Let Them Grow: Garden Herbs

Let Them Grow by Candice Chouinard

Garden Growth and Gifts

Our garden herbs are growing and it’s time to start reaping the rewards! Young children love to harvest, allowing them to connect to the land and have a sense satisfaction from the work they have put into growing their garden. This early summer we are using garden herbs as gifts for Father’s Day, teacher appreciation and birthdays. Here are a few recipes of the garden-based gifts we’ve made so far…  Read the rest of this entry »

Playing with a Purpose: Gardening with your Children

Gardening and Nutrition Workshops at New Lands Farm

Using the seasons as a catalyst for learning can help connect kids to their environment and the seasonal cycles of their community. Garden-based learning is just one activity that is on many minds every spring. Stop and think what else cycles around each year and how you can use it as a point of entry to community-based education. Then take advantage of your local resources, following your interests and education through community engagement.

Gardening is a multidisciplinary activity embedded with learning every step along the way, from botany to soil science to meteorology.  Gardening with children encourages their natural inquisitiveness and experimentation. Plus, most kids love to get dirty! If your child loves being outside, gardening together will give you both a productive reason to spend more time in nature.

Garden-based learning is a fun and productive activity to try with your children. After you have planted your foods or flowers, your child can nurture them and watch them grow. As children nurture plants and watch them change, they learn about scientific concepts such as habitat and life cycle. On an even more basic level, they learn the logic of cause and effect relationships, for example, if a plant does not get water it will wither. Waiting for a bulb to flower or fruits to grow can teach patience, while plants that require a lot of watering can start discussions about responsibility.

Combining gardening with cooking can have a great impact on your child’s nutrition. Getting children involved in growing and preparing the foods they eat can have a positive impact on dietary choices. Incorporating whatever foods are ready to be eaten into your dinner can teach you to be creative and add variety to your meals. Plus, harvesting the result of your effort and enjoying it in a meal can teach your children about long-term rewards. Gardening and farming make vegetables fun, and instill in children the importance of understanding where food comes from.

If you don’t know anything about gardening, you can learn alongside your child, encouraging each other in a new activity. Families with children ages 5-12 are invited to attend a series of workshops on gardening and nutrition at New Lands Farm. The first workshop will meet on Tuesday, May 3 from 4pm-5pm. Each week will cover a different topic, and participants will get to work in a community garden plot. Call 413-787-0725 x422 for more information. 334 Birnie Avenue, West Springfield, MA. (FREE)

17 Kitchen Scraps Born Anew for Experiential Learning

Kitchen Scrap Gardening

While almost all food scraps make great compost, certain scraps can make something even more wonderful – more food! Families can engage in hands-on experiential learning by collecting bits of these special foods and creating their own mini-gardens. Young gardeners can learn about how plants grow, and can enjoy delicious homegrown foods with ease!

Compost bins are filled with all kinds of special wonders – worms and bugs, favorite foods in all stages of decomposition, and a host of smells both sweet and savory. Did you know, though, that some of the bits of food that land in your compost bin can live a second life? Many of the food scraps that we discard can be turned into new plants and, eventually, more food! Creating a kitchen scrap garden is incredibly easy and equally as fascinating, and it can lead to fantastic experiential learning on the topic of plant growth and biology.

Plants possessing the ability to regenerate easily fall into a few different categories. Edible bulbs, like scallions and green onions, will happily continue to produce flavorful green shoots so long as their white bulbs are preserved. Biennial green stalk-y plants like celery, bok choy, lettuce, and cabbage can grow anew if the portion of the plant where the leaves and stalks originate from is saved. Plants whose roots we enjoy, however, work a little bit differently. Rather than saving a small, inedible portion of the plant to regenerate more edible stuff with, food scrap gardeners actually use the edible portion of the plant to sprout more. Ginger and potatoes both grow in this way.

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Gardens are Fertile Resources for Supporting Community-Based Education

Learning through the Lens of Gardens

Every year when late spring comes around, many families start to think about tending to their gardens, growing their own food and being able to easily access food grown locally.  Gardening and local food are two interests that can connect children to the seasons, their local environment and with their community.

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Gardening is a multidisciplinary activity embedded with learning every step along the way, from botany to soil science to meteorology.  At home, gardening can take place in either a garden plot, porch containers, and/or window sills. And for families who don’t have access to yards or porches, community gardens are an excellent community-based resource. Many communities in the Pioneer Valley have community gardens, including Northampton, Amherst and Easthampton, and organizations like Help Yourself engage volunteers in planting edible gardens and orchards in public spaces.

