Things Are Shaping Up Around Here…







Happy First Day of Summer!

Hope you were out in a garden today (and had as much fun as I did)!

Love, Michele


What’s Happening in the Garden-June 9-And Then There Were Two



So, there’s good news and bad news around here. I’ll start with the bad news first and get it over with.

It’s actually really bad, as in, “a coyote killed four of our baby chicks in a few minutes” kind of bad. Michael and I miscommunicated about the meaning of “the chickens are all set” last Sunday night. He left for a work trip right after dark and when he said that they were all set I thought that meant locked up for the night so I never checked them. At 5:00 Monday morning I heard lots of chicken noise so I ran down there to see what was up. I found my neighbor out behind the coop having just scared the coyote away a few seconds before I arrived. It was horrible. The coyote killed three of our chicks instantly and a fourth disappeared. Two survived, both wyandottes. I can’t help but think that it might say something about the hardiness of the breed. One walked out of the woods shortly after the attack and we found the other sheltering in place up the street behind the stop sign. Anyway, I’m now calling these two Silver and Gold because they truly are precious.

IMG_5890The good news in our pet population is that this little sweetie pie is staying. We’ve named her Tucker, and she is the cutest, friendliest bunny ever! Tucker really helped to ease our pain last week after the chicken disaster.

IMG_5973Other good news is that I finally planted out this herb garden this morning. I know it doesn’t look like much now but just you wait! There’s a lot of plant material just below the surface burrowing in and getting ready to grow. This was a very economical project as the only money that we spent was for compost and a few annuals that I had around and added to brighten things up.

IMG_5336Here’s the same space a few months ago.

IMG_5974The borders are coming in to bloom. They need to be weeded again.

IMG_5979The peas are starting to flower a little and there’s watermelon, cantaloupe and pumpkin seedlings in front of them.

IMG_5981We have some happy cucumber seedlings and some that need to be replaced. I think the cold weather got to them last week. It’s been unbelievably cold. I have new seedlings cooking in the basement that I’ll plant in those hills.

IMG_5999I also started fall crops inside over the past few days… broccoli, swiss chard and brussel sprouts. Just ten plants of each, that’s enough for us.

IMG_5983In spite of the cold, the tomatoes have settled in quite well. I think that their about to take off.

IMG_5984As has the zucchini. The kale loves the cold, along with the mesclun, and the peppers and onions don’t mind too much. It looks like it’s time to weed and pull out rocks again.

IMG_5987The window box still needs to be planted.

IMG_5990And the butterfly garden could use some attention.

IMG_5988It won’t look like this for long… just a few weeks and these beds will be full!

So we’ve had our ups and downs around here. Between the chicken loss and the crazy weather it’s been kind of sad. I’m in the habit of going out to the garden very early in the morning so that we have family time in the middle of the day. The kids enjoy the garden and they help a lot but we don’t want them growing up to resent the time we spend out there.

We’re always adjusting, trying new things, making it work…

And sometimes I can sleep on the beach!

How’s your garden growing? Let me know!

Love, Michele



Loving My Seedlings, a Lot!

I really am! This appears to be my breakthrough year in the seed starting world. I think I got it and I love it! The time that I spent this winter reading and researching really seems to be paying off. I have quite a few plants ready for the garden now and there are more coming. Next year, look out, those seed companies won’t know what hit them! Did I mention that I finally got it and that it’s fun?

Okay, enough… here’s what I have at the moment:

IMG_5728This is my seed starting set-up. It’s simple; two shop lights with one fluorescent and one plant bulb in each. Next year I’m hoping to add a third light in the middle so that the entire table is covered.  I used the plant bulbs here at home, but at Bass River (work) I used one cool white and one warm white bulb. The seeds did very well there but I do see a faster growth rate and a sturdier plant with the plant bulb. The idea is to create light that mimics the light outdoors and the plant bulb is much brighter which is ideal for seedlings that would thrive in full sun.

