.  My nana and my grandfather, my father’s parents, bought a house on the Cape many years ago. I have created some of my favorite memories here, which include spending quality time with my family, talking walks along the beach, admiring the plants and growing my love of photography.

One of my favorite flowers found all over Cape Cod, and in my nana’s yard are hydrangeas.  I love them because they add a pop of color and they remind me of my grandfather.  Hydrangeas can range from red, pink, purple, blue, and white, however their color all depends on the acidity of the soil in which the plant grows.  A pH scale, which goes from zero to fourteen with seven being neutral, is used to determine how acidic the soil is.  If soil has a pH level greater than 7 it would produce pink hydrangeas, while a pH level less than 7 would produce blue hydrangeas. In other words, the lower the pH, the more acidic the soil is. If an individual wishes to change the color of their hydrangeas from pink to blue they can easily do so by increasing the acid in the soil. Some home remedies include, adding vinegar or lemon juice to the soil, mulching the area around the plant with coffee grounds, or even burying rusty nails or copper pennies in the soil.

My love of hydrangeas increased my love of gardening and flowers in general.  When I was younger, I would help my father garden and keep the lawn on my nana’s property in healthy condition, and it eventually turned into an activity that strengthened our bond.  My grandfather passed away before I was born, but he took pride in his lawn and plants.  After he died, my father took on the role of tending to the yard, which was later instilled in me.  Pulling weeds, planting new flowers, trimming bushes, trees and much more made me feel closer to my dad, but also my grandfather as well.  Even though I did not get to meet my grandfather, I feel a connection to him by gardening the land he bought and worked hard for. Knowing that I am tending to the same hydrangeas he once did gives me the satisfaction of feeling like he is a part of my life and I am part of his.  

The Farm Down The Street

Fairmount Fruit Farm located in Franklin,Massachusetts has been in operation since 1920. In 1920 James Koshivas came to America from Greece and purchased the farm from an industrialist in Worcester named Morse. Morse had owned the property for many years prior to James purchasing the land. James Always had the passion and vision of growing the farm into a large apple producing orchard while making a living for his now growing family. Now 90 years later the third, fourth and fifth generation are carrying on the vision that began so long ago by a young immigrant who moved from Greece all the way to America by him self. The farm today is still filled with 20+ acres of apple, peach as well as pear tree’s. The Farm is open year round offering a variety of fresh produce, free range eggs, dairy products, baked goods and also other products made by other local vendors. The Farm also stays very active in the community by providing classes such as “Farmers In Training” which is a summer program that takes place for 6 weeks each summer for kids ages 8-12 that teaches them all there is to know about how a farm works and operates that grows food for the public. Other classes are offered such as Goat yoga, Animal Tales and Kids in the Kitchen. The Farm is a special place for myself. Growing up just 5 minutes down the road from the farm and my father being good friends with owners of the farm I spent many days as a child running around the biggest and coolest playground a 5 year old could ever dream of. From hay rides on the tractor, to going apple picking, to late night trips for apple cider donuts in the fall, Fairmount has always been the secret spot in town for myself.

Crops rebound after drought-plagued 2016, farmers say - News - Milford  Daily News - Milford, MA
Fairmount Fruit Farm’s Charles Koshivas with a 20-bushel of Honey Crisp apples, Summer of 2020

If you ever find your self hanging around Franklin Massachusetts and wanna stop by a place that does it all feel free to stop by Fairmount Fruit Farm Located at 887 Lincoln Street Franklin ,MA 02038

The Farm Stand, Taken on a beautiful sunny summer day in 2019

Written By: Cam Casella

My Grandmother’s Compost Pile

Every summer when I was younger, I would make a trip up to my grandmother and grandfather’s cottage in Guilford, Connecticut. The cottage was in a secluded part of the suburban town surrounded by marshes overlooking the Long Island Sound. My grandmother or “Ma”, as we called her, was an avid gardener and very caring for the environment. She was also big in composting which she did to lower our carbon footprint and use the soil for her garden. She had two separate bins for standard trash and compost which I learned a lot about what actually goes into them.

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My grandparents cottage in Guilford, Connecticut

After every meal, Ma would carefully look over our plates and tell us what bin our food scraps would go into. After breakfast, she would be careful to throw the egg shells in the compost bin while throwing out any egg or dairy scraps in the trash. She did this as dairy scraps and other fats or oils attract raccoons and rats to the compost pile. 

