In high school there was one day each spring when the seniors would go on their trip and the rest of the school would go out and do community service. My junior year we decided to go to Whiting Farm and help them with some chores around the farm. When we arrived a few minutes after nine I immediately noticed the chickens running around clucking happily. After I stopped gazing at the chickens I looked around and noticed two giant greenhouses, it was only a minute before we were being shown inside. As I took a step inside I noticed these beautiful plants growing in rows, there were also others hanging from the ceiling. As I listened I learned that these beautiful pink, yellow, speckled red plants in rows were called poinsettias. It was amazing to see the variety and the beauty of these plants. They had another greenhouse which had a huge variety of flowers and other little succulents inside but the poinsettias really had my attention.
After getting to look at these wonderful greenhouses we split up into groups to begin our work. Half of the group split up and went to fetch the chicken eggs and clean the pen, I was overjoyed to realize that my group would be digging up and tilling some land that the farmers were going to plant tomatoes in. We took out the roots and rocks that we found and threw them off to the side and by the end of the day we were left with a large space of soil where the workers were going to begin adding compost and creating little trenches for the seeds. I was excited to have participated and gained a little more knowledge in something I had very little experience in.
From age’s one to five I lived in Monica hill New Jersey on about 3 acres of land. We had a considerable greenhouse along with a large garden that ran up the right side of our property. The greenhouse was about 10 feet long and 7 feet wide with 8-foot ceilings. We took advantage of all of the space and it was always cluttered with tons of plants and gardening tools. There was shelving that wrapped all the way around the upper layer of the greenhouse. We mostly had cactus and succulent plants up there because they don’t require frequent watering along with various potting buckets and trowels. Summer was my favorite season while living in New Jersey. We had so many plants and flowers growing on our property it brought all kinds of life. From butterflies and bees to birds and turtles so much wildlife was attracted to the garden. We grew buddleias and moon flowers which are shown in the third picture. You can see that the third picture was taken at night time. This is because moon flowers only open at night due to them mostly being pollinated by night-time flying insects.
We also grew tons and tons of tomatoes in the greenhouse. We would always start by sprouting the seedlings in aluminum trays and then we would transfer them to 5-gallon buckets with a support rod once they were big enough. The awesome thing about a greenhouse is that you can grow all year round and not just in a few select months. The sun’s raise get absorbed through the glass roof and walls of the greenhouse and the plants convert the sun energy into heat energy. We use window vents to control the temperature keeping it around 60-70 degrees. Greenhouses are an awesome way to take your gardening to the next level.
Composting is a very crucial and beautiful piece of art in our gardens. This is something that I was personally extremely drawn to and wanted to take the opportunity to learn more about it. To start us off what is compost? From the article Composting At Home they stated that “Compost is organic material that can be added to soil to help plants grow. Food scraps and yard waste together currently make up more than 30 percent of what we throw away, and could be composted instead. Making compost keeps these materials out of landfills where they take up space and release methane, a potent greenhouse gas.” Compost is something that is available to everyone and can be done in your own home or even apartment! Not only can composting be a positive attribution to our world but also a new hobby for you to enjoy as we face our worldwide circumstances right now. With that being said we are able to reduce massive amounts of waste in our world with this quite simple task. Composting our leftover foods is an amazing way to make your personal contribution to nature and use what you already have at your fingertips. I personally find this astonishing that with just a simple task how much of an impact on the environment you can make. With just seven easy and brainless steps you will be on your way to composting as well. Attached at the bottom is a link on specifics to how you can achieve your attribution towards your garden. I hope that this inspires you to join me and my classmates in beginning a new hobby and adding positivity to our environment.
The lull between planting and harvest time is perfect for reflecting on the busy spring we had in Garden Memoirs class. Dr. Perks taught ESS 3600, an Environmental Studies + Arts and Literature class, for the first time in spring 2019, working with a fantastic group of students from a range of majors. We went from struggling to identify the significance of honeybees in the opening scene of our first book, Farm City by Novella Carpenter, to talking extensively about the symbolism of hatching a new flock of heritage turkeys at the end of Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. It was a rewarding semester, full of human and plant growth.
