Ward Acres Community Garden/WACG

Written by: Ethan Cuggino-Zensky

I remember when I was in elementary school, we joined a community garden called Ward Acres. We didn’t have much sun in our backyard, so we decided to grow our plants there. Because the garden was new, it didn’t have running water initially. So we filled jugs of water and brought them there every other day or as needed at the end of the day, and  depending on the weather. We did this for a couple of years. Finally, the garden got running water, which made life easier. I couldn’t wait to go there on summer evenings. It was a joy to observe things grow. One of the major things we grew were Italian Pole beans. We used a trellis so vines could wrap around it and grow upwards to have more space. The leaves were large and they grew very quickly. We planted seeds one inch down and four inches apart around the trellis. We planted our seeds at the end of  March or early April when the temperature was warm enough.

When the beans were ripe for picking, we could harvest large amounts. My mother sauteed  the pole beans in garlic and oil and mixed them with potatoes or ate them straight. We also grew rosemary. We grew four rosemary plants to frame the trellis for the beans. The rosemary would be used as a garnish for chicken dinners. Opposite to the rosemary was basil. 

My mother used it in tomato sauce. I remember the strong scent of the basil and rosemary. These herbs were easy to grow like the beans. When growth was slowing down in the fall, we harvested everything.  All remaining rosemary and basil that we collected got washed, sealed, and frozen in ziploc bags to be used all winter. That’s what I remember most, that we could use them all winter. Lastly, we planted Salvia Farinacea, which is not an herb. It is a tall blue spiky flower that we planted  around the border of our 15 by 15 plot. Those plants lasted through November even after all of our other plants would die. 

   Since that time, the garden has grown in the number of participants. People have also donated benches and artistic art sculptures. Many people now go there to sit, relax and observe our beautiful community garden!


Overview: Thyme is in the mint family. Thyme is well known for its fragrant smell and strong flavor. 

Planting: You should plan on planting your thyme in the spring, when the frost is done. Thyme thrives in well drained and fertile soil. It needs to be in a sunny area. You can grow thyme from a seed or you can grow it from an already existing plant. If you are growing from an already existing plant, you need to space the plant 12”-24” apart. If growing from a seed, you should start it in a pot in the early spring and scatter the seeds over the soil, then cover with a thin layer of soil and lightly water. (Source: Bonnie Plants)

Growing Advice: In order to thrive, you need to grow thyme in a sunny and warm environment. The more sunlight the crop receives, the stronger the flavor will be. (Source: Love the Garden)  

Harvesting: On average, thyme will be ready to harvest between 75 and 90 days of planting. However, some varieties take up to 200 days until they are ready to harvest.  You should plan to harvest your thyme before the flowers bloom. Cut the top 5-6” of the plant. The best time of day to harvest thyme is in the morning after the dew has dried. (Source: Almanac.com: Thyme)

Retrieved from: How to Culinary Herb Garden

Thyme Roasted Potatoes

Check out this recipe for Thyme Roasted Potatoes. This is one of the simplest and easiest sides if you want to impress a crowd. This is one of my favorite sides to make when our thyme is ready to harvest. 


  • 2 pounds of your choice of potatoes (I like baby red potatoes)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • Shredded parmesan cheese
  • Optional: fresh garlic and lemon slices for added flavor


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees fahrenheit
  2. Wash and slice your potatoes
  3. In a large bowl, add your potatoes, olive oil, garlic powder, salt & pepper and mix 
  4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the potatoes out evenly. If you halved your potatoes, make sure they are flat side down to ensure a crisp
  5. Roast the potatoes for 30 minutes, at 15 minutes, add the parmesan cheese 
  6. Remove the potatoes from the oven and toss them with fresh thyme, add another drizzle of olive oil and use a spoon to carefully mix
  7. Optional: squeeze the lemon wedges on for a tangy flavor