Families can use their home or community plot to grow fruits or vegetables to enter into the county fair, sharing what they have grown and learn with their peers in 4H exhibit halls.  They can swap their harvest and seeds with neighbors or participate in organized food and seed swaps. Look to Valley Food Swap and Easthampton Seed Bank for upcoming events.

Families can also use their plots to grow an extra row of food to donate to their local food pantry, opening up the opportunity to discus the hard topic of food security while empowering children with ways they can support members of their community experiencing food insecurity.

But garden-based learning doesn’t need to be limited to a garden plot.  Take your growing interests out into your community, where you can find numerous community-based resources and events to support your learning, from intergenerational skillsharing, garden tours, and botanical gardens. Read the rest of this entry »

Feasthampton Celebrates Launch of Easthampton Public Seed Library

Feasthampton’s public seed lending library increases community food security

Feasthampton, an Easthampton-based group dedicated to encouraging community food security and environmental sustainability, is opening a free, public Seed Lending Library hosted at the Emily Williston Memorial Library in Easthampton on Monday, May 11, 2015, from 6 – 8 pm. The Seed Lending Library will be one of only a handful of similar efforts in Massachusetts, and is a major step in the path to food security in the Pioneer Valley.

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Feasthampton, an Easthampton-based volunteer group dedicated to encouraging community-wide projects directed toward local food and environmental resiliency, will celebrate the launch of its free, public seed lending library, hosted at the Emily Williston Memorial Library in Easthampton, on Monday, May 11, 2015, from 6-8 pm. The Easthampton Seed Library provides increased opportunity for community resiliency through promoting biodiversity, food access, and a non-monetized, sharing economy accessible to all. The Easthampton Seed Library will offer free, public access to: an ongoing supply of locally adapted, organic, open-pollinated seed, and occasional seed saving and gardening workshops. Read the rest of this entry »

The Garden Plot: Simply Put, Roots are Important

Roots, Putting Them Up

Red & white onions, pumpkins and delicata squash ready for storage.

If you did not (despite good intentions) plant carrots, beets, onions, garlic, etc… it’s not too late to enjoy them well into the winter. The majority of our locally grown root crops can be stored with ease for up to 8 months. The easiest ones I normally store are: winter squash, potatoes (sweet and regular), onions, garlic, carrots and beets.

Think about visiting a local farmer or farmers’ market and asking about their “seconds” (ones with blemishes) that they normally do not sell. You can often get storage crops really cheaply if you get it in bulk. With proper storage this will take you through the winter for all your veggie needs.

Here is the way I store the my roots: Read the rest of this entry »

The Garden Plot: Season End Learning Through Gardening

Four September Garden Chores To Enrich The Family Gardening Experience

The gardening season is starting to come to an end and it’s time to start to think about how to help your garden for next year.  This is a perfect opportunity to get your kids thinking about the design of your family garden, and the importance of completing the season through some fall garden chores.  Here is a list of four chores I would suggest you do with your kids this weekend or next: Read the rest of this entry »

The Garden Plot: An Intro to the Summer Hit of Goatscaping!

Goats Gives Green Solution to Manage Landscaping

I am not sure if this will be Oxford Dictionary’s next “word of the year” (last year was selfie), but if you have not heard of goatscaping, here is your introduction…

Goatscaping is when families and farms, looking for non-chemical alternatives for managing a landscape, employ goats to help control weeds. My own horticultural company offers this environmentally friendly technique, but my ownership and caring of goats, and their help with managing the landscape of my clients and my own home, predates the actual term goatscaping. My goats have been goatscaping way longer then they knew there was a trendy word for what they were doing.  They just called it lunch!

So here is how it works… Read the rest of this entry »

The Garden Plot: Tending Gardens & Family Learning Opportunities

Summer Family Garden Chores

Whether you are a gardener of vegetables, flowers or both, the season for planting has for the most part ended. Now the real work begins.

Many years ago I read a Chinese quote I have always remembered:

the greatest fertilizer is the farmers footprint.

This memorable quote implies that tending to your plants was the most important thing you could do. If you spend time with your gardens you will see if they are overgrow with weeds, racked by insects, or in need of a drink. This attention improves a plants chance to survive and thrive.