IMG_5727These cantaloupe and watermelon seeds emerged from their bags (you can read about my handy dandy bag system here) the other day. They’ve been living in soil for two days and their well on their way.

IMG_5725This is cumin and purple alyssum. I have a love/hate relationship with these jiffy pots. They dry out quickly and I need to keep a very close eye on them. Actually, keeping a close eye is very helpful to new seedlings, peat pot or not.

IMG_5721The cilantro on the left is organic slow bolt, and the pots on the right are coriandrum sativum… there’s kind of a big difference in success rate so far.

IMG_5720We’ll have three varieties of basil this year; Genovese in the back, Red Rubin in the middle and Siam Queen in the foreground.

IMG_5714I started a little bit of summer squash in a jar a few days ago, planted it in the soil last night and I think they’ll be ready for the garden by the end of this coming week. I have some new ideas to help deal with the squash bugs this year so I caved and planted zucchini, even though I swore I’d take the year off after last year’s difficulties.

IMG_5702Up in my office the marigolds are showing their second set of leaves. I’m probably moving them outside later today to maximize the light and good air circulation.

IMG_5695These pumpkins and cucumbers from a few weeks ago need to be planted out asap. The weather looks pretty good so they should be in by Monday.

IMG_5691 If I could go back several weeks, I would have transplanted these tomatoes into larger containers. I think/hope the yellow at the bottom is because they need more root space. Looks like it’s time for these to hit the garden too.


As you can see I have a lot more to do. The carrots need to be direct seeded, the beans will follow the peas that are growing, and the squash will probably be quick started then planted outside in the next week or two. I think I missed the window for growing peppers. What should we do? Start them indoors now anyway, direct sow or buy some plants?

IMG_5733My little girl started these seeds all by herself.

This is the best motivation in the world to share the garden with my kids, and with all of you. 🙂

Hope you plant something today!

Love, Michele



Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day-May 2014

Happy GBBD-May 2014!

I haven’t looked at last May’s Bloom Day post but my worry is that it’s very similar to this year’s. Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day is making me think about adding new plants and changing the garden around a little. We’ll see what happens with that.

Here’s what I have:

IMG_5679Tulips are still hanging in there.

IMG_5677Lots of pansies everywhere.  Did I tell you that we grew our own pansies from seed at work this year? They need a little special care in the beginning but their not that hard and it felt like quite an accomplishment. These are not those homegrown pansies, but maybe I’ll try it here next year.

IMG_5672My mother’s Day plant…petunias, verbena and marigold…kind of an interesting combination, don’t you think?

IMG_5668Solomen’s Seal


IMG_5664Rhubarb, sorry I can’t help but include it, it’s a bloom!

IMG_5663Bleeding Heart…

IMG_5651Bride and groom… This is always such a tricky flower to photograph.

IMG_5650It’s so pretty but it barely stays still.



IMG_5642And we’re finally seeing some crabapple blooms! These are very late this year…

IMG_5641…but definitely worth the wait.

IMG_5639And a little bit of dogwood bloom.

IMG_5640Last year this tree was covered with flowers. This year we  have just a few. Was it the winter? Does it need a boost of fertilizer? I’m not sure but we’ll keep an eye on it.

So, that’s it for us here at The Salem Garden. Nothing too flashy or impressive, all common names, very imperfect, but full of love! Love works for me!

Grab a cup of coffee or tea and be sure to check out the other garden blogger’s posts for GBBD on May Dreams Gardens! What a treat!

Enjoy everything!


Glowing White Garden

Last night after our lovely Mother’s Day dinner in the garden, our first this year, we played a little bit of soccer. I’m an absolutely wonderful player and I really think that the reason my team won was because of the way I screamed and covered my head every time the ball came toward me. I’m a little sore today because I played so hard and so well!

While we were out there I was struck by the amount of white in the garden. Usually by Mother’s Day the crabapple trees are blooming but this year we’re several weeks behind so I spent a good part of the day missing the beautiful shades of pink that I typically enjoy while I work outside on Mother’s Day. As it got a little darker last night the white started to glow and I was completely caught up in how special it was.
IMG_5581I tried to take photos last night but it got dark very quickly so my photos had kind of an evil look like this

IMG_5553and this.