Written by Lexi Lescovitz

Walleye Waters

Written By: Hannah Corneliusen  

In the big state in Minnesota lies the greatest lake of walleye fishing. Lake of the Woods is 85 miles long and 56 miles wide. It includes 14,632 islands throughout the lake and 65,000 miles of shoreline. Lake of the Woods is connected to two Canadian provinces; Ontario and Manitoba. I grew up on this lake as my father had his own fishing business called “Reel Adventures Fishing Service” which he took over from my grandfather. My dad has been fishing this lake for 20 years. On a bright summer day, my dad, his girlfriend, my boyfriend Austin, and myself headed out on the big lake to one of my dads favorite spots in hopes to bring some supper back. Once we got out to our spot, we put our rods in the water and started jigging. Looking across the lake, all you could see was blue sparkling water and a clear sky for miles unless you were feeding the pelicans your snacks. Lake of the Woods is home to some of the biggest walleyes and my dad has never really had luck on catching huge fish on this lake. He catches enough to eat but no record breakers. On this very day, my dad caught the biggest fish he had ever reeled up into his boat. At that moment I knew it was a huge fish as my dad told me I needed to reel up my rod to help him with this big fish. I grabbed the net and he struggled to reel it in, but eventually we were able to get the fish into the boat. After measuring the walleye with the yardstick, it showed 30 ½ inches which is the biggest walleye my dad has ever caught. I was so happy that I got to experience him catching the biggest walleye he had ever caught. It made me so proud to see my dad not give up after all these years. This fish now hangs on the wall at home as a trophy even though it took 20 years to find. My dad will continue to go back out everyday to hopefully catch one even bigger. 

Me and my dad on the day he caught his 30 1/2 Walleye
Lake of the Woods Warroad, MN


Overview: Echinaceas (aka coneflowers) are a native plant to the United states that bloom during mid summer throughout the fall and act as a great pollinator. They can be grown to use in a bouquet or they are edible and provide many positive health benefits. (Source)

(Photo Source)

Seed starting advice: Echinacea can be grown from seeds in a pot indoors and transported into the ground, or they can be planted directly into the ground. When planting directly into the ground, they must be planted mid to late summer, in an area that gets a lot of sunlight. It is important to remove weeds from the area you are planning them in and mix in fertilizer with the soil. Plant seeds evenly about ¼ inch under the soil. Firm down the soil and keep it evenly moist throughout the area. Seedlings should form within 10-20 days. (Source)

Growing advice: Echinacea grows best in hardiness Zones 3-9. It is necessary to water about an inch deep into the soil once a week to help the roots grow. Make sure the weeds around are under control and removed because they will compete with the plant for water. Covering the area with mulch can help retain the moisture. Echinacea die over the winter, as the wet soil with poor drainage usually makes them rot. (Source

Harvesting advice: You can begin to pick echinacea flowers once they have fully bloomed. To harvest, cut the stems above the lowest leaf part of the stem. To create a bouquet, place the stems into a vase of water, changing the water every 2-3 days. To store them as an ingredient, it is easiest to store them by drying them out, lay them out flat in a sheltered, dry location, or hang them in bunches until they’re entirely dry, and then store in a sealed container.  (Source)

Recipe for Echinacea Tea (Source)


  • 2 tablespoon of fresh or dried echinacea (aka coneflower)
  • 10 ounces of water
  • Honey (optional)
  • Lemon (optional)


  1. Boil water in a pot
  2. Once the water boils, turn the heat down to medium and add in the coneflower
  3. Place a lid on the pot, simmer for 5-10 min
  4. Strain the loose flowers, roots, leaves, from the pot and pour water into a teacup
  5. Add flavorings or sweeteners such as honey or lemon if desired

Health Benefits:

  • Helps boost immune system
  • Helps prevent infections
  • Reduce pain
  • Boosts Mood

Written by: Mary Flaherty


By Chloe Newell

Hydrangeas bushes are beautiful pom-pom looking flowers that are native to our zone 6 climate. Hydrangeas bushes can be seen all over Massachusetts in various assortments of colors based on the soil. Before planting your hydrangea, you should plan out which type you’d like to bloom. Use acidic soil for blue or purple-blue hydrangeas. Alkaline soil with a pH above 7 for pink and red hydrangeas. Alkaline soil with a pH below 7 creates a purple hydrangea. (Source : HGTV).

Photo by Victoria Syverson on Flickrhttps://www.flickr.com/photos/124651729@N04/51243638915

Seed Starting Advice

Most people who are starting to grow hydrangeas start with the root. This can be done in the ground or in a pot.

