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How to Garden During April in New England

Posted by Suzie Canale on Fri, Apr 22, 2016

It’s April here in New England and if you’re into gardening, you’re probably itching to get outside and dig in the dirt like me.  We just can’t wait to begin tilling the soil, planting delicious veggies and designing beautiful beds of flowers everywhere but here’s the problem…  This is Massachusetts.  The sad fact is that it’s still a bit chilly at night and the weather is still fluctuating between winter weariness and summer’s delight.  That’s why we call this time on the calendar “spring” because unfortunately, the days are unpredictable making gardening a bit tricky.  I know the idea of waiting for another month to plant might sound agonizing but putting anything in the earth before Mother Nature gives her “okay” will only lead to expensive trips to the nursery when you have to redo your harvest.  It’s just not worth it but that’s not to say that we can’t accomplish other preparations before then!  


So what are a few of the tasks we can get started on?  There’s plenty!  Here’s a list to keep you well occupied in your backyards until May arrives and remember - a happy gardener is a busy gardener!

April To-Do Gardening List

  1. Re-seeding your lawns when the weather hits 60 degrees is a great way to get things rolling in a “greener” direction.  Patch up spots of space that may have been affected by the harsh cold temperatures and fill in places where the grass seems to have become thin.

  1. Load up on your favorite seeds like peas, lettuce and zucchini!  Just because you can’t put them in the ground right away doesn’t mean you can’t look at the pretty packages and dream until then.  Stores such as Ocean City Job Lot often run sales at this time so take advantage!

  1. Take a trip to Home Depot and gather supplies to correct or insert new raised beds and trellises.  This is an excellent time to get this done because pretty soon you’ll want to fill them up with crops.  Adding soil is another chore you won’t want to wait too for either since hauling heavy bags when the warmth finally arrives might get a little sticky...
  1. Drag out the lawn furniture and set up shop for the season!  Hold back on patio umbrellas that might snap with unruly lingering weather but take your tables and chairs out of storage in case there’s a night when you prefer to dine alfresco!

  1. The rule is that you have to wait to plant seeds until late spring/ early summer but there are actually some varieties that can take the chill and survive an April sowing.  Peas, herbs and some lettuce species are hearty and will also give you something to take care of outside until the rest of your seeds are ready!

Tags: Gardening, New England, Gardening in Boston, April, Vegetable Garden, Garden Calendar

Early Seedling Starters

Posted by Suzie Canale on Fri, Mar 11, 2016

I don’t know about you, but I’m already getting the itch to start my indoor seedlings even though there’s still snow falling on the ground!  For many New Englanders, this is a common frustration since we know that planting too early in the spring season will not cultivate a healthy crop once it is transferred outdoors.  Plants like tomatoes, cucumbers and peas are perfectly ok but for other species, it can be a problem.  While the average time to begin this process is usually the middle of April, you’ll be glad to know that there are actually a few varieties of vegetables that will do just fine if not benefit from a March potting.  Usually, these types are typically those that take a prolonged period of time to get going, which is an important variable to learn about when selecting your seeds.  Since we must keep in mind the temperature constraints of our climate having such a short summer season compared to other southern states, veggies that take four to five months to mature with fruit almost have to be planted indoors way before the normal gardening season.  Fussy produce such as peppers, corn, cauliflower, celery, garlic, onions and eggplant can be challenging for Boston green thumbs so getting a jump on these before April will be helpful.

And why not?  It only takes a few basic things to get started!  

All you have to do is find a warm and sunny area of your home and set up camp!  Select your seeds from either a catalog or store and then grab an empty egg carton or potato chip container.  They might not seem like it but they are excellent for nurturing organic soil because both materials encourage growth and moisture.  Finding a radiator in close proximity will also give your seeds a nice little push as well since an added bit of heat can trick the seeds into thinking it’s summer.  Water as needed and let them do their own thing on their own time until the stems are at least two to three inches in height.  When they get that big, they are ready to be transplanted into your garden.  That is, if the earth has warmed enough to be adequate for growing.  If the ground is still frozen, you’ll have to wait a bit longer but don’t worry because the seedlings will do just fine inside.  