In addition to honing our critical reading and writing skills throughout the semester (with blog posts, reflection papers, and literary criticism), we also engaged in a lot of food- and garden-related work, some of which is recapped here.
Follow our garden progress on Instagram at ‘Merrimack Garden!’
In the warm, communal space of the 47 Lounge during the colder months, we practiced food preservation skills. During one memorable class, we made over a dozen jars of dill pickles, crafted sustainable beeswax wraps, and perused garden catalogs to help plan our garden.
On another busy class period, later in the semester, we made two apple pies and fresh cheese. Even more exciting: we ate all of our delicious food the next time class met.
All three of our books emphasized raising animals for meat, eggs, and/or milk. Daisy, Lily, and Speckle (three chicks raised for egg laying), visited Garden Memoirs class and the Humor and Media class (pictured below).
Once the ground thawed, we began work on what would be our proudest accomplishment: expanding plantings at Merrimack’s Rock Ridge Rd. garden site. We tested the soil, analyzed what had been planted the previous year (rotating the crops to prevent disease), extensively researched plant growth habits and disease susceptibility, thought about our community’s needs, and mapped out our plantings.
After a trip with Stephanie and Danny (pictured below) to haul our raised-bed cedar lumber back to campus, we were ready to get building.
And after a memorable, rainy-day trip to Lake Street Garden Center, we were ready to get planting. (See Jaiden’s blog post about the experience getting blueberries + apple trees, and check out our garden-themed playlist for the van ride.)
The plants have had over a month to settle in and grow. We’ve added other annuals and a team of volunteers for summer care. Plantings include strawberries, blueberries, apples, cucumbers, lettuce, pumpkins, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, potatoes, and a selection of herbs.
The garden is there to feed anyone in our community. Stop by Rock Ridge Rd. to enjoy the plants, pull some weeds, and eat some food! Our Merrimack Garden Instagram account will have updates on what’s ready to harvest. Here’s a look at the progress as of June 9th, 2019.
My family loves Cape Cod, especially during the summer months when it’s prime time for going to the beach, boating, and eating at my all-time favorite restaurant, Chapins Bayside. The area my summer house is in is on Ridgevale Beach in Dennis, MA, but over the summer I visited different parts of the cape and saw a lot of really interesting and pretty areas.
I visited my friend at his cape house over the summer in Hyannis and his neighbor’s had an insane garden with a path lined with flowers that led to a private beach, as picture and below. Every type of flower imaginable covered almost all the space in their backyard and the grass was extremely well kept.
I was amazed to see how well they used their land to create such a scenic area right in their own backyard and it was obvious a lot of work had gone into making such a pretty space. My favorite part was the path to the beach surrounded on all sides by the trees because it was a hidden part of the backyard; the various flowers draw in more attention right off the bat.
For as long as I can remember, it seems that every year, once a summer, I have found out the hard way that that I have lost a battle to poison ivy. My most recent experience came while I was on a camping trip with my buddies. Let the record show, we were hands down, without a doubt the worst campers at the camp site. We did not know what we were getting ourselves into.
A little background on how bad of farmers we were is well first off, nobody brought any fire wood, the main resource that is crucial for camping, we had none of it. Since every store within a 15 mile radius was closed we decided that we would use branches, wood around us. This lead to me, walking through high brush, in search of wood to burn. As you can see from the picture, none of us thought about the proper footwear to have on, we all felt flip flops were a great idea. With me being on “fire wood” duty, it meant frequent trips through the high brush, about one trip every 10-15 minutes. With it being pitch black, and the only form of light is coming from my cellphone flashlight, I wasn’t sure what I was stepping on at all times. There is where we run into my good ole friend poison ivy. In its defense, I don’t think I would have known what it looked like if the sun was out, and would have still walked through it. So here i am, day the morning of day two out of four, and I am covered with poison ivy. I must have itched it throughout then night because it spread from my feet throughout my whole body. Looking back on it, there is no reason to feel sorry for myself, I was walking through tall brush with flip flops and no socks on. I was basically asking to get poison ivy.