Here are my 3 steps to successful maintenance of new plants: Read the rest of this entry »

The Garden Plot: Woodland Gardens Grow Multidisciplinary Learning

Woodland Wildflower Gardens

Woodland gardens, also known as shade gardens, are one of the most pleasant types of gardens to create and enjoy. Just like the educational value of growing and annual food garden, preparing and attending a woodland garden with your kids has many embedded multidisciplinary learning opportunities too: Determining the proper pH can support an interest in chemistry; Understanding how the different layers of a woodland garden depend on one another and how they support native insect populations can support and interest in ecology and biodiversity… Yet it is one that seems to confuse both novice and intermediate gardeners alike. If you follow these 5 steps, you will be well on your way to a successful garden: Read the rest of this entry »

The Garden Plot: Cold Winter Temperatures Leaves Lingering Impact on Insects & Plants

Long cold winter blots the survival guide for plants and insects

The rhododendron is native to Massachusetts but struggles when taken from tree-covered rich & moist soil.  Add in cold injury and the luscious flower suffers foliage desiccation in dry compacted soil giving it a crispy lifeless texture.

This winter was a cold one – even by New England standards, and as the warmer weeks of spring creep in we tend to forget how frigid some of those nights were. But for some of our landscape plants & pests the impact will be felt for months. Or years.

The Good News:
For many of the non-native invaders like the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid, this cold snap has meant a much higher then average winter time mortality rate for the little buggers. This insect has killed, and will likely kill many more (if not all), hemlocks in the Hilltowns and the Pioneer Valley. However, the rapid onset of sustained cold weather has killed off a huge number of this normally cold hardy insect, which has given a temporary reprieve to recently infested trees . Read the rest of this entry »

Plants Sales Support Multidisciplinary Learning in Your Backyard

Community Plant Sales & Swap Support Local Causes & Embedded Learning

Tending to a family garden not only provides food for your family and adds beauty to your surroundings, but the process of growing and caring for plants brings with it ample opportunity to learn about everything from edible plants to soil science! Here in western Massachusetts, gardening season is just kicking into full swing – meaning it’s time to start planning and planting your family garden!

Before choosing envelopes of seeds and six-packs of seedlings, it’s important to create a plan for your garden. Without proper planning, plants might end up being overcrowded, poorly positioned, or not properly cared for. It might be most efficient to let garden planning be a task for adults, but involving children in the process can empower them with responsibility while offering multidisciplinary learning. Get kids thinking about annuals and perennials, and the benefits of permaculture and xeriscapes. Using tools such as Math in the Garden curriculum or naturalist Sharon Lovejoy’s book Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots: Gardening Together with Children, families can discover ways for children to practice math, science, sustainability and literacy concepts all by participating in planning the family garden.

Another title that would be great to have in your family garden library is Slugs, Bugs, and Salamanders: Discovering Animals in Your Garden. Putting into context the concept of the food chain, this book will use the family garden as a launch into learning about pests and their natural predators.

Once you know where you’ll be growing your garden and what types of plants you’d like to put in them, commit to locally sourcing your plants. This time of year our region is rich in plant sales & swaps, giving families many options for obtaining locally-grown plants that have been dug up from the gardens and properties of other community members, local farms and community gardens.  Along side, six-pack containers filled with potting soil and starter plants, you might also find more interesting things like cuttings from trees and bushes, potted house plants, wildflowers & grasses, medicinal & culinary herbs, hand-preserved (dried and harvested) seeds, and plants that aren’t usually grown straight from seeds – like asparagus roots and rhubarb crowns.

Many of these plant sales are also fundraisers that support valuable community resources like libraries, schools and museums, and often times the community member whose garden the plant originates from is on hand to answer your questions and offer gardening tips. Even if you’re not gardening or your gardening space is very small, plant sales are a fun place to freely share gardening information with one another, supporting kids in their development of gardening skills. Check out these upcoming plant sales in Western MA!

Early Spring Gardening in the Hilltowns

April Vegetables and the Family Garden

The ground is warming up! Time to get those seeds into the ground. Below are five recommended seeds to plant now in the Hilltowns that do best in early spring!

Normally by early April we can start thinking about planting the first veggies. Even though we still have some piles of snow here in the hills the soil temperature can rise up to 50’s in just a few weeks. Choosing what to plant should be dictated by the seeds ability to germinate at low temperatures and handle frost and snow. If you tried a squash or tomato seed at this time of the year it would possibly be dormant for weeks, maybe months before germination. But even more likely it would rot while waiting for the soil temperatures to rise.

