Growing Life Skills in the Garden

Garden/Allotment (Photo credit: tricky (rick harrison))

Just below is the link to a great article about a youth gardening program in Loveland, Colorado. It highlights the many benefits that gardening provides to students with special needs. The adults that I work with grow and change as they garden as well. As I settle in to my adaptive gardening specialist position I’m able to see it more every day. Take a minute or two and click on the link to read about the Loveland Youth Gardeners! I truly believe that gardening benefits all who are interested!


Growing Life Skills in the Garden

For the Lady I Met In Walmart Yesterday…How To Start Your Garden

Hi there!

I heard you ask for help yesterday in Walmart and spoke with you a few minutes later and told you a little bit about my blog. Since then I’ve been thinking  about how I can help people like you who are just starting out with their very first garden and I came up with a few simple ideas. These are my thoughts after talking with you for just a minute or two.

—You said that your garden will be next to your driveway and you want some things growing and some color. I didn’t say it, but I should have said that you would want to dig down 12-16 inches to loosen the soil really well. If you just scratch the surface it will be tough for the roots to grow and establish themselves.

—Then, see what kind of soil you have. It may be nice topsoil (black, brown and crumbly), or sandy (light colored and very fine) or clay like (sticks together in a clump when it’s a little wet). It may be very rocky (try to take out as many as you can), or not. Adding compost that you can buy in bags from garden centers will help improve most soil. If you have an extreme version of any of the above you may need to work at it a little bit more. Here’s a link that can help you with that.

—As you work on getting the soil ready watch the way sun shines on the space. How many hours of sun the garden gets is really important in choosing plants that will do well. It might be over 8 hours a day (full sun), 3-6 hours a day (part shade) or less than 3 (shade). Match the light requirement on the plant tag with the type of light you have. It’s really important to do this!

—Look for plants that will fit the light requirement and the type of garden that you have in mind. Read the labels again to get an idea of how tall the plants will be and when they’ll bloom. Some tags even tell you what to plant together which is really handy when your first starting out!

—Try to arrange the plants so that the tallest are in the back and shortest are in the front.

—Pull the weeds as you see them pop up. If you do this for a few minutes every day you’ll be able to keep up with them easier.

—Watch the weather and be sure to water if it doesn’t rain.

—Take off dead flowers and leaves so that new ones can grow.

—Leave me a message here if you have any questions. I’m happy to help if I can!

— Most importantly, enjoy it! Don’t worry too much if plants don’t make it, it happens to all of us! You can do it!!!


ps/ Other gardeners, feel free to chime in with your ideas and suggestions in the comments section.

Let’s help this lady have the best first garden ever!

English: Soil types by clay, silt and sand com...
English: Soil types by clay, silt and sand composition. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Salem Garden is a Year Old? Really? Your Kidding Me!

WordPress sent me a message the other day to tell me that I’ve been blogging for a year. Seriously… one year? They must be kidding!

Lots of great things have happened since I started The Salem Garden and I didn’t really plan on any of them. You know that I turn everything into a list, so here’s what happened:

1.  I found out that blogging is fun, interesting and maybe a little bit addictive.

2. I also learned that blogging takes a lot of time and energy.

3. However, the time commitment decreased as I kept blogging.

4.  But, the time commitment then increased because I loved reading other blogs and learning about the craft.

5. I connected with friends, interesting people and gardeners from all over the world.

6. I also connected with friends, interesting people and gardeners from right here, in fun, new ways.

7. I learned a lot about gardening. This happens when you read gardening blogs, so keep reading!

8. I found my blogging voice.

9.  I got a wonderful paid position as an adaptive gardening specialist (I had never even heard of an adaptive gardening specialist). My first job in seventeen years has given me the gift of vision about what I’d like to do professionally in the future.

10.  My family did well with all of the above, almost all the time.

A year ago I had no idea or expectation about where this would go.  I knew that I had something to say or do but I didn’t know what it was or that it would be life-changing. I had spent many years raising my young children and enjoying every minute so I couldn’t  imagine doing anything else.  Thank you so much for reading, following, encouraging and sharing your thoughts with me.  You have all made the last year into an amazing journey!

I love sharing photos, so here are some of my favorites from the past year. Click on any image to view them as a slide show.

With lots of love and gratitude,

Michele at The Salem Garden

Check Out the Link to This Wonderful Post: Creating Your Own Special Retreat From the World by Linda Buzzell

Don’t we all need our own special retreat from the world? Here’s the link to a post by new-to-me author and blogger, Linda Buzzell. She writes about the healing benefits found in nature and the garden.  She expresses my feelings so well that  I had to share!