Tags: Gardening, Seeds, Vegetable Garden, Garden Calendar, Garden, March

Vegetarian Christmas

Posted by Suzie Canale on Fri, Dec 11, 2015


Vegetarianism is growing in popularity for many reasons including weight control, organ health, animal conservation and dental hygiene.  There are many different types of non-meat-eaters including those who eat fish and dairy but omit pork, beef and chicken.  Due to this expanding range of vegetarians, several people are giving this diet a try because they’re able to tailor their food selection with omitting everything they like.  


Lucky for many of us (I myself am a vegetarian), eliminating the meat and poultry from diets has gotten even easier because food companies, supermarkets and farmers are realizing the growing demand to eliminate fat and increase healthier eating habits.  Grocery stores now offer a wide array of non-meat products such as veggie burgers and tofu based meals allowing us to find the foods that are nutritious and appetizing to our taste.


With that said, is it possible to host a holiday dinner such as Christmas without serving any meat as a main course?  Is the turkey and roast beef what makes this feast so special or can an all-vegetable menu still satisfy an entire house of guests?


I believe that it can if you take special care in selecting particular dishes that will both compliment one another as well as fill everyone’s bellies.  Having platters of only raw celery sticks and carrots as appetizers may encourage a rumbling growl from stomachs and in all honesty, there’s a better way to go about it without having to starve.  Over the years, I’ve collected some fabulous additions to my holiday fare that is both filled with vegetables and satisfyingly delicious!  Here’s what I’ll be cooking in my kitchen this Christmas for both my meat eating and vegetarian guests.

Looks good to me!

Tags: Christmas, Chef, cooking, Vegetable Garden

Best Seeds to Grow Indoors Over the Winter

Posted by Suzie Canale on Sat, Nov 28, 2015

It’s getting chilly outside and for most of us avid gardeners; we’re a little depressed over our season coming to end.  The leaves are falling from the trees, the flowers have died back and we know all to well that snowflakes will begin to fall very soon.  


But is that any reason to put away our “Green Thumbs” until next spring?  Heck No!


There is plenty to do while the forecast turns dismal, many of which we can do right in our homes!  Just because our backyards will be off limits for months, doesn’t mean that a windowsill in our kitchen or living room won’t provide the perfect space for a new garden to flourish!  True, you’ll need the right amount of warm light, potting soil and adequate containers to grow your fruits, flowers and vegetables but its all possible if you select the right varieties.  Some types of plants just don’t do well inside, so it’s important to recognize these in advance and select other options that will otherwise benefit from being placed in this specific environment.  Order online or visit your local garden center to pick up these seeds to harvest (promising to live well with the proper care) in your house this winter!


These fruits are great to grow during the colder season because all you need to start is the pit of an old avocado.  Cut the pit open and place toothpicks through the center, placing over a bowl of water.  Once sprouts begin to grow, place in a pot with a sunny view.  Make sure the planter is well drained and add a little sand to the soil to cultivate a healthy root system.  


Grab your old spuds and place them in a bin full of well-drained soil.  When you see their “eyes” peek above ground level, a plant will soon emerge, which is fun in itself to watch grow.  Once the plants are about a foot tall and their white flowers have died back, its time to go digging!  You’ll love their fresh taste and the fact that they long outlive your groceries store’s selection.  


Lettuce is quick and virtually effortless to grow when you have a well-lit area and a soil rich in compost. Select a hardy variety such as red or Boston lettuce and watch them sprout almost as quickly as you planted the seeds.  This veggie is perfect for salads or to simply brighten up a room!



These are so much fun to watch grow and easy, too!  Make sure you plant the seeds in a container at least a foot and a half deep to ensure a healthy veggie size. They love to be regularly watered and are ready to be plucked free from the earth when they are ¾ inches in width across the top.  


There’s a reason why petunias are the first flowers to arrive in the markets once the spring comes around and that’s because they are easy-peasy to grow in colder temperatures.  Find an area of your home that produces a lot of sunlight and water the plantings regularly.  Pretty soon you’ll find you have a beautifully colored flower garden all to yourself!