From that experience, I decided that will be my last time getting poison ivy, once a year is way to frequent. I am now an expert in everything that has to do with poison ivy. I know exactly what it looks like, areas it likes to grow in, and all the different forms of it. I have really hoping that this is the summer that I am free from poison ivy and don’t have to worry about the itchy scabs spreading throughout my body. So if there was one good thing that came out of this trip was that I made a few big realizations. First off, becoming a master in all things poison ivy. Secondly realizing that camping is a lot more than just pitching a tent and telling ghost stories around the fire. So from now on I will try to become a heck of a lot better camper than I was for that trip.
Let me just start by saying , NEVER RUIN A PREGNANT WOMENS GARDEN!
It all started in mid June on a Saturday afternoon in the blazing hot sun. My neighborhood consists of modern houses that are formed into a private section of the town, with kids running from pool to pool while their parents sit back and have cocktails on the modern outdoor furniture that sits in the shade. Families are always out and about walking dogs, going for bike rides, and even taking runs with each other while they gossip about how good their kids are. The one thing the brings couples to my neighborhood to raise families is the way everyone makes you feel at home. No matter if you are walking or driving by in your car everyone waves, I mean everyone!
My neighbor Brandin, a 29 year old retired professional soccer player that acted like he was still in high school, had moved in about two years ago. His wife, Megan, an athletic built blonde who was his high school sweetheart was about 7 months pregnant with their second child. Brandin and I hit it off from the day we met. His athleticism and dedication to never loose (which made everything so competitive) was what made us so similar.
Brandin and I would always meet up in our yards when we were free and play this golf game that we named “bingo bungo”. The game was played with your sand wedge, a gold ball, and a soccer ball. Every round we would kick the ball in a random place, weather it was from my front yard to his, or from one side of his house to the other (Sometimes we had to hit it over the houses and by the cars which now that I think about wasn’t the smartest idea). After the soccer ball was placed at a location, we would try to hit our golf ball at the soccer ball. The one who hit it there in the least amount of tries won that round. We would play this games for hours a day.
However, one day when we were playing, the soccer ball was placed just passed Megan’s large garden that sat behind their large brick house. The garden wasn’t the most outrageous one I’ve seen but they loved having their fresh fruits and vegetables. After Brandin started this round off by placing his ball just short of his garden it was my turn to go. The decision going through my head was between two things. Do I land my ball short of the garden like Brandin and try to match him this whole round? Or do I go for the advantage and try to place the ball just past the garden and next to the soccer ball? Well being the stupid, cocky, competitive person I was around Brandin, I decided to go for it! As I took my shot and the ball came flying off my club, I knew it wasn’t going to make it over the garden. I glanced over at Brandin and back at my ball as it plunked into the soil that all their food was being grown in.
The thing about this game was you couldn’t move the ball after hitting it, not even a nudge unless you wanted to be disqualified and loose that round. Being the competitive little high school acting brat that Brandin was, he looked over at me and said, “Lets see what your made of, hit it out of the garden.” Already being down 5-3 against him, I didn’t want to lose this whole because I had to move my ball. I smiled right back at him and said, “watch and learn”. Well their was my cockiness again because I was obviously not using my brain. I think we sometimes forgot that it was just game for fun and that we weren’t the pros on TV. As I attempted to hit the ball out of he garden, I came down with my club taking not only the ball out but also half of Megan’s tomato plants with it. That’s when me and Brandin’s eyes shot up at each other. Not only was I scared because of what I did, Brandin knew his wife was going to yell at him too for being such a child.
