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Keeping Pests Away From Your Garden Naturally

Posted by Suzie Canale on Fri, Jul 03, 2015

We’ve all been there…


                                     photo credit:

Our gardens are just beginning to grow wildly from the heat and moisture that the summer season brings.  Our squash plants are beginning to flower with brilliant yellow blooms and the broccoli heads are just about ready to make their debut.  Pea pods are climbing the trellis and cucumber vines are curling their way around the edges of the raised beds.  Your green thumb efforts are finally paying off with the anticipation of growing a hearty and delicious harvest.


That’s right about when it usually happens…


Somewhere, something has also discovered your bountiful vegetables and has decided to help them selves to an uninvited tasting!  Your strong stalks of broccoli and cauliflower are nothing now but a few naked stems protruding through the earth.  Those stunning yellow flowers of the zucchini have somehow disappeared into the night.  Your cucumbers have been chewed, the strawberries picked over and even the green beans have been nibbled.


You’re furious.  You feel violated.  You want nothing more to find that varmint and give him a taste of his own medicine. 


But wait.  Did you know that there are flowers, herbs and other organic tips that you can use to stave off these pests without having to buy expensive and potentially harmful products?  Try out these natural ideas and watch your gardens burst again with healthy livelihood!


                             photo credit:

Eggs Shells

Creepy crawlers such as slugs and snails can reek havoc on vegetable and flower gardens.  A great way to get rid of them is to lay down a sharp path such as crushed eggshells on the floor beds surrounding the plants.  They won’t like the tricky and dangerous course they’ll have to travel. 


The Stinkier the Better

Many garden pests have something in common with humans and that includes their intolerance for certain smells.  Create a border around your most victimized crops by planting yarrow, basil, mint, catnip or citronella and you’ll see that the scent will drive away unwanted eaters.


Flower Power

Rabbits can be an awful problem for many of us because they strike fast and leave little behind in their tracks.  Try putting in flowers such as lantana and ageratum close to the vulnerable beds.  These two varieties tend to block most critters since they detest their biological make up. 

Tags: Gardening, Gardening in Boston, Vegetable Garden

Gardening Calendar for July

Posted by Suzie Canale on Wed, Jul 01, 2015

July_Calendar-page0001 an easy reference guide for the novice, intermediate or expert gardener.

Tags: Gardening, Gardening in Boston, outdoors, Vegetable Garden, Garden Calendar, July

How To Start Your Dream Garden

Posted by Suzie Canale on Fri, Jun 19, 2015

The garden industry is worth millions and sales depend on the coaxing of the customer to buy products that they believe their gardens are dependent on.  Over the last few years items such as non-chemical fertilizers, organic soil mixtures, hybrid packs of grown plants, expensive tools, varmint free fencing and state of the art hose nozzles have been mass marketed to appeal to the struggling green thumb who is determined to have a healthy and happy garden.  Many end up spending hundreds of dollars purchasing these products from name big companies with the hopes that they will cure all of their gardening woes.


Don’t be fooled…


Propagating a successful vegetable and flowerbed can be done without expensive tabs or exorbitant processes.  There’s a better way and a lot cheaper strategy to cultivate your dream garden!  All you need are the essentials, most of which you probably have.  Here’s my list for my summer gardening needs that are easy and inexpensive to buy or things that I reuse to help my garden beds during the summer season.


The Plot

If you have a backyard with a ton of space, you’re lucky because all you have to do is choose an area that is the right size for your garden that receives sunlight.  You’ll need full sun for vegetables and partial to full light for flowers.  If you don’t have a useful part of land for gardening, keep reading…


The Soil

Whether the soil that you have in your yard is sufficient to grow plants depends on the consistency, sediment and moisture of the earth.  If your ground is soft and adequate for easy plotting than you may have lucked out and you can skip the potting soil step.  If you have a hard, dry and coarse platform to work with, you might want to consider making your own raised beds.  Please don’t run out and buy a pre-constructed kit from a hardware store or garden center-its not necessary.  You can either find some scrap wood planks to nail together to form a hollow square or look around your house for old furniture.  If you find a bureau or nightstand that you don’t want, take the drawers out and place them directly in the yard.  They make perfect flower and vegetable beds plus you’ll feel great knowing that your green thumb extending to the green reuse of unwanted items. 



