Merrimack Seed Library: Getting Started

We’re excited that you took home some seeds from Merrimack College’s Seed Library! This volunteer-run Seed Library works in concert with the Merrimack Garden (located at 27 Rock Ridge Rd.). Feel free to pop by the garden any time. We have a host of annual vegetables and perennial plantings.

A chalk board sign welcomes people to the Merrimack Garden. We have lettuce, strawberries, blueberries, apples, asparagus, corn, beets, carrots, potatoes, chives, kale, broccoli, rosemary, thyme, lavender, onions.
The Merrimack Garden welcome sign highlights the 2021 offerings
A hand holds a ripe strawberry.
One perfect Merrimack Garden strawberry

Our Seed Library will be open from early March through the end of November in the McQuade Library lobby (just to the left once you walk in the doors). We will have a rotating offering of seeds that suit the particular time of year.

If kept cool and dry, the seeds you take home should last for at least a year. Once you get growing, please tag @Merrimack_Garden on Instagram or email Lisa Perks (perksl@merrimack.edu) if you have any photos to share! 

This image is of a book shelf with garden-related books on the bottom and a seed library on the top in a card catalog-type box.
The Merrimack Seed Library on its birthday

This first post gives some general advice for starting and maintaining a garden. Click the links below for your type of seed to learn more specific growing advice. If you have more questions, feel free to do what some of the best gardeners do: Google it. 

Seed Starting

Many seeds can be planted directly in the ground. Others may need to be started indoors (under grow lights or on a sunny windowsill) during the colder New England months to get a jump on the growing season. Check out the seed-specific blog posts linked below:

Getting to Know Your Merrimack Library Seeds (more links to follow)

Site Selection

Plants can be grown in many ways: raised beds, straight in the ground, in pots or containers. 

The first main step is to find a site that gets a good amount of sun. Six to eight hours a day is ideal. Be creative: this may mean you grow plants on a deck, rooftop, front yard, driveway, etc. 

Part-shade can support greens (kale, lettuce, etc.), herbs, and shade-loving flowers. You could also consider growing mushrooms if you have shade! 

Types of Gardens

Consider whether you want to build raised beds or an in-ground garden. To build a raised bed (which means you raise up the soil level), you can use lumber, logs, bricks, rocks, a kit, or something else. Just avoid using treated wood that could leach chemicals into the garden. Alternately, do an in-ground garden (with no border holding up the soil) and simply mound up the soil.

The Merrimack Garden includes a growing army of wooden raised beds.

Many towns offer free compost (usually from yard waste or leaf pick up). Or purchase compost, loam mix, or topsoil (in bags or a large delivery) to build up a bed. 

Container gardening can be done in pots, five gallon buckets, grow bags, reusable grocery bags–even a repurposed kiddie pool! Just make sure whatever container you have has good drainage. 

One additional thing to remember is that the container garden growing medium should be light and fluffy. Regular soil is too heavy for containers and doesn’t drain well. Find a bagged container potting mix or make your own with one part compost, one part vermiculite or perlite, and one part coco coir (a more sustainable alternative to peat moss).

Watering

If starting seeds indoors or in tiny pots before putting them in the garden, water the young seedlings daily. Container gardens also dry out quickly. Giving container gardens a soaking (at the base of the plant, not at the foliage) once every day or two is generally wise. 

If you’ve recently put baby plants outside into the garden (or you’ve planted seeds directly in there), give them a good daily watering about every day or two for about two weeks. Once they’re established (maybe 2ish weeks in their new spot) they can go longer between waterings–a soak every 3 days or so in the absence of rain. 

Trouble with Garden Pests? Check out this post.

Looking for Houseplant Advice? Check out this post (forthcoming).

Ursula’s Garden and Black Butterflies

Written by Jerry Pierre

The following blog post is a story from the mother of a good friend of mine at Merrimack College. I would like to call her by her real name, which is Ursula, for this. Ursula has a backyard with a lot of plants and flowers, which are bound to attract creatures such as Butterflies. Last year she planted an herb garden in pots in the months of May and June of 2020. While planting these herb gardens she included herbs such as dill, parsley, and white sage. Soon July would arrive, and she would see a black butterfly flying around the pots.