I have been planting in the Hilltown’s now for two decades. Here is my list of what I am likely to plant, in order of what is most likely to germinate fastest, into the cold and wet soil of New England in the early spring: Read the rest of this entry »

The Children’s Garden Project Brings Garden-Based Learning into the Community

The Children’s Garden Project

Working on garden bedsA childhood filled with playing in the dirt is something that rural folks can almost take for granted. Small lessons about seeds, plant growth, weather, and seasonal changes almost teach themselves when kids are able to explore the earth – and the things that grow in it – for themselves. But what happens when the dirt to dig in is covered with pavement? How do we help children to learn these lessons when the materials aren’t quite so handy?

Thanks to The Children’s Garden Project , kids in the urban areas of Hampden and Hampshire counties have easier access to dig-able, plant-able, fascination-inducing earth! The organization – which begun their work just last year – has helped to bring gardens to locations in Holyoke and West Springfield. This year, the organization has partnered with Head Start to bring gardens to seven new locations in Holyoke, Springfield, and Chicopee.

While school gardens are becoming increasingly more and more prevalent, the founders of The Children’s Garden Project saw one major flaw with the model of using school gardens as a tool for teaching…  Read the rest of this entry »

5 Plants for a Beautiful Late Fall Garden

5 Plants to a Great Late Fall Landscape

Most homeowners can create beautiful gardens or home landscapes in the summer months. The grass is green, bushes are in flower, bulbs bloom and trees are leaved out. But most families live in their house twelve months a year, so why not landscape your home gardens so they also looks good in November, December and January, while supporting winter wildlife?

In early November I took these photos of my favorite fall plants from my own home landscape. While they may not have quite the “WOW!” factor that a spring blooming dogwood may have, they look pretty darn good for the “off season.” Maybe sit down with your family this fall and think about ways to attract more wildlife to your home gardens with plants that look interesting in the winter, producing seeds for birds and flowers for bees and butterflies.

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In a home landscape I recommend trees, shrubs, ground covers, flowers and ornamental grasses… Read the rest of this entry »

3 Sustainable Plant Choices for the Family Garden

Sustainable Plant Choices: Beautiful, Edible & Pollinators

There are many plants, edibles and ornamentals, that are beautiful to look at, tasty to eat, and beneficial for pollinating insects. The perfect trifecta for your gardens. When I design a garden I always think, “how can I maximize its positive environmental impacts?” I have 1000’s of possible plants to use swirling through my head during the landscape design process. But more times then not I come back to using the same five or so trees, five or so shrubs, and ten or so perennial species. Why? Because they have the “big 3” attributes I mentioned above…

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5 Late Summer Family Garden Chores

Late Summer Family Garden Chores

September is here and the days are becoming shorter, nights are becoming cooler… These environmental changes trigger responses in plants telling them it is almost time to hibernated, or if you are an annual, go to seed and die.  Here are five suggested garden chores you can do with your family before the first freeze and the first snow fall:


  • Make pesto. Basil likes long hot days and those are looking like a thing of the past. My basil right now looks a bit yellowish and limp. Every day that goes by now without it being harvested will result in less pungency and fewer leaves. Picking and washing the leaves is a great task for kids. While basil stinks dried it is excellent frozen. Stuff a freezer bag full and enjoy all fall.

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Home Garden Challenges Offer Teachable Moments

Blueberries & Tomatoes: Under Siege!

This year’s tomato and potato blight are  the same blight that wiped out western Massachusetts crops in 2009. And the potato blight is the same blight that cause the Irish potato famine of the 1840’s! Use it as a teachable moment and discover the history of the Irish potato famine. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

In western Massachusetts, when we think of summer we often think of locally grown foods. Even the most novice gardeners have grown, or are currently trying to grow tomatoes. If they have tried to plant fruits they probably have attempted to grow blueberries and raspberries. Part of the reason that most gardeners have tired these plants is because they are generally easy to grow and give good yields. But in the last decade or so the number of diseases and insects that have started to plague farmers’ fields and home gardens is on the rise. Part of the reason is erratic weather extremes while another reason is increased trade with countries with similar ecosystems whose insects or diseases can easily adapt to our climate while leaving behind the environmental controls of its home country. The good news is there are organic methods to control these culprits as well as teachable moments for kids…

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What Does a New Garden Need Most?