Trust me, there’s no better way to produce plants than starting with a simple germinated seed.  Not only can you start them indoors but the roots will also fixate better in the ground than a pre-bought plant that has already rooted somewhere else. If you want a suggested brand for seeds, I would advise on buying from Burpee.  Although they are a bit more expensive in some nurseries, you can grab great deals at discounted stores such as Ocean State Job Lot where they are almost half the price!

Tags: Gardening, Gardening in Boston, Vegetable Garden, Garden Calendar

Rainy Day Gardening

Posted by Suzie Canale on Mon, Jun 15, 2015

It’s to be expected that not every day in New England is going to be perfect weather and that unfortunately goes for the summer season as well.  But before you throw in the towel on your gardening ambitions, there are a few activities that will not only benefit your outdoor gardening efforts but will also satisfy your green thumbs while the forecast clears a bit.  No, I’m not insinuating that you grab your trowels and rough it out in the rain or break out the lawn mower and take your chances.  The grass can wait to be cut for a day or two so try another strategy if you’re stuck in the house waiting out the storms.  With just a few needed supplies, you can turn your depressing rainy day schedule into a fun and creative experience that your flower and vegetable beds will thank you for.


Just because there’s all that wet stuff falling from the sky doesn’t mean that you can’t get in the car and go for a ride to your favorite garden center or flower shop, right?  After all, didn’t someone once say that a little shopping therapy always cures the rainy day blues?  Then this is your chance!  As an avid gardener, I’m always running out of much needed supplies for my potting bench such as gardening twine for tomato stakes, plant food to spread over the beds once every month or so and packaged seeds of things like cosmos and peas to fill in the bare spots of the garden.  Most greenhouses have a sheltered area over their plants and supply areas for the sole purpose of appeasing those customers that enjoy gardening throughout any weather condition so there aren’t any worries about getting drenched while choosing your items.


If you see rain pouring out your window than this might be an excellent time to prepare your compost.  Homemade compost can consist of items such as coffee grounds, old bread such as donuts or muffins, grains, all fruits and vegetables and the best of all, egg shells.  Be sure to ground the material well so that all nutrients are blended sufficiently.  Once the rain clear, pour the compost over your vegetables and flowers and watch your plants go KABOOM from your extra added love and affection. 


Speaking of eggshells, if you have a few lying around your kitchen, they can serve another purpose other than compost.  Make sure they are halved and are large enough to support a small amount of soil.  Clean the insides well and place 2 tablespoons of well-nourished soil inside the cup.  Then grab your favorite seeds and place one in each holder.  Seeds that work the best and will grow fastest are peas, cucumbers, marigolds, zinnias and tomatoes.   Place back in their carton and set by a window with a sufficient amount of daily sunlight.  Once their heads pop up from the soil, place in your garden beds! 

Tags: Gardening, Gardening in Boston, Vegetable Garden

How to Make a Salad Garden

Posted by Suzie Canale on Fri, Jun 12, 2015

Make Your Own Salad Garden


I love salad.  No really, I do.  In fact, it’s one of my favorite foods and my family’s too!  There are many ways to serve a crisp, healthy salad including my preference of making sandwiches with fresh pita bread.  My kid’s even love the crunchy and zesty taste of dressing mixed with lettuce, cucumber, tomato, cauliflower and broccoli.  Besides, can you think of a better way to get children to eat their veggies? 


             photo crredit:

Since the ingredients of salad are so important to my household, they’re one of the first crops I plant in my vegetable garden once the summer rolls around.  Over the years, I’ve developed quite a system for these beloved greens and even constructed an actual “salad bed” at one time or another. 


So what’s a “salad bed”?


          photo credit:

A “salad bed” is a raised garden that has only the foods found in a salad of your choice.  In some versions, the plants are separated where others prefer to mix them all up which is the way you eat the dish anyways.  What makes this so much fun is that your whole family can participate in this backyard effort to produce your very own food that not only is entertaining to watch grow but also delicious compared to store bought items. 


Visually, you can be as creative as you like but here are a few ideas to get your juices flowing.  Oh, and if you don’t have the space for an in ground garden, pots on the deck or doorstep work just as well!