How to Compost Food Scraps
An example of what my grandmother’s compost bin looked like

On top of other organic scraps that get composted like vegetables, coffee grounds, banana peels and fruit cores, I learned about other things that can be composted that I never thought could be. I remember back when I was staying over their cottage in the summer of 2009, my grandfather was reading the newspaper at the table over breakfast. As he finished reading the newspaper, he closed it up and gave it to my grandmother who ripped it up and tossed it into the bin. I was actually pretty shocked about the things that were biodegradable as she would also throw cardboard into the bin as well.

10 Items You Should Never Add To Your Compost Pile | Greener Ideal
An example of what my grandmother’s compost pile looked like

She always managed the compost bin with a great deal of care. At the end of the day, she would take the bin into the backyard and throw all the scraps into our big compost pile which was a big combination of soil and other decomposing material with an earthy smell to it. While Ma is no longer around to continue managing the compost pile, I always wanted to continue the practice of my own when I had my own apartment or house. She taught me so much about composting and I know she would love it if I continued to do it when I had the resources.

Jeff Joslyn March 8, 2021

My Second Home

Written by Mike Patterson

My form of gardening is much different than what most people would consider gardening. Most people when they think of gardening have a little spot where they plant flowers or grow fruits and vegetables but what I consider my garden is something so much more. All my life I have been playing baseball and the great game has taught me so many life lessons that I didn’t even know. I never thought that sports and gardening could be connected but the more I thought about it the more I realized that gardening has had a major influence on my life without me even knowing. With everything in life everyone wants to take pride in their home and that is no different with our home field. We as a team always wanted other teams to show up to our field and be in awe of how well kept it was and how nice it looked because there is nothing better than a well kept field, look at Fenway Park for example. People go there every year for the pure beauty of it. We wanted to do the same with ours as well. At the time I never even considered what I was doing to be gardening until the more I thought about it. I always just looked at it as the teatius tasks that had to be done after a long practice but the more I thought about it the more I realized that it was in fact gardening. As players it was our job to water the field, take care of the dirt, fill in holes that the New England weather created, and even plant some grass seeds in areas that were losing its grass. Since maintenance did not want to take the time to do it we as players felt it was our responsibility to maintain the field and make it presentable for our opponents. We even planted some flowers around the field to make it pop even more. I realized that not only did baseball teach me lessons but the gardening and the maintenance that took place after all those practices taught me something as well. I believe that it taught me how to be more disciplined and how to take pride in my work because everyday we were working on the field after practice. Although it is not the traditional form of gardening looking back I realized that sports and gardening can be interconnected and teach people valuable lessons. 

Plants Provide More than Just a Pretty View!

Written By: Alexandria DiPerri

Photo By Me

I am sure everyone has seen the trend of hanging up a eucalyptus plant over their shower head! Some people know exactly what is going on here as in the steam from the shower helps release oils from the eucalyptus which can clear nasal congestion or any sinus inflammation…but for those of you that didn’t know here are some other examples of plants that provide a pretty view AND some health benefits!

You can find more information on other plants and their benefits here:


Peace Lily

Allergies can be tough to handle, and it is not always ideal taking so much medication. For those that love plants they can actually help! Low-light house plants like Chinese Evergreen or the Peace Lily have leaves and other parts that act as natural filters which can catch allergens or other particles within the air. Researchers found that overall, rooms with plants have less dust and mold as opposed to rooms without plants!


Spider Plant

As for illness, furnaces and air conditioners tend to sap the humidity inside. Switching to a spider plant can provide more moisture into the air-especially during the dry winter months-this can prevent catching the flu or a nasty cold. It also helps prevent your skin from getting so dry and itchy!

Air Purifiers

English Ivy

Don’t buy an air purifier, invest in an English Ivy, Asparagus Fern, or a Dragon tree! These plants can soak up volatile organic compounds that are released into the air. Carpet, cleaners, paint and even printer toners and inks pollute the indoors with all of these compounds. If they build up it can irritate your eyes, skin, worsen asthma and even make it more difficult to breathe!



Stomach issues such as bloating, gas, or other irritation after eating can be bettered through mint or basil, especially if you steep the leaves in hot water!



Lavender is a pretty commonly known plant, but did you know that they have been used as important herbal medicine for centuries? Inhaling it, or, applying it to skin and scalp as an oil is considered aromatherapy. Boiling the leaves for tea is also effective; it has been shown that Lavender can help lower stress or anxiety.