Now, the eggs of these butterflies are tiny and light green, and it’s very rare for them to survive and become caterpillars because of predators. Also it was pretty surprising for Ursula to see the eggs grow up in potted plants and not in a bigger garden. So at the end of their growing stage, the Caterpillar based on its colors will become an “Asterius” or a Black Butterfly as it’s called. This wouldn’t be the only time an Asterius would make an appearance in Ursula’s garden though.

In August of 2020 Ursula would find a green and black caterpillar on her white sage plant on her deck outside. She would name her new Caterpillar friend “Guilbert.” Her kids would ostracize her for having Guilbert as a pet and for having them greet the animal. The Caterpillar would start changing, and would eat for about a week, and would thread a chrysalis as well as Cocoon for 2.5 weeks. Finally, the chrysalis would turn black on the morning of August 21, 2020, and the process of Eclosion would occur. This is a long process in the development of a Butterfly, as it can take up to an hour for their wings to strengthen. Fortunately, the butterfly would finally sprout its wings and make its place in Ursula’s garden. Based on the wing colors, the butterfly was a female.

In conclusion, I think Ursula’s experience teaches us a lesson we shouldn’t forget. It’s always the little things that matter. Having a butterfly grow in your garden may not mean much to others, but I think Ursula naming it and making her children greet it is very telling about how something so little can bring so much joy. I think this happiness is the essence of what gardening is.

Why Compost is Crucial in our Garden

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. 

Written by Colby Paolo

https://www.leduc.ca/composting/7-easy-steps-composting

An example of what a compost will look like!
How your compost will look in the beginning.
Compost success!

Gardens and Quahogs

By Sam Boyden

From a very young age I remember driving roughly an hour from Pembroke MA to Yarmouth MA where my grandparents lived. I would go almost every weekend until high school and help out around the property. My aunt and grandmother would tend to the flowers near the front of the house while my grandfather and I dug for quahogs in the river behind the house. In the backyard next to the house my grandparents cultivated a glorious garden. It was full of tomatoes, cucumbers, abnormally large squash, zucchini, lettuce, the whole 9 yards. I was tasked with picking the fully grown produce and washing it off from the rain collector barrel attached to the garden. It was a large blue barrel that all the gutters from the roof led to so the produce could grow while also being cost efficient.

Times not spent in the garden were spent downriver in knee deep water and mud hunting for quahogs. My dad, grandfather and I would hop in the metal boat and race downriver to our spot for catching quahogs. We would rake through the mud looking for the most XL quahogs the river had to offer. If any seemed too small we had a tool to measure the size of the shell to see if it was the legal size to take. My grandfather, Dad and I would see who could scoop up the biggest quahogs as well as the most. The cooking of the quohogs was left to my mother and grandmother who had genuine experience with the shellfish. My time spent down the cape was always surrounded by nature whether it was on the beach or in the river which I will always remember.

(Not my picture but it’s a picture of the hotel down the rover from my grandparent’s house)

Carver Cranberries

Throughout my childhood, I was often at my grandparents house in Carver, Massachusetts. At their house, they had many acres of land that my sisters and I would always love to explore. We would ride the golf cart my grandfather owned around all day to find something new to discover. On top of all the land they had, there was also about seven cranberry bogs. Every year, up until I was around fourteen or fifteen, my entire family would help harvest the cranberries.

My dog, Gronk, at my grandparents’ cranberry bogs. Credit: Pamela Snow.

Cranberries are harvested through a process called flooding. Each of the bogs is entirely flooded with around 15-18 inches of water the night before they are set to be harvested. Once the day came, my family would use these devices called water reels to help separate the cranberry from their vines. Then, my grandfather would climb aboard this giant harvesting machine and drive around the bogs scooping up all the cranberries. I can remember being amazed at the entire process and not truly realizing how much work went into it until I saw it with my own eyes. I usually only watched my dad, grandfather, and uncle really do all the work to gather the cranberries, but it was something I definitely looked forward to every single year. After all the cranberries are collected, they are loaded into crates, then shipped to Ocean Spray, the company my grandfather sold his crops too.

Workers harvesting cranberries at a bog. Credit: PublicDomainImages

This tradition was something that was always a long but fun day with my family. We would always end the day with a big dinner, and it was usually had a lot to do with cranberry flavored items. This is really the first memory I had to anything garden related really, but it was something that was kind of unique to me. Not a lot of people get to experience and see the actual process of this harvest, and it was always a great time.

Forest Fruit Harvest Cranberries. Credit: MaxPixel