Tags: Gardening, winter, Seeds, Vegetable Garden, Garden Calendar

Preparing Your Garden for Winter

Posted by Suzie Canale on Mon, Sep 21, 2015

Winterizing your gardens can be depressing to say the least but I assure you, it is necessary if you’re looking for another successful spring season.  I know, I know, you don’t want to say goodbye to the beautiful cascading nasturtiums or the striking sunflowers that are standing tall and proud but if we don’t get a few of the necessary tasks accomplished, you can actually hurt next year’s crop and damage perennials that are more than willing to sprout again if well managed.  It’s really not as bad as you think and honestly doesn’t take up a ton of time during your last summer days of outdoor enjoyment.  The clean up simply consists of tidying and readying your beds for a long winter’s sleep so that when the warmer weather arrives, your flowers will be able to successfully perform once again.  Healthy and strong root systems depend on your gardening grooming technique so be prepared and make time to winterize your green thumb efforts.  New England is known for our chilly season of snow and sleet so do your plants a favor and tuck them in right before the storms hit once again!  



Now is the time to plant those new bulbs if you are seeking to grow new alliums, tulips or other fancy varieties.  Fall is the ideal period to start digging and placing them throughout the garden but keep in mind that some of the older bulbs might need your attention as well.  Some varieties cannot withstand frigid temperatures and need to be taken out of the earth and stored in a cool dark place such as a wooden box.  Once the ground thaws again, replant them in their original places to see them sprout strong and vibrant stems.  



If you’re a wildflower lover, you can do a few things to ensure their return such as spread mulch over the tops of their dormant stems and leaves to alleviate some of the harsh impact of ice.  Clearing the area from debris can also help them “sleep” better for the winter as well as clipping off any dead blossoms.  Generally, wild flowers are fuss free and will cultivate all by themselves but you never know the real damage caused by a tough January or February so its better to be prepared for the worst.  Your Black Eyed Susan’s will thank you in May!


Outdoors to the Indoors

Just because there are several annuals in your garden that won’t make it outside during the winter doesn’t mean that you have to say goodbye forever!  Certain plants do quite well when repotted and placed in a sunlit area of your home and can be put back outside when the spring arrives.  Blooms that I’ve tried and had success with are herbs (lavender, parsley, rosemary and basil do the best), geraniums (remember to consistently prune and nip dead flowers throughout the year), chocolate cosmos (yes, this delicate warm loving flower can be brought inside just don’t over water it) and succulents (again, don’t over water) can outlast the snow and the cold until the next gardening season arrives!


Tags: Gardening, Autumn, winter, outdoors, Vegetable Garden, Garden Calendar

Cool Plant Designs for Outdoors

Posted by Suzie Canale on Wed, Aug 26, 2015

Gardens are made to be enjoyed, to provide food from our vegetables, to produce stems of beautiful blossoms for our homes and to satisfy our green thumbs as our beloved hobby.  For many Bostonians, the design and shape of the beds is imperative to expressing our gardening personalities along with their contents of various plantings.  It is in the nature of those true gardeners who design every last nook and cranny from their flowerpots to window boxes in order to manifest the most spectacular display for the summer season.  There will be hanging baskets, vine curled trellises and exploding foliage sprouting from every inch of soil available and just in case we find another ingenious innovation that might look splendid within our gardening efforts, we save room for that too…

Trending this year is a new way to architect plant appearances and honestly, it’s a pretty cool change from your typical straight as an arrow plantings.  By using diagrams constructed by our regions most talented horticulturalists, we are able to now manipulate the pathway of shoots, tendrils and leaf formations to create art for our gardens!  Not only will the contemporary techniques update your flower and vegetable beds but they will also inspire others to join in the fun!  Sometimes children and spouses are reluctant to participate in backyard toiling but I guarantee, these ideas will get everybody up and excited about getting their hands in the dirt!

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Stunning Reading Nook


Constructed from

growing stems of

Myrtle structured

to form a hut.

   Recycled Shoe Rack For Lettuce


            Talk about your clever ways to go

                      green and saving space!

    Macintosh HD:Users:suziecanale:Desktop:images-2.jpegMacintosh HD:Users:suziecanale:Desktop:300xNxcontainer-gardening-ideas-shopping-cart-used-as-a-salad-planter-21717306.jpg.pagespeed.ic.XR6PYNEcb7.jpg

   Child’s Shopping Basket of Greens


   Inspire the little ones with this

   shopping cart reused for growing

   cabbage, basil and peppers.  Line

   the inside with moss and watch

   the basket literally fill with veggies!

    Wheel of Herbs


   So fun for a pretty backyard piece!