  • Plant in an area with partial sun. 
  • Trim around the root for parts that look rotting.
  • Dig a hole deep enough to cover the entire root, leaving 2 to 3 inches on the sides of the root.
  • Make sure that the top of the root meets the top layer of soil.
  • Remove root from hole, fill soil with water halfway.
  • Once water has absorbed, replace the root back into soil and fill the hole with water.
  • Re-water the plant once again.

(Source : The Almanac)

Growing Advice

When growing hydrangeas bushes, you will need to plant them at least 3 to 10 feet apart (Source : The Almanac). This will give them plenty of space to grow out and not be on top of each other. When it comes to protecting them from pests, you should keep your eye out for holes within the flowers. Slugs can be discovered when there are munches on your petals, and can be reduced using slug traps. Other insects, like scale, aphids, beetles and fruit worms, can be reduced using an insect control spray. ( Source : Esponma).

Harvesting Advice

Avoid cutting your hydrangeas when it is hot outside, since this will cause the flower to wilt. Cut within the months of August and October, which is when they are at their blooming season. Pick when the flowers are fully bloomed. (Source : Garden Guides).

Arrangement Inspiration

The most perfect bouquet featuring hydrangeas include different types of roses, like spray roses and African roses. They also pair well with peonies and dahlias. Alongside these statement flowers, you can add smaller greens, such as babies breath, eucalyptus, delphinium, foxglove, freesia, and bells of Ireland (Source : Cascade Floral Wholesale) When it comes to the colors of the arrangement, you want them to match based on what color hydrangeas you are using. When using blue or purple hydrangeas, you should stick to a more cool toned bouquet, and when you’re using pink, you should use more warm toned flowers- white is the middle ground and can be mixed with either color. Below is an example of a bouquet mixed with both warm and cool colors that looks beautiful as well.

My First Garden Experience

By Julia Hamilton

When I was in kindergarten my town library had a garden program where children could pick four different types of seeds to plant. The library supplied the seeds, the soil, and peat planters. The four types of seeds I chose for my garden were tomato, cucumber, zucchini, and carrots. I planted them, watered them, and made sure they got enough sun.

Merrimac Public Library. Photo Credit: Julia Hamilton.

In a couple of weeks sprouts began to pop through the soil, and I was so excited. As the pants grew bigger we saw that the plants would soon need to be transplanted. We chose to do a container garden and picked out large clay pots to transfer the plants into. There are woods behind my house that have animals that might eat our garden, so we decided to get a garden fence to put around the plants to protect them. The garden was growing well and the plants started to flower, which would soon turn into vegetables. We had a trip planned one weekend, and watered our plants well and made sure the fence was secure.

Tomato. Photo Credit: Julia Hamilton

When we left the zucchini plants were about three or four feet high with a lot of flowers. They were on the end of our container garden. When we got back from our trip we could not wait to see how our garden was doing. We were surprised about what we saw on our return home. The tall zucchini plants that we had left a few days before were eaten down to the stems. Our best guess was that some deer got into our yard and ate all of our promising zucchini blossoms. They had not gotten to the rest of the plants so we did get to enjoy our tomato, cucumbers, and carrots. We learned a lesson with our first garden. Make sure that your fence is tall enough to protect your plants of you have wildlife around.

Cucumber. Photo Credit: Julia Hamilton


Overview: Zinnias are easy to grow, come in six distinct colors and can be used for seasoning and flavor in several dishes.

Seed Starting: Zinnias prefer warm environments with plenty of sunshine, the soil should preferably be +70 degrees Fahrenheit and should be planted at ¼ inches deep. Different variants, like Envy, Burpee, Carousel and “Will Rogers”, will require differing amounts of space between plants, but only to allow proper air flow between them and to prevent diseases. The soil must be well fed and kept moist, but must not become soggy or risk the seeds drowning. (Source: The Spruce – make your best home) Zinnias can even be transplanted easily either indoors or outdoors.

Growing Advice: Zinnias are best planted a week after the final frost of winter, usually around mid to late April. If you want the flowers to appear more bushy, pinch the bulb off of the younger plants, this will encourage the plants to grow even bigger bulbs to replace them.