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day- April 2013

And now for something new and different–I  thought that I’d participate in “Garden Bloggers Bloom Day” this month. This is a group of garden bloggers from all over the world who share a post about what’s blooming in their gardens on the fifteenth of the month.  You can see all of the participants and link to their blogs here at It’s really fun to check out all of the beautiful gardens and see the huge variation by climate!

My one reservation about doing this is that it’s still early here in Salem, Massachusetts. I didn’t plant daffodils last year and everything is a few weeks behind due to the cold weather we’ve had. In spite of that I’ll show you quite a bit of green, and a little color. Don’t worry, in May and June we’ll be overflowing with blooms!

Since it hasn’t snowed or sleeted for the past three days the primrose popped out!IMG_0723This morning there was dew on the lady’s mantle.IMG_0695 And I had my first glimpse of the bride and groom plant that my mother gave me years ago.IMG_0699The chives are ready to enjoy.
IMG_0702 And the tomato cages are waiting. Our neighbors gave us the lupine plants last year. I’m hoping that these will be blooming as beautifully as theirs do soon.IMG_0705 This is largely a children’s chicken garden, as evidenced by the “sculpture” that Michael brought home recently and the three gnomes waiting for their summer assignment out in the garden.IMG_0706The chickens may not be blooming but they add lots of color and personality.IMG_0708

Lamb’s ear is poking out…IMG_0715 Siberian irisIMG_0716 And finally a little bit of bloom from the scillaIMG_0717and from the pansies that I planted a few days ago.

Happy Spring from the Salem Garden! Thanks for visiting!

Enjoy everything!


What’s Happening in the Garden– Early Spring Sunday

We’re having a beautiful day here so I spent some time looking around in the garden. Of course, I can’t just look, nor should I. There’s stuff  to do!

The pea and bean trellis is just about ready, but the snow still lurks. Maybe I’ll shovel it away so that the ground can unfreeze and we can get some peas started. While I’m at it I might want to clean the old vines off of the trellis.


I don’t think the Rosemary made it. I should have covered it, my fault. I’ll have to plant a new one soon.IMG_0377

The girls look happy. They don’t love snow and cold weather. It feels like they’ve finally relaxed and smiled. We even got six or seven eggs yesterday. IMG_0349 It’s still really muddy out there!IMG_0353What’s this? a big, beautiful sign that spring is really here! IMG_0362Maybe it’s time to plant some lettuce? You just need a trowel and some seeds (and the soil of course)…IMG_0363It’s in! First lettuce of the season! You can see the leftover salt marsh hay from last year. Pretty soon we’ll add compost and turn it all in thoroughly. In the meantime, it will be fine.

Lettuce is very hearty and can be planted as soon as the ground can be worked, just like sweet peas, carrots, spinach and radishes.

Hope your able to get out there and plant  something! It just takes a little bit of seed and it’s a great activity to do with kids, although I must admit that my kids were scootering and I treated myself to a few minutes alone with the soil.

Happy Spring!

Enjoy Everything!


Help Me With This Poor Apostle Plant

Knowing that I absolutely love iris, my dear friend Luis gave me this Apostle plant several months ago.


As much as I love to garden outside and grow things in pots I have this weird difficulty with houseplants. The light in my house is completely filtered almost everywhere and we keep the house on the cool side. I think it’s too cold (60 to 65 degrees) for most tropical plants that do well in filtered sun and there’s not enough sun for plants that would do well in cooler temps as long as they have lots of light.

So, getting back to the apostle plant. It’s also known as a walking iris and it can be grown as a perennial in warmer zones, up to zone 8, we are zone 5/6. The flat leaves are actually flower stems. I haven’t seen that yet but I hope to soon. As I read about them it sounds like it may become dormant in winter then bloom seasonally. I’m really hoping that happens! I’m wondering if I’m watering it properly. It’s in filtered light. Of course it is, it’s in my house.

This is it’s little sister, who I’m afraid isn’t doing well. When she arrived there were lots of leaf/stems. I’ve moved this plant around quite a bit trying to find a spot where it will be happy.

IMG_0549So what do you think? Has anyone grown apostle plant successfully? Do I just need to wait a little while?