Proper Watering!

If your flower gardens, trees or perennial vegetables are “established” (been in the ground longer then a year) you can spread out the watering regiment to 2-4 weeks depending on how hot it is.

Now that your landscape or garden design project is complete, or you have finally got all your veggies in the ground, its success or failure is now dependent on whether or not you meet your plants’ water needs. Research has shown that a plant’s growth rate is affected for years by the way they were treated after transplanting. Failure to adequately water will have short- and long-term repercussions on your landscape. This task is a good one for kids if you can guide them to follow these steps:

  • When: April – October: Mornings are best, but anytime of day is okay. November – March: No need to water.
  • How Much: 1.5″ of rainfall per week or if done manually with a hose: 5 minute per tree, 1 minute per shrub and 10 seconds per perennial.
  • How Often: 1 time per week in normal temperatures. 2 times in hot weather. The soil in the root zone should not become dried out. Do this for at least the first growing season and preferably the second. Obviously if your vegetables are annuals then this does not apply.
  • How to Apply: Using a hose, apply water over the root area, not the leaves.

Skip using a water sprinkler to water your gardens. Fifty percent of the water is lost through evaporation and the other 50% can lead to excessively high moisture levels on the foliage, resulting in water-born fungi. Sprinklers were meant for lawns, and for cooling off the kids! Two essential gadgets can help families with their watering goals:

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Oak & Acorn: Add an Edible Teepee to Your Family Garden this Summer

A Growing Garden

Engage your children this summer by gardening together! Add an edible teepee to your garden for an added dimension of summer fun!

It’s that time of the year when we bring out our gardening tools and start tending to our gardens. Gardening with children is a terrific summer activity to do together.  It’s fun, very magical, and can be an amazing learning experience. It’s also nice to just be out with your kids, watching your garden grow and change over the seasons. Ever since my daughter, Thu, was a toddler, we have grown a garden every year. When she was younger, we did things hand in hand with each other, but now she is older and takes on a lot of the responsibilities by herself. I can tell that she is very proud of herself whenever she digs a hole with a trowel or carries the heavy water pitcher to take care of all our young vegetable plants. Gardening with kids is a really good thing!

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5 Easy Composting Tips for Your Family Garden

Environmentally sound garden practices for the family garden

Most people know about composting, but as a busy parent this can feel like a lot of work.  Try these five tips on how to add organic matter to your family garden and discover an easier way to “compost.”

One of the major keys to a successful garden is the incorporation of organic matter into the soil every year. I remember taking a soil class at UMass 15 or so years back and hearing my professor say, “the answer to almost any question I ask this semester will likely be to add organic matter to the soil. If the problem is nutrition, drainage, pH, disease & insect problems, etc… the solution often can be solved with the addition of organic matter.”

Soil needs organic matter for a host of reasons, including moisture retention, aeration, microbial life, a slow release fertilizer… but maybe you’re wondering how to increase the organic matter in your soil…  Most people know about composting (see my post, The Dirt on Dirt) but as a busy parent this can be too much work for too little return. Here are five tips on how to add organic matter to your soil that my family often does, many of which you might not find in the pages of Better Homes and Garden:

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Growing Raspberries this Summer in Your Family Garden

5 Simple Steps for Pruning Raspberries

Stop by one of the many plant sales happening over the next few weekends around Western MA and pick up raspberries dug fresh out of someone’s garden to take home and grown in your own!

Picking ripe raspberries straight off of their canes and popping them into your mouth is a summer delight that kids can carry with them into adulthood as fond memories from their childhood! But perhaps no other small fruit commonly found in Western MA  gardens mystify their owners as do raspberries. And there is no shortage of information out there on how to prune these thorny canes!

As a professional and homeowner I can tell you I am often perplexed on how to prune them after reading one of the numerous tomes written on the subject. To make it easier for families to grow the berries in their home gardens for their children to enjoy, I’ve demystified their care here with 5 simple steps.  These steps assume that you have “summer bearing raspberries ” as opposed to “fall bearing raspberries.” Even if this is not the case, this system of care will work fine:

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Fresh Berries from the Garden!

Pruning Blueberry Bushes

Here you can see a blueberry bush that has not been pruned for 5 years! It has dozens of branches that are too old to produce much in the way of quality fruit. The interior is cluttered with deadwood and the canopy is filled with branches rubbing against one another.