I tend to live in the light so this morning I went back out hoping to capture some of the glow.









IMG_5629The white garden of this week really is beautiful in it’s own way.

IMG_5631I hope that you won your game too and had a great Mother’s Day!

Love, Michele


Foolproof Cucumber Seedlings- You Can Grow That!

The other day I blogged about the fun I’ve had this year with growing tomatoes. I’ve been in kind of the same mode with cucumbers (and pumpkins, and squash, and peppers, and several varieties of flowers). There’s a background story to my seed starting obsession that I have to share. In February one of the women who I work with in my job as an adaptive gardening specialist at Bass River approached me with a package of cucumber seeds that were dated 2011 and asked if we could grow them. I thought that starting them successfully was a long shot but I also saw the challenge as a chance for a fun learning opportunity. We decided to plant some of the seeds in pots of seed starting mix, and to try to germinate another group on a damp paper towel in a jar. Within a few days we had a jar full of cucumber sprouts that were flourishing. The seeds planted in the soil never did germinate, not one. We transplanted the sprouts to a container of soil and now we have little cucumbers growing on a trellis in a sunny window. So, we concluded that a little bit of humidity goes a long way in sprouting seeds and even older seeds might respond to this special treatment. I’ve been reading a lot about adding humidity to help the germination process and I brought the idea here to my home garden.  I’m growing all kinds of things in plastic bags and jars!

Here’s a step by step description of my easy foolproof way to grow cucumber seedlings:

IMG_5338I start with a paper towel, a clean jar with a lid, a water spray bottle, some tape and a package of seeds.

IMG_5343I dampen the paper towel and spread the seeds evenly over it.

IMG_5345Roll it up gently…

IMG_5346and place it in the jar and close the lid.

IMG_5354Then I mark it with a sharpie or as in this case I tape the seed package to the jar.  I did this on April 25th, remember that date!

IMG_5355Here’s what I found when I took them out on April 29th. These are a little bit overgrown, they could have come out of the jar on the 28th or even the 27th.

IMG_5357I gently placed well moistened seed starting mix in cups with a hole punched on the bottom… I don’t usually use paper cups but I had these on hand and the seeds needed to be transplanted right away.

IMG_5360I dug a little hole and placed a seedling in each container with the root facing down,

IMG_5362and just barely covered it with soil.

IMG_5363I put the cups under the grow light,

and here they are on May 3rd. The first leaves are sprouting and the second set is close behind!

They would be ready to go out in a few days if our last frost date were closer. Unfortunately it’s not quite time for tender plants to be planted outside here on the New England coast. I’ll move them out from under the light when they get a little bigger and keep them in a sunny window for a few weeks. When transplant time is close I’ll put them outside in a protected spot for the daytime hours for several days to harden them off (help them get used to outside temps) before I plant them in the garden.

Just to summarize the dates; I started them on April 25th and eight days later their well on their way. That makes the turnaround time from putting them in the jar to being garden ready about 12-14 days.

Guess what that means? You have plenty of time to do this! And it’s easy, and I dare say it’s fun!

I hope that you get some seeds started soon!

Remember, you can grow that!


Displaying ycgt_web.jpg

“You Can Grow That” is a website hosted by garden blogger and author C.L Fornari which was created to widely share the message that plants and gardening enhance our quality of life. On the fourth of each month garden bloggers participate by publishing a “You Can Grow That” post. The hope is to create a national conversation about the benefits of gardening and to encourage people everywhere to participate in and experience all of the joy that the garden brings. Be sure to visit the “You Can Grow That” website to learn more about this wonderful effort and to find links to other bloggers’ posts.

A Few Thoughts About Growing Tomatoes From Seed

I’ve really gotten in to starting seeds this year. I have three varieties of tomatoes growing (Rutgers, Matina and Supersweet 100) and I think it’s safe to say that their doing quite well.  I spent a lot of time reading about seeds over the winter so I’ve approached the project from a different knowledge base this year.