First Aid

Inside of Aloe
Aloe Plant

As most people are aware, Aloe can be easily applied to sun burns or other minor burns. And NO we don’t just mean the aloe you buy in a bottle! Aloe plants hide the aloe within themselves as shown in the picture. Aloe plants can also help soothe irritating psoriasis and other skin related conditions.


Gerbera Daisies

Photosynthesis is the process in which plants take in carbon dioxide and convert it to oxygen using sunlight, however, Gerbera Daisies continue to provide oxygen even after the sun goes down! Putting these in your room can help provide more oxygen which in turn results in a better sleep. As a college student that sounds pretty good to me!

Haitian Independence Day and “Soup Joumou”

Written by Jerry Pierre

January 1st might seem like a normal day for other people., aside from it being the first day of a new year, but as someone from Haitian descent, it holds a lot more meaning. On January 1st 1804, the country of Haiti would gain independence and liberate themselves from French colonial rule. Centuries later, Haitian people worldwide still celebrate this victory. This landmark date is celebrated in many ways, but there is one way of celebration that is a staple in Haitian culture, and that is the eating of “Soup Joumou” or “Squash soup” as it is called in English.

Now, even though this dish is very well-known in the Haitian community, I still would consider it a family recipe. Though we may not be blood related, I see my fellow Haitian people as my brothers and sisters, no matter how much of a stranger they are. Now, you’re probably wondering how the soup is made. Well my family, and I’m sure lots of other Haitian families, use organic home-grown ingredients to make this dish. Obviously, the most important ingredient is Squash. Last year my mother, who cooks it every year for my father and I, used organic squash which is what I prefer since it improves the soup incredibly. Other organic ingredients we use are cabbage, potatoes, carrots, onions, and corn. The only non-organic ingredients we put in the soup are beef and macaroni. Waking up and drinking this soup with bread on the side is something I look forward to every new years day. My mother sometimes loves to share some soup with my upstairs neighbor, who is also Haitian, and sometimes vice-versa. Same with her other Haitian friends too. I love checking on my social media to see my friends who are not of Haitian descent try the soup. It’s amazing that food can bring so many people together. It feels good to be part of a culture with such a rich tradition. In conclusion, I hope this blog post inspires more and more people from other ethnicities and backgrounds to learn more about this tradition, and maybe try to make their own soup too!

Our Garden On Cape Cod by Amanda N.

As an aspiring environmental scientist and policy maker, nature has always held a strong hold in my day to day life in one way or another. Ever since before I could walk, my parents have had a house on Cape in the town of Yarmouth which further cemented the roots of my love for the outdoors. We are a three minute lengths’ walk to the beach, and a ten minute drive to the local park and bike trail, allowing my childhood to have been filled with ‘the best of both worlds’. As you may imagine I was very ecstatic when I discovered the course Garden Memoirs here at Merrimack College seeing as it incorporated two main things that I love: gardens and reading! My mother and father have always made a point to tend to our gardens in both the front and back yards of our summer home. Over the years we have planted fairy roses, hydrangeas, ‘butterfly plants’ which attract Monarch’s to our garden every year, geraniums, and inpatients. As a kid and still to this day I’ve always enjoyed watching the butterflies flutter around the mini ecosystem we created while sitting on the grass in the sun. 

Though gardening can be viewed as an individual activity in some ways, I’ve found through both my own personal experiences as well as through reading Farm City that it does in fact also possess an element of community and ‘socialness’. At our local Mahoney’s, which is essentially a gardening shop with plants galore, my mom and I always run into fellow neighbors and gardeners alike on our trips there. Another instance would be on sunny, summer days when people walk past our home on their way to the beach many people in our association stop by and talk to my parents about our front yard garden and its aesthetic. 

Gardening of all kinds is a great way to spend time with your family and friends outdoors, as well as a great way to give back to your landscape. By creating a garden of flowers and or vegetables, you start to notice different types of insects and creatures that find comfort and homes within the mini world you’ve handmade. We notice a lot of baby bunnies sleeping in the shade of our rose bushes, butterflies as I previously mentioned, and plenty of pollinators such as bumblebees that spend their days bouncing from petal to petal all within the confines of our very own front yard. When I have a home of my own, I fully intend on having a garden like the one my parents have as it has provided me with so much more than just a pretty, aesthetic view.