Here’s what it will look like someday:

Neomarica flower (walking iris, apostle plant)
Neomarica flower (walking iris, apostle plant) (Photo credit: Joel Abroad)

Of course what you really want to know is, did I finish the financial aid forms from the other day? The answer is no, not yet, but I have made tremendous progress. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel so I treated myself to a quick blog post.

I’ll also treat myself to reading your comments and suggestions about what’s up with my plants 😉

Help me out!

Love,  Michele

Is It Just Me?

I know, I know, this is silly, but, when I take apart the planters it’s hard for me to throw the old plants into the compost. I’ll miss them. They were beautiful and I feel a sense of loss. I can throw anything away in the house with no problem, but plants are different. I tend to hang on for a long, long time. So the other day I took everything out of the big front porch planter and went down to the compost bin. In went the spike plant, the verbena and the stock…. then I got to the geraniums. I threw one in and took it out. Then I looked at the four plants in my hand and I knew what I had to do. So, up they went to the kitchen counter. Michael came home and they were still there. Of course he said something like “oh, please, no, not again… you know that these are going to hang out all winter and your never going to do anything with them. In the spring you’ll be buying more”…   Well, he’s probably right. I do that.  I have great thoughts about wintering things over  and re-using them.  But maybe this is the one time it will work. Maybe these geraniums will come back as beautiful as ever. So for now I’ve tucked them away in a dark, cool corner of the basement. Just hanging out, waiting for spring.


Maybe they’ll be back, we’ll see!

My 100th Post!

It’s very hard to believe that I’ve reached my 100th post… who’d have ever thought it…certainly not me. I remember my first post well. I was so nervous. I’d never done this or anything quite like it before, other than joining Facebook, and other yahoo groups and web sites a long time ago. This was completely different… my little kingdom where I could post anything I wanted, wide open and completely unchartered territory!  So I started posting photos and captions, and writing about them. Lots of my posts were about the garden and my family, which is where my heart is. Sometimes I think I’d like to write a very polished and professional gardening blog, then I find myself writing and sounding just like myself. I’m not generally polished and professional. I can be if needed but I don’t think I’ll ever have that well-spoken, intellectual tone that gets freshly pressed and recognized widely. That’s okay, I’m going to enjoy this and be comfortable in my own skin. I’d like to use The Salem Garden to help people. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. Maybe I should laser focus in on basic gardening concepts, or start another blog dedicated to helping people who are in very difficult circumstances? Those who are close know that I’ve had kind of a Forest Gump type of experience, especially in the past seven years. I may write about all of that someday, we’ll see.

In the meantime here’s a re-cap of some of my favorite moments from the past six months or so…

The garden at the beginning of the season, all planted in and ready to go..IMG_0311

This was my third post, the one about turkeys in the yardIMG_5727Then I wanted to give you an idea about what  Salem is really likeIMG_3908And of course, I posted about weeds. I never, ever profess to be a perfect gardener in any way. I make lots and lots of mistakes and I have no professional experience. I just love it and that’s what I share.IMG_0738Then there are these moments, when we can just enjoy the view. IMG_0751The little kids and I planted potatoes!IMG_0769and there were always chickens..IMG_7674And the Common..IMG_7732And kids helping. I love this photo, I used it on our family Christmas Card this year..IMG_7777People loved the green monster post. I should decorate more, and blog about decorating more. There is a really big audience for that!IMG_7806I should post more recipes too, this chocolate chip cookies recipe post is a big favorite…IMG_7829and there’s always more chickens… In the spring I might do some nitty gritty chicken maintenance posts with Michael, especially if we have baby chicks again. Chickens are fun!IMG_7853The bee balm grew.IMG_8605And I posted about my dream house… this was widely read too. I may do a series of dream houses…  IMG_8584We played on the beach at Winter Island a lot..IMG_8754And enjoyed one of my favorite gardens anywhere! IMG_8085There have been waterfalls…IMG_0794

And very special visitors..

I visited lots of gardens and I have a very long list that I missed!  IMG_8306

We even painted chairs one dayIMG_0094The garden kept growing and growing…IMG_9490We had the experience of Hurricane Sandy, although we were spared the worst of it.. There was also the near miss of the tornado. Who would have ever thought this would happen?DSC00859You all seemed to enjoy this guy last weekend! So did I!

and now we’re looking at the winter garden…


It’s time to settle in for the long New England winter, plan for the spring and enjoy a some quiet, cold days. I have lots of thoughts for the winter edition of The Salem Garden… It will be fun!!

Thank you all from the bottom of my heart for reading, commenting, correcting, and cheering me on!

I love it here.