April is a great month to get the family outdoors and getting their landscape ready for the spring. Families can rake the leaves missed in October, pick up fallen branches, cut perennials back… But the pruning of shrubs is not quite as obvious of a spring chore. While many varieties of shrubs can be pruned at this time of the year, our native blueberries will thrive with regular pruning. Pruning is one of those subjects that often can cause a state of paralysis to even the most seasoned gardener. But when it comes to blueberries, fear not. It is so simple that even your child can do it (providing you tell her that her goat can stay near by)…

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5 Late Winter Family Gardening Tips

5 Gardening Tips for Late Winter

Starting seeds in early March is an excellent way to get the whole family excited about the arrival of spring.

Spring is just around the corner and planning your garden with your kids while there’s still snow on the ground can be both fun and educational.  There’s no shortage of garden prep that you can be doing right now. Here are five things you can do to plan and prepare for your gardens this summer:

SEED CATALOGS: Gather your kids around and peruse thorough seed catalogs. Not only do some make for good reading (Fedco Seeds is my favorite), but it will give you the opportunity to learn a bit more about the culture of growing specific favorite plants.  Let your kids pick out veggies and flowers they’d like to grow in the garden and get them involved in this late winter tradition.

START SEEDS: This is a great thing to do with kids!  You have not capitulated on getting them that Golden Retriever they have been asking for, but what about giving them that…eggplant they have been asking for?! Ok, they never asked for it, but think what fun for the whole family it would be to start veggie seeds indoors while there’s still snow on the ground? This morning my 5yo daughter Priya was scooping the soil into planting cell for our garden veggies, while my 8yo son Forrest labeled all the plant tags and I sowed the seeds.  It’s a great family activity!

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Grow Food for Local Hunger Relief with Just Roots this Summer

Families Can Help Grow Food for Hunger Relief
in Greenfield this Summer

Just Roots’ Food for All Garden awaits volunteer to help plant starts donated by local farmers.

Western Massachusetts is lush with farms, making locally grown and produced foods relatively easy to find.  However, there are many local families who are not able to enjoy locally grown produce, for a variety of reasons.

Just Roots, a Greenfield organization whose mission is to provide the community with the knowledge of farming necessary for food production, is growing a “Food for All Garden.”  The purpose of the one-acre garden is to produce, through community effort, locally grown food to donate to local hunger relief organizations.

However, the veggies can’t be grown without volunteers!  Currently, the garden is waiting to be planted with starts donated by local farmers.  Throughout the summer, volunteers will be needed to help with weeding, harvesting, etc. Participating in community service with your family at the Food for All Garden can help kids and their adults learn about hunger in our community, and how access to food (especially local food) can depend on economic status.  It’s a great summer community service project!  Work sessions will take place weekly on Wednesdays from 4-7pm and Sundays from 9am-12pm through the harvest.  For more information on volunteering, visit justroots.org.

[Photo credit: (ccl) Susy Morris]

2012 Spring Plant Sales & Swaps in Western MA

2012 Spring Plant Sales & Swaps

Plant swaps and sales take place all over Western MA in the spring time. Here we’ve started a list of swap/sales happening in the region. Add your community or organization swap HERE.

Friday, May 11th, 2012

11am-5pm in Stockbridge: Berkshire Botanical Garden’s annual plant sale takes place this weekend!  There will be tons and tons of plants, many locally grown, as well as antiques, a container garden design station, and gardeners available to offer help and advice.  Find the perfect plants to plant in your garden.  413-298-3926.  5 West Stockbridge Road.  

Saturday, May 12th, 2012

8:30am-2pm in Williamsburg: Find plants to expand your garden with at a plant sale in the Williamsburg Town Center today!  There will be a wide variety of locally grown plants, including hanging baskets, miniatures for rock gardens, and more.  Visitors can get advice from master gardeners, and there will be soil testing from 9am-12noon.  Benefits the town’s elementary schools and Hampshire Regional High School.

9am-1pm in Northampton: Northampton Save Our Schools is having their 16th annual plant sale at Smith Vocational School!  Along with plants, there will be compost, garden furniture, and other treasures for sale!  80 Locust Street.  413-537-4437.

9am-12noon in Ashfield: Peruse locally grown plants at the Ashfield Congregational Church’s annual plant sale!  There will be perennials, annuals, herbs, and veggies (come early if you want perennials!).  413-625-6967.  429 Main Street.  