Of course when Megan found out we ruined half her tomato plants playing a stupid golf game in her yard she wasn’t too happy. Being 7 months pregnant didn’t quite help the situation either. After yelling at us and lecturing about how hard she worked on that garden she stormed upstairs t her bedroom, telling Brandin to stay on the couch for the night. So me and Brandin stormed back outside to clean up the mess we made. For about the next month, Megan made Brandin and I go outside, no matter if it was in the hot sun or pouring rain everyday to work on her garden. Well lets just say we had some very nice tans for the rest of the summer!
Not all plants are created equal at all. Some, may be easy to grow and require a minimal amount of upkeep to maintain its growth, while others need a lot of help in order to grow fruitfully. This is important to know when considering which plants to grow in your own personal garden. The tomato and the onion are a classic example of this.
One of the easiest plants to grow under the sun is the tomato, a plant that needs a very little attention to survive. It only needs about two inches of rain a week to survive, and that is a very slim amount. They also grow very well in some hardy conditions, they are accustomed to almost any area that receives rain. They need around 7 hours of sunlight a day as well in order for them to thrive and bear the best possible outcome. This differs greatly from the onion. The onion is rather challenging to grow for a new farmer.
Onions must be placed in a little over an inch of dirt, and they need around 5 inches of space compared to the few inches tomatoes need. It survives in zone 3-9, while a tomato can survive zone 5-9. It needs a long time to grow, and only needs an inch of rain to grow. They are so difficult because they do not have the best defenses against pesticides and insects.
Before my family planted our first garden the yard was covered in holes from our first dog Tucker. Tucker had a favorite blue chew toy that he would bring with him everywear for comfort. When Tucker was getting older and sicker, it finally came to the day to put him down, his blue chew toy was nowhere to be found, which was strange because it was always right by his side. After hours of searching for it, we had no choice but to bring tucker to the vet without it. We tried to search for the chew toy but we were never able to find it. After years past and our new garden has blossomed into something somewhat nice, we decided to get a new puppy, Nike. Nike would run through the garden and stomp on everything in his path. Just like Tucker, Nike started to dig up everything, but we would always find him before he did too much damage to our garden. During the summer of 2010 my parents threw a big party to celebrate my brothers birthday, and with everyone distracted with singing happy birthday, Nike finally got his shot to dig up the garden as much as he could. When my mom finally notice she ran down the stairs yelling at Nike to stop and all the kids laughing in the background. My mom went to pull Nike away but he would not budge. He had his nose fully in the hole and was trying to pull on something. My mom was confused so just let him go. After a few second Nike emerges his nose from the deep hole with his face covered in dirt, and with a shock to all of us he was holding Tucker’s blue chew toy. My parents were almost in tears because the memories that blue chew toy held was ones they haven’t thought about in years. That summer my parents got a stone that said “Tucker, 1989-2005” to put in our garden with the blue chew toy buried underneath it.
When I woke up in the morning and saw that it was pouring rain, I had hoped that it would slow down throughout the day. If anything, it only rained harder. The trip to the Lake Street garden wasn’t going to be postponed and we would have to get the plants rain or shine. Unfortunately, there was no shine. Despite the weather, we had to make the best of it and get the job done.
My classmates and I met at the Merrimack College campus police station and piled into the vans. When we arrived at the garden, we were each assigned a task. My group had to find the blueberries to plant in our garden at Merrimack. We found a great abundance of plants and placed them into our cart. We even found a plant that none of us ever heard of before, pink popcorn. After completing the task, we explored what the garden had to offer.
The garden had many different plants to offer, from food to flowers. To keep dry, we explored the greenhouse. All of the different assortment of colorful flowers made the room vibrant and alive with instant happiness when you walked in. On a gray, gloomy day being surrounded by all of the bright flowers made it much better. The experience of finding plants for our own garden was great. I can’t wait to start our own garden at Merrimack College.