Grow Your Own! It’s Easier Than You Think.

Looking for easy ways to get your daily 2-3 cups of nutrient-packed veggies?  You might find the answer in a bucket.

“Most any vegetable can be grown in a simple container,” says Jessica Beesley of Estabrook’s garden center in Yarmouth, Maine. And it’s surprisingly simple to get growing.


Four steps to home-grown

1. Find containers with proper capacity. Lots of people use simple plastic buckets with a hole or two drilled in the bottom to allow for drainage. Size is important. Big growers – like tomatoes and zucchini – need five gallon-containers, one plant per bucket. Small-scale plants like lettuce, herbs, and radishes, do fine in one-gallon containers or window boxes.

2. Use the right soil. Dirt from your yard won’t support vegetables properly. Choose a good quality potting soil and plan to fertilize regularly.

3. Provide water and sun. Most vegetables need at least 6 hours of full sun per day; 8 is ideal. Container plants need more water than those planted in the ground. Depending on sun and wind, you may need to water two or three times a day. “The trick is keep the moisture even,” advises Beesley. Don’t oversaturate or let soil completely dry out.

4. Don’t forget to consider drainage. Mark Sundermann, a Master Gardener with Maine Cooperative Extension’s Master Gardener Volunteer program, and Website Content Specialist at Martin’s Point, suggests, “To improve drainage in a bucket, line the bottom fifth of the bucket with stones, or gravel, making sure not to block drainage holes.”


Bucket list

As for picking your plants, at this point in the season and to keep it simple, choose seedlings, not seeds. Look for these container-happy varieties at your local garden center or ask staff for their recommendations:

  • Tomatoes: Husky Red, Patio, Sprite

Sundermann adds,  “When you grow tomatoes in a bucket avoid “indeterminate” varieties that will grow to 6-12 feet high and require staking or caging, try to use “determinate” varieties that are bush like and compact.”

  • Lettuces: Salad Bowl, Tom Thumb
  • Zucchini: Eight ball, Raven


Fun Tip:

Have fun with combining plants in one container. A container with one tomato plant, a basil plant or two, and a nasturtium or two to flow over the edge will give you all the ingredients for a plate of sliced tomatoes, except the mozzarella.

And be sure to consider what is perhaps Beesley’s best advice:

“Choose vegetables you like to eat, and you’re much more likely to put your crop to good use.”

Five Ways to Fight Winter Blues

In June, Mainers savor over 15 hours of daylight. In December, we get only nine. Add frigid temperatures to short days, and no wonder many of us feel down and out in winter. The most extreme form of the winter blues – Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD – only troubles 1%-2% of Americans. But as many as 20% feel down, unmotivated, grumpy and tired this time of year, compared to spring and summer.

Thankfully, the outlook isn’t all bleak. In spite of our northern location, you can take action that will help you feel sunnier all winter long.

Keeping it Light in the Season of Darkness


Keep moving. Get outside daily, regardless of weather. Physical activity taps feel-good chemicals in the brain like serotonin and endorphins. “In fact, research shows exercise is as effective as an antidepressant for easing depression,” says Kathryn Hamann, a Nurse Practitioner at Martin’s Point in Portland.

You’ll get the most impact by getting 30- to 60-minutes of rhythmic activity on most days. “Add the fun of adventure by snowshoeing or cross-country skiing in your own backyard or on local trails, or ice skating on local lakes, ponds or rinks,” says Hamann.  Sledding, pond hockey and ice fishing are more great ways to get outdoors and move during winter.

With the right clothing and footwear, outdoor exercise in winter is totally doable. Squeeze it in during daylight hours, and you’ll get an additional mood-boost from exposure to natural light, too.