Harvesting: Be sure to allow a few flowers to develop to the point of seeding, then simply collect them from the bulb. To transplant the flowers, simply dig up the flower without removing the roots and place it in a replacement patch with properly tended soil. (Source: Garden Gate Magazine)

Recipe: Zinnia Limeade

Want to prepare some fancy drinks for a party? Try this recipe to make your zinnias taste as good as they look.

Source: Gazette Journals – Flower Recipes


  • 1/8 c. zinnia petals, tightly packed
  • 4 c. water
  • Zest from 1 lime
  • 2 sprigs fresh mint leaves
  • 1 c. lime juice
  • 1 c. sugar


  • Step 1 Rinse zinnia petals and place in a small saucepan.
  • Step 2 Add 1 c. sugar, 1 c. water, lime zest and mint. 
  • Step 3 Heat mixture until sugar dissolves. (Don’t boil.) 
  • Step 4 Remove from heat and let syrup cool for 5 minutes. 
  • Step 5 Strain syrup through colander. 
  • Step 6 Add lime juice and remaining water by pouring through a strainer that still contains boiled zest, petals and mint. 
  • Step 7 Chill and serve over ice. 

Note: Can freeze ice with mint leaves in them. CANDIED OR CRYSTALLIZED FLOWERS

Post written by Patrick Aucella


Overview: Known as one of the easiest plants to grow, Sunflowers come in a variety of colors, and can be used in bouquets as decor or harvested for their seeds as a tasty snack. 

Seed Starting: Sunflowers prefer warm sandy soil and a sunny location. It is best to sow them directly in your garden but they can also grow well in outdoor containers. Regular varieties prefer a soil depth of around 1 to 1 ½ inches deep spaced about six inches apart,  (source: Farmer’s Almanac) (If planting multiple seeds make rows 30 inches apart from one another)  Thin sunflowers to the strongest ones once they’ve hit about 6 inches tall. Due to their large stems, if planting larger varieties of sunflowers it is recommended to plant them in an area sheltered from winds as their heads make them top-heavy and susceptible to blowing over, damaging their stems. 

Growing Tips: A small amount of fertilizer mixed in with the soil at the time of planting will help encourage strong root growth which will help support stems.  It is best to plant sunflowers after spring frost has passed, which means if you live in New England, could mean anywhere from April to mid-June.

Harvesting Flowers for bouquets:  Cut the main stem of the flower just before the bud opens. Cut stems early in the morning to avoid wilting. Handle flowers gently and keep them in a tall container, changing the water every day to keep them fresh. In floral arrangements,  roses, snapdragons, chrysanthemums, and irises pair well with sunflowers. 

Harvesting Seeds: Let the flowers dry on or off the stem until the back of the head turns brown and the leaves turn yellow, the petals die and the seeds look large and loose. Using sharp scissors or gardening pruners, cut off the head of the plant leaving about 6 inches, and place the head in a container to catch seeds. Lie the flower head on a clean flat surface, to remove the seeds, run your hand over the area you’re trying to remove, and pull seeds  off the plant. 

Post writen by Haley Dufton

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!

Garden Memoirs Wrap-Up and Merrimack Garden Expansion

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.

Jar of dill pickles with snowy background. Photo by Lisa Perks

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.

Two apple pies cool and cheese curds separate from whey. Photo by Lisa Perks.

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).

Three chicks visit the animal-whispering students in Humor and Media class. Photo by Lisa Perks.

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.

Pete, Brayden, and Ben identify last year’s plants. Photo by Lisa Perks.

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.

Stephanie and Danny with the cedar lumber. Photo by Lisa Perks (pictured in shadow).

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.)

Spring planting photo by Stephanie Sartori
Worm heart photo by Stephanie Sartori
Blueberry planting photo by Stephanie Sartori
Watering impatiens photo by Stephanie Sartori

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.

Lettuce and dill planted by young women in the Lawrence Math and Science Partnership program. Photo by Lisa Perks
Early blueberry photo by Lisa Perks
Littlest Perks planting peppers and zinnias
Pumpkins planted by young women in the Lawrence Math and Science Partnership program. Photo by Lisa Perks
Everbearing strawberry photo by Lisa Perks