Tags: Gardening, Gardening in Boston, #EXFL, Vegetable Garden

Moving Mulch the Right Way

Posted by Suzie Canale on Wed, Jun 10, 2015


It’s that time of year and homeowners are knee deep in their mulching piles.  I know this part of our annual landscaping chores is not one of our favorites but there’s no denying the effect of this finisher around driveways, flowerbeds and backyard paths.  For a relatively cheap cost, we’re able to create a picture worthy display that will make the perfect summer Eden for you and your family. 


photo credit:

So why do we crab about mulch?  Because it’s heavy!  Those wood shavings weigh a ton after the first three wheel barrels and maybe we don’t readily excite about the tube of Bengay we’ll need to smooth out the sores. 


But here’s something you might not realize….


There are several tips that will keep you safe from tearing muscles or breaking your back!  Professional gardeners and landscapers possess the inside knowledge to keep you well exercised but unharmed from this grueling job.  Not only will you evade a trip to the ER but you might even see positive changes for conditioning your body including sculpted legs and arms.  See if what the experts say might assist you this spring while you shovel your yard to beauty!

  Stretching Before You Start                    

  Stretching before you begin to mulch the yard.           




                                                                    Listen To Your Body


If you start to feel intense pulling in your lower back-stop!  This is your body’s way of telling you to take a break before any further damage can occur.  After all, the mulch isn’t going anywhere so rest when you need to!

Tags: Garden Center, Gardening, Gardening in Boston, exercise, Mulch

Gardening Calendar for June in Boston

Posted by Suzie Canale on Mon, Jun 01, 2015


Tags: Gardening, Gardening in Boston, outdoors, June, Garden Calendar

Which Seeds Sprout the Fastest?

Posted by Suzie Canale on Fri, May 29, 2015


If you’re like me, you’re starting to spend lots and lots of time in the garden preparing beds, tilling the soil and planting the flowers and vegetables.  Although garden centers carry most of the traditionally “high in demand” products, using seeds instead of pre-grown crops can be extremely beneficial in several ways.  For one thing, there’s a lot less space being taken up in manufactured green houses saving time and energy driven from heating and packaging needs.  Breakage of roots, stems and leaves also decreases when you use seeds because you are eliminating the step of having to replant the specimen a second time in your beds.  But if you really want to be convinced, check out the money you’ll save when buying packages from Burpee, Park or Territorial seed companies and compare the prices.  Customers who invest in this method of growing save anywhere from fifty to seventy five percent allowing them to add an extensive amount of cultivated vegetation instead of the standard six pack. 


Now that I’ve got your attention, you may be asking what type of seeds should I buy that will spring up quickly once planted?




Protruding from the earth within weeks of planting, cucumbers are a lot of fun because they root quickly and can be started indoors while its still cool outside. Once the shoot rises from the soil, you will notice it begins as two flat leaves extending from a single stem.

The veggies grow on a vine that is dark green and forms yellow flowers signaling a fruit is ready to be produced.






Green beans, yellow beans-both are quite impressive with their ability to mature at a rapid pace.  Plats climb to extraordinary heights if a bean trellis is implemented near their base.  Their tendrils will naturally climb the posts, extending themselves to be able to reap maximum amount of beans. These are really neat to watch grow because they are elaborate in their structure resembling small tress.







Another intriguing seed to plant are peas, which are perfect for kids because they’re a fast breeder and beautiful to watch open with curled leaves and spiraled tendrils.  This is another great vegetable to utilize trellises with and you can even create some pretty cool structures like teepees and extended walls.

 The seeds packets themselves are keepsakes that gardeners collect like baseball cards. Each one has character and distinct identity.

Tags: Gardening, Gardening in Boston, Outdoor Living, Seeds, Vegetable Garden

Great Children’s Books To Get Your Kids Gardening

Posted by Suzie Canale on Wed, May 27, 2015

We all know how important it is to teach our children to love the outdoors but what about gardening?  When I was only seven years old, my parents bestowed my own plot of earth that I could grow my own crop just like they did.  Sure, it wasn’t as organized as the adult plots, having mostly grown lima beans, squash, marigolds and a tomato plant that produced one single fruit the entire season but I was proud of it!  I remember the excitement I felt when I saw sprigs beginning to protrude from the soil and the amazement I felt being able to combine a seed with soil, water and sun to make a delicious edible or beautiful living thing.   I had wonderful role models to learn from since they both had that inner desire to cultivate and yes they were also florists but there was a lot more which contributed to my fondness for gardening.  One essential element that certainly helped was having a bookshelf full of stories themed after this hobby.