Tags: Gardening, Gardening in Boston, Garden Show, outdoors, Outdoor Living, Vegetable Garden

Hollywood’s A-List Farm Picks

Posted by Suzie Canale on Sat, Aug 22, 2015

Just because they’re Hollywood starlets doesn’t mean that they don’t like getting down in the dirt for some gardening fun!  I bet you assumed that just because they wear fancy dresses and attend extravagant dinner parties that they don’t let their hair down once in awhile for some healthy outdoor activity?  Well even the rich and famous need to have fun too, even if that means rolling their Christian Dior sleeves up and getting a little messy.  Many are in disbelief as to why they would choose gardening as a hobby when there are more luxurious pastimes such as croquet, polo, sailing and hang gliding.  Well, I’ll have you know that several silver screen icons depend on their backyard vegetable and fruit beds to provide them with the healthy nutrition their bodies need!  They bank serious bucks on looking their best and that begins with having an A-List diet.  Sure, they could outsource this responsibility to someone else but what better way to micro manage your food than to grow it yourself?  Gwyneth Paltrow certainly falls within this category and has made it clear that fresh produce is a necessity, which describes in detail within her cookbook start.  Here’s the buzz on some more of Hollywood’s hottest healthy foodie actors!

Gwyneth Paltrow

This actress loves her fruits and veggies but her favorite is cantaloupe!  You might remember seeing the evidence of this a few months ago during her media frenzied trip to the supermarket.

Jenny McCarthy

This athletic actress loves her squash and she swears it’s a huge role in maintaining her fit and glowing body!  Her top picks include zucchini and butternut squash for tasty soups and grilled recipes.  

Tori Spelling

Ms Spelling is all about good food and she particularly enjoys the summer selection available during the month of August.  Rhubarb seems to be her favorite this year which she uses as the major ingredient in rhubarb pie and rhubarb chutney.  

Brad Pitt

I bet you didn’t know that Pitt goes bananas for bananas!  That’s right!  This hunky actor thrives on the yellow sweetest of the fruit but unfortunately has to cut back when training for films since they contain a lot of starch.  

Channing Tatum

This cutie is in great shape for sure but lo and behold he’s not exactly a fan of veggies at all.  He does consume green smoothies packed with spinach and kale plus he loves yams.  Looks like his diet is definitely paying off!


Tags: Gardening, Celebrity Florist, Hollywood Florist, Vegetable Garden

Canning Your Own Tomatoes

Posted by Suzie Canale on Thu, Aug 20, 2015

If you’re lucky, you’ve got tomatoes coming out of your ears right about now and you’ve even considered the possibility that you might have too many?  Bite your tongues!  You can never have enough of those beautiful, juicy red vegetables and chances are if you’re like me - you’ve found plenty of ways to use your crop efficiently and effectively.  There’s the marinara sauce, tomato pies, tomatoes on the grill, garden salads, ratatouille, fried green tomatoes, stuffed tomatoes and if you’re a clever chef- you can even make your own Bloody Mary’s.  

If the stove has already been burning making these delicious tomato based concoctions and your pile is still overflowing with your harvest, you might be getting nervous about the possibility of waste.  Pitching vegetables because they aren’t used in a timely fashion is a shame and is often looked upon as a tragedy by hard working gardeners who have nourished the plants since they were mere seeds.  

Well, worry no further!  Canning tomatoes are a popular procedure when farms produce a vast amount of one crop and need a back up plan for preservation.  Many are deterred from this method because they believe it’s more work than its worth but honestly, its pretty simple.  Follow these steps for jarring your tasty tomatoes and enjoy them all year round.

Step 1 Select Your Preferred Tomato Variety.  

Keep in mind that less water such as Roma will keep better than juicier tomatoes with a thinner shell.

Step 2 Sanitize Your Jars for Canning

You need to make sure that your containers are squeaky clean so place them in your dish washer then place them and their lids in a pot of boiling water for approximately 10 minutes.

Step 3 Prepare Your Tomatoes

Place the chosen tomatoes in a pot of boiling water and then immediately drain by putting them in ice-cold water.  You’ll be amazed how fast their skins peel right off.  You also want to discard any bruised or damaged vegetables as well because they wont preserve decently once canned.

Step 4 Fill Er’ Up!

Fill the jars with tomatoes leaving at least 1 ½ to 2 inches of space, which will then be filled with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and the rest with boiling water.  Make sure all of the air bubbles have left the vessel and seal the lid securely.  If you’re feeling daring, add a sprig of rosemary or basil for seasoning.  