9am-5pm in Stockbridge: Berkshire Botanical Garden’s annual plant sale takes place this weekend!  There will be tons and tons of plants, many locally grown, as well as antiques, a container garden design station, and gardeners available to offer help and advice.  Find the perfect plants to plant in your garden.  413-298-3926.  5 West Stockbridge Road.  

10am-2pm in Plainfield: Celebrate the groundbreaking of a new community garden at the Guyette Farm!  There will be an introduction to the garden space, a groundbreaking with oxen, opportunities to learn about tool use and maintenance, guided walks around the farm, baby lambs, and a plant sale!  Come to the Hilltown Spring Festival following this event. Gloyd Street.

Saturday, May 19th, 2012

8am-1pm in Athol: The North Quabbin Garden Club will hold their annual plant sale at the Millers River Environmental Center. 100, Main St.

9am-3pm in Sunderland:  The Sunderland Library is hosting a plant, book, and bake sale today!  Acquire some new plants for your garden, some treats, and new reading material, all while helping raise money for the library.  413-665-2642.  20 School Street.

9am-12noon in Buckland: Visit Red Gate Farm today for their spring open house!  The event includes a great plant sale (gather up some things to plant in your garden), hayrides, tours of the pond, a chance to meet goats, and a flower pot painting activity for kids.  413-625-9503.  4 Norman Road.

9am-1pm in Shelburne Falls: Fill your garden this weekend with plants from the annual Bridge of Flowers plant sale!  Proceeds benefit upkeep of the bridge.  Takes place at Trinity Baptist Church.  Main Street.

9am-1pm in Holyoke: The Wistariahurst Museum’s annual Gardeners’ Plant Sale takes place today!  Bring a wagon for easy shopping – there will be plants for indoors and out, and tons of uncommon varieties!  Learn about plants and expand your garden.  413-322-5660.  238 Cabot Street.

11am-5pm in Sturbridge: Old Sturbridge Village will be selling heirloom plants and giving away heirloom tomato plants to museum visitors. 800-733-1830. 1 Old Sturbridge Village Road.

Saturday, May 19th, 2012

9am-12Noon in Leverett: The Leverett Historical Society will holding their annual plant sale at the Town Hall.  Gardening books will also be part of this sale.

9am-12noon in Deerfield:  The Tilton Library will hold a plant sale.

Spring Plant Sales & Swaps in Western MA

2011 Spring Plant Sales & Swaps

Worthington Plant Sale happens on Saturday, May 14th this year. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Plant swaps and sales take place all over Western MA in the spring time. Here we’ve started a list of swap/sales happening in the region. Add your community or organization swap in the comment box below (or click here).

Saturday, May 7th, 2011

9am-1pm – PLANT SALE: Northampton Save Our Schools is having a plant sale at Smith Vocational School!  Along with plants, there will be compost, garden furniture, and other treasures for sale!  There will also be raffle.  80 Locust Street.  413-537-4437.  Northampton, MA.  (FUNDRAISER)

9am-5pm – PLANT SALE: Select plants to buy from over 5,000 different plants at the Berkshire Botanical Garden’s annual plant sale!  Along with the plants, vendors will on site  and there will be a designer flower show too.  5 West Stockbridge Road.  413-298-3826.  Stockbridge, MA.  (FREE)

Saturday, May 14th, 2011

9am – PLANT SALE: Worthington Gardeners will host their annual plant sale at the Historical Society building. Route 143 Worthington, MA (SALE)

9am- PLANT SWAP: Bring plants to the North Amherst Community Farm for a plant swap!  There  will also be hay rides, gardening in the new children’s garden, and a livestock meet and greet!  1089 North Pleasant Street.  Amherst, MA.  (FREE)

9am-12noon – PLANT SALE: Buy plants and crafts from local vendors at the annual Bridge of Flowers Plant Sale!  Main Street.  Shelburne Falls, MA.  (FUNDRAISER)

9am-1pm – PLANT SALE: Join the Western Massachusetts Master Gardeners and the Wistariahurst Gardeners for a plant sale at the Wistariahurst Museum!  There will be plants of all types, and you can get soil tested for $1 per sample!  238 Cabot Street.  413-322-5660.  Holyoke, MA.  (SALE)

8am-1pm – PLANT SALE: In the parking lot of Big E’s Supermarket, Pascommuck Conservation Trust will have their spring plant sale. Union St. 413-204-2964 Easthampton, MA (SALE)