There is no topic that is uncovered when we’re talking about children’s literature and that includes fabulous titles dedicated to teaching little farmers how to start growing fruits, veggies and flowers on their own.  Between the fiction, picture books, easy readers and non-fiction available, we can locate just about any subcategory of agriculture that we want.  If your child is interested in composting, starter seeds, vegetables, perennials, wildflowers or simply the colors associated with gardening, you can locate these subjects by visiting your local library.  Here are a few children’s stories that particularly caught my attention.


The Secret Garden

By Frances Hodgson Burnett


This has got to be the most famous book in history on the “green thumb” matter.  Young readers fall in love with the magical changes of a once devastated garden into a stunning Eden of flowers with the help of a little girl and her companions.  While the characters lead you through a fascinating transformation of roses and other blossoming varieties, they also undergo a transformation of their own within their relationships with one another. 



Planting A Rainbow

By Lois Elhert


This is a beautiful book that educates children on how to plant seeds and bulbs to make a rainbow of color in the garden. Illustrated with bright images that capture the attention of little ones as young as two, “Planting A Rainbow” has inspired millions of readers using soothing descriptions and clever illustrations of bold poppies, lilies and sunflowers.



Suzie Canale

Westwood, MA 

Suzie also works in the children's department at the Westwood Public Library

Tags: Gardening, Gardening in Boston, Childrens Book, Kids, #EXFL, Libraries, Outdoor Living

Best Flowers for Window Boxes #gardening

Posted by Suzie Canale on Wed, May 20, 2015

It’s finally springtime in New England and if you’re anything like me, you’ve been spending whatever extra time you have cleaning up the backyard, raking forgotten leaves from the fall and re-soiling the raised beds for summer plantings.  Sweeping up the decks and fixating patio furniture is also on the to-do list along with pulling out the pots and urns that will need to be filled.  One important warm weather task that you won’t want to forget is the designing of this year’s window boxes!  These spiffy little gardening accessories are perfect for any home including apartments and condominiums so you’ll want to stock up at your local garden center or hardware store.  Although window boxes are constructed with a wide variety of materials including vinyl, plastic and ceramic, in my experience the best are usually made with wood such as pine or cedar.  You’ll find that they compliment most outdoor paint, brick and tile as well as protect your plants better than other compounds.  Most containers can be securely fastened to window ledges or just placed on railings that have a wide width.  If you are not using screws to connect directly to the outside wall, be sure to place the boxes on the ground when wind or storms are present to prevent breakage. 

 window boxes

                                                photo credit:Flower Factor via Flickr

Once you have everything set up the way you like, it’s time to start thinking about what you want to plant.  Depending on your taste for color and texture, you’ll be pleased to learn that there are lots and lots of beautiful flowers to choose from that thrive in this type of growing environment.  If you’re looking for an early blossom that can withstand colder temperatures common to April and the beginning of May, the pansy is just what you’re looking for.  These cheery early bloomers come in almost every shade including red, yellow, purple and orange.  Installments can either be one tint or interchanged with one another forming a sensational rainbow spectrum.  If you want to wait it out a bit for the thermometer to raise a smidge, your options increase greatly.  Nurseries typically try to wait out the impulse buyers and will temporarily hold off filling their racks with product that they know can’t live outdoors through the night.  So in the case, patience is a virtue.  Right around mid to late May, greenhouses are ready to show you their goodies that are properly habitable for the New England summer season.  Be on the lookout for geraniums in red, white and pink, which make fabulous window box treatments.  Easy to maintain and a plant that thrives on the heat, they create quite a commotion with their extra large heads and intoxicating smell.  Another breed that is sure to impress are fragrant herbs such as rosemary and lavender.  They are virtually impossible to kill, are often priced reasonably for the frugal customer and compliment outdoor dining events with their delicious scents. 

 window box flowers

                                                photo credit: Flower Factor via Flickr

Enjoy the rest of the spring clean up session and get ready for the stunning gardens you’ll be able to plant within your window boxes!

Tags: Gardening, Gardening in Boston, Plants, outdoors, Outdoor Living

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