Step 5 One More Round of Boiling

You’ll need to boil the sealed containers in a pot of boiling water for about 40 minutes to make sure the contents will “can” properly.  Let them cool completely and then store in a cool place.  

Step 6 Bon Appétit Enjoy!  


Tags: Gardening, Chef, cooking, Vegetable Garden, Tomatoes

Grow Your Own Potatoes For Food and Fun

Posted by Suzie Canale on Thu, Aug 13, 2015

Growing happens to be one of my favorite things in the whole world to do during the summertime.  The sun, the seeds and particularly the dirt all add to the pleasures of farming.  Not only are you producing your own food for your family but you’re also saving a heap load of money.  Other incentives to start a vegetable garden can also include starting healthy eating habits, exercise and most of all knowing that you’ve created a chemical-free harvest.  

So what’s stopping you?  Worried that your green thumb (or lack there of) doesn’t have what it takes to grow edible fruits and veggies?  Not to worry because here is an option that not even the worst gardener can fail at-potatoes!  

Potatoes are one of the greatest beginner plants to try for several reasons and the biggest is the fact that they are fun to dig for!  Simply grab and old potato and wait for the eyes to start sprouting tiny vines.  Place the bottom half in a cup of water to hasten the pace or just wait for the spud to do its thing naturally.  Once it’s aged a pair of healthy legs, place it in the ground and cover with dirt about four inches deep.  Not before long (maybe two weeks depending on soil, quality) a green stem will protrude through the earth.  

Now potatoes take a little time to mature but on the positive side, they take little work.  Occasional watering is needed and if at all possible, select a location with more shade than hot sun.  It takes approximately three months for the veggies to be ready to dig up and the best time to plant the host spud is early June.  Once the plant spikes a little white flower and the stalk begins to die, that’s when its right for the picking!  One plant can grow anywhere from three to ten potatoes so make sure you search the ground well to avoid missing any.  After you’ve gathered your harvest, store in a cool dark area and use when needed.  Growing fresh potatoes will not only last longer than store bought bags but you absolutely won’t believe the difference in taste-they’re delicious!!

Try out these dishes that make great potato based meals:  mashed potatoes, loaded baked potatoes, scalloped potatoes, Shepherd’s pie and German dumplings!


Tags: Gardening, cooking, Outdoor Living, Vegetable Garden

Zucchini Greatness at the Dinner Table

Posted by Suzie Canale on Fri, Aug 07, 2015

Do you have zucchini coming out of your ears? Is your squash challenging you to come up with new recipes that are fun, healthy and inventive?  Look no further. This year’s harvest of the delicious legume has been wildly successful making it imperative to whip up several different ways to utilize the crop.  Since zucchini is a tough vegetable to freeze (although possible) the smart way to handle an abundance of one vegetable is to get creative with your culinary options.  You’ll be pleased to know that squash can be used in a wide variety of dishes offering delectable taste at a low calorie intake.  Even the fussiest eaters will dive right in to these suggestions that have become my summer go to recipes during zucchini picking season.  Give them a try and watch this veggie become your family’s favorite!

Grilled Zucchini

There’s nothing more delicious than veggies cooked straight on the grill.  With minimal seasoning of salt, pepper, olive and rosemary, you can turn an average side dish into the main attraction.  Mix with other varieties such as carrots, peppers or potatoes and give yourself a break to make cooking easy!

Zucchini and Couscous

I love this side, particularly with salmon because the flavors compliment one another with texture and color.  All you have to do is dice zucchini in small triangles and sauté in a pan with olive oil.  Follow the directions to a Near East couscous package (the parmesan box is so good) and once it’s ready, mix the squash together and let sit for 20 minutes.  If you also have tomatoes growing at the same time, throw those in too for a little added decadence.

Zucchini Focaccia

This might take a little longer than the others but boy, is it worth it!  Roll out two squares of pizza dough and slather a layer of soft garlic cheese over the top.  Place the top square over the other and dust with olive oil.  Seal the edges by gently pinching the sides to capture the flavors.  Layer strips of zucchini and red onion in rows and season with salt, pepper and another serving of olive oil.  Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over the top and bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.  Slice like pizza and serve immediately. YUM!

Tags: Gardening, Chef, cooking, Outdoor Living, Vegetable Garden

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