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

6pm – PLANT SWAP: Plant Swap and Garden Combing happening at Mother Herb’s Garden. Bring herbs and medicinals to swap.  Bring herbs to contribute to community garden plot. 14 Northern Ave. Northampton, MA (SWAP)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

9am-12Noon – PLANT SALE: Red Gate Farm will have a spring plant sale during their open house. Activities, tours and hayrides for families. Decorate a flower pot and pick up vegetable starts for your home garden. 4 Norman Road.  413-625-9503.  Buckland, MA (FREE)

Saturday, June 1st & 15th, 2011

6pm – PLANT SWAP: Wistariahurts Gardeners’ Plant Swap at the museum. Bring labeled plants to swap. Presented by Wistariahurst Museum Gardeners and Western Mass Master Gardeners. 238 Cabot St. 413-322-5660 Holyoke, MA (SWAP/SALE)

Planting Seeds: Music that Celebrates Gardening

Maria & Friends: Planting Seeds

Planting Seeds - Must Hear Music Monday Column

One of our favorite artists, Maria Sangiolo, has gotten a bunch of her friends together to create a new album all about farms and gardens.

The resulting project, Planting Seeds, is an amazing compilation of songs about the earth, gardening, and eating right.

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this CD is also going to benefit the good work of the Northeast Organic Farming Association.

This album is both beautiful and fun and not at all preachy. Maria and her friends (including Rani Arbo, Alastair Moock, and SteveSongs) teach kids all about nature and growing your own food. My favorite song on the album, Didn’t Know What I Was Missing, a duet between Alastair and Lori McKenna, really gets to the point. Until you’ve had a tomato you’ve grown yourself, you just don’t know how good a tomato can be. And I can attest to that since we planted our first vegetable garden last year!

We’ve got plans for a HUGE garden this year. We’re planting tomatoes, green beans, lettuce, radishes, spinach, zucchini… and what ever else we can fit! This could be a great project for your family, too. Listen to the songs on the album and begin planning your garden now. By the time you’re ready to get your hands dirty in May you’ll know all the songs by heart!

Here’s to a prolific garden Dancin’ in the Breeze!


Amber BobnarAmber Bobnar

Amber lives with her husband and son in Watertown, MA. Originally hailing from Hawaii, Amber and her family moved to Watertown to be closer to the Perkins School for the Blind where her son attends preschool. She has a Master’s degree in English from Tufts University and spends most of her “free time” writing about being a parent of a disabled child on WonderBaby.org or about the family’s musical adventures around Boston on BostonChildrensMusic.com. But really most of her time is spent caring for and playing with her little boy. info@bostonchildrensmusic.com. (Originally posted at Boston Children’s Music.)

Hilltown Home Garden Exchange Wagon Reopens at the Old Creamery in Cummington

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Make 2010 a HHuGE Success for Food Security in the Hilltowns!
By HHuGE Coordinator, Kathy McMahon

The Hilltown Home Garden Exchange (HHuGE) ‘wagon’ is open once again! Thanks to Steve Yoshen (built the wagon), Leni Fried (artistic fruit and veggies) and the Goodtime Stove Company (wagon wheel provided), our ‘wagon’ is all ready to open up once again! Thanks to the Old Creamery for hosting it again this year! We’re hoping an early start will encourage folks to drop off extra seedlings and cuttings to produce even MORE food for our area!

Want to volunteer or coordinate volunteers for your church or organization? It is easy to open and close the wagon, and takes only a few minutes each day! If you will be driving by the Old Creamery in Cummington, MA (or on Route 9 and 112), why not agree to open or close it for a few days or a week? You get to see what great stuff has been dropped off!

Chesterfield Fourth of July Parade Beckons us once again!.Will you join us (in costume or not)? Handing out veggies and flyers announcing HHuGE is loads of fun!.Just ask the carrot, apple, farmers and other veggies that danced last year!

That’s all for now. Thanks for your interest in Hilltown Food Security!

Do you grow fruit or veggies at home? HHuGE will bring together
 Hilltown residents who want to share, learn, and encourage growing food at home and want to distribute their excess bounty throughout the Hilltowns via their HHuGE Garden Wagon. Find out more about the Hilltown Home Garden Exchange at www.HHuGE.org, or contact Kathy McMahon at 634-0002, peakshrink@peakoilblues.com
(Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

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