I’ve made a few simple adjustments:

–I started the seeds on damp towels in sealed plastic bags and planted them in seed starting mix as soon as they germinated. This is one of my new favorite approaches with seeds of all kinds. When I visited my friend Betsey (the onion lady) in January she showed me that her husband often starts “harder to germinate” seeds in plastic bags. I’ve also experimented with forcing germination at work lately with great success. Betsey recommended a blog called Tomato Dirt  and as I read over their many tips for growing tomatoes from seed, I’ll be darned, this method was mentioned again. I tried it and the extra humidity got things going and before I knew it I had beautiful seedlings that had been transplanted into potting soil.

–I’ve kept the lights very close to the plants, about two inches above the tops of the seedlings. This keeps them from getting leggy and encourages them to grow stronger and sideways, rather than upward and spindly.

–I’ve brushed them gently with my hand once a day which also encourages a stronger, stockier plant.

–The lights are on a timer, twelve hours on, twelve hours off.

–I used one florescent bulb and one plant bulb in a regular shop light.

–I water from below encouraging strong root formation.

–I used seed starter containing vermiculite to encourage root formation.

–I talk to them, love them and spend time with them as I work on other projects.

I’d be growing well too if I were these tomatoes!


Here they are today. I’m thinking about moving them away from the lights and up to my sunny office, maybe even into larger pots.

Are you growing tomatoes this year? How’s it going? Share your tips in the comments!

and of course, enjoy everything!


What’s Happening in the Garden- April 25, 2014

I’m working on a million little projects this morning but  I’m well behind here in the blogosphere so before I move on I must do a quick garden update. I don’t know what it is about my blogging hobby but somehow publishing a post grounds me and propels me forward like nothing else.  I think it’s the sense of accountability, or maybe the creativity (not that I’m that creative), or maybe it’s the satisfaction in having finished something. Anyway, thanks for reading and commenting and helping me to keep moving!

So, after the coldest snowiest winter ever, and the coldest early spring ever, we are finally seeing a little bit of an improvement here in Salem, Massachusetts. I’m convinced that we love our gardens more in New England than anywhere else because we work so darn hard to get through the winter and into the sunshine.

IMG_5309I’m pretty sure that the lady’s mantle would agree with me. It’s been a long, long winter!

IMG_5311Just behind the lady’s mantle a clump of iris is springing into action. It won’t be long now!

IMG_5313We have lettuce! I believe that this is Black Seeded Simpson.

IMG_5314There’s also a little bit of mesclun peeking through.

IMG_5316And those onion sets that I planted two weeks ago are settling in nicely. We had a lot of rain the day after they were planted so the rocks really came up and I had to reset some of the bulbs. It’s nice to see the greens. I think I’ll add some compost around them later today to give them an extra boost.

IMG_5318The little peek of rhubarb has filled out nicely. We have several of these throughout the garden.

IMG_5320The asparagus patch looks empty and untended. I need to get Michael to take that little fence away so I can get in and out of there without incident. When you get a little older there are “incidents” when hopping over fences like this one. It was put up to keep our toddlers out and I think I can safely say that we’re well past the toddler stage now.

IMG_5321We do have teenagers though… I wonder if these will grow so I can outfit the younger kids with very expensive flip flops.

IMG_5322How about that, there is asparagus popping up on the slightly warmer other side of the garden.

IMG_5325This does my heart good…

IMG_5328This area needs some work. If I remember correctly I was choosing between Nutcracker rehearsals, soccer games and garden cleanup last fall.


The baby girls say hi! IMG_5336Here’s a peek at the beginning of our newest project. We took out two juniper trees last fall and are planning to create a nice herb garden in this spot. I’m going to start by sifting out rocks and adding a lot of compost. I have plants that are ready to relocate and I may add a few new varieties. There’s a concrete “patio” and shingle sided wall to the left that I’m hoping to fill with containers.  I have lots of ideas and my handy dandy pinterest board is in full swing. Click on the words pinterest board to check it out.

In other news, I’m starting seeds, repotting houseplants and planting spinach later.

What’s happening in your garden?

I hope your enjoying the spring as much as I am!

Love, Michele


Square Foot Onions, and a Hint of Rhubarb

Recently these beautiful onions that my friend Betsey has stored in her basement inspired me to get serious about planting my own.

WP_000521Please pardon the quality of this photo which I took with my very unsophisticated non I-phone. I just wanted you to get the idea. Aren’t they amazing? This was in January no less!

I bought a bag of onion sets and after doing some research I decided to maximize my space and plant them using the square foot method.

I haven’t intentionally square foot gardened before but I thought that onions might be a good crop to try with. The concept behind square foot gardening is to grow as much as is feasible in one square foot of space using optimum soil and raised beds. It takes some planning to be sure that plants have enough space for root development and air circulation.  The rule of thumb seems to be that large plants need one square, while smaller plants can be planted more densely. The recommended square foot spacing for red onions is nine per square foot, so nine it is!

IMG_5215I started with my package of onion sets and my tape measure.

IMG_5214Next I loosened the soil (which had been thoroughly turned over this past weekend and well composted last fall) and using my tape measure, I very unscientifically, and quickly, and without painstaking accuracy, because that’s how I do things, divided the end two feet of my bed into eight one foot squares. I used my trowel to make lines in the soil.

IMG_5220Then I placed each bulb in to the soil, three inches apart in a grid so the bulb was just below the soil with the top pointing up. The top of the bulb is the pointy part that you see here, while the bottom where the roots develop, is flatter and usually has a slightly rough texture.

IMG_5219Some are sprouted already. I think that’s fine.

IMG_5223Here’s my finished grid. My research tells me to make sure that they don’t dry out too much but that they’ll resume growing again if they do. I’ll keep you posted!

IMG_5225In other news; the rhubarb is peeking through! I wish I liked it more. I’ll cook and bake it for Michael and I love to give it away. It looks so pretty in the garden when it gets big. Rhubarb has so much going for it, I think it’s just the tartness or texture that I personally struggle with.

Anyway, grab a bag of onion sets at your local garden center and plant them in your well fertilized eight square feet of space and let me know how it goes!

Enjoy everything!



What’s Happening in the Garden– April 7, 2014

What’s happening? Well there’s a little bit of spring out there. It may not be as much as we’re used to at this point in April, but it’s coming along.


Yesterday I dug  up the very end of a bed and planted some lettuce in anticipation of the soaking rain that we were expecting today, The rain is here, so grow lettuce grow!


Chives are peeking through…


The rosemary didn’t make it but I kind of expected that. For this plant to winter over in the kind of winter that we had this year was a huge stretch. I did manage to maintain a plant in the house and I consider that a huge victory!


There’s a little bit of yarrow peeking through.


The girls say hi!


This guy is still perched on his rock but I think his front legs were amputated. Go figure?

IMG_5149 The pond is home to the canoe again.

IMG_4540Very different from the skating days of a few weeks ago. It’s only a foot deep and it’s been very cold so the kids skated up to the last possible second.

IMG_5158Mr and Mrs Mallard are back!

IMG_5161I love this old bench. It was given to Michael by Lucy Set, one of our old neighbors on Forrester Street. 

IMG_5176 Winnie was thrilled to be sitting in his spot while I planted yesterday. I think it’s time for a haircut.

IMG_5177 It’s good to see the markers coming back!

IMG_5137 And theres a little bit of tomato seedling started in the basement. More to come on them soon I hope! It looks like it’s time to get out my manicure scissors to thin them back a bit. I’ll cut off one of the two plants in the cell to give the remaining plant the best possible chance. I’m focusing a lot on seed starting at work this year and carrying everything I learn home. I love that the garden lessons that I learn for my job are so helpful to us here. You can read about our seed starting adventures at Bass River here. We’ve been having fun!

How’s your garden growing? Tell me about it!

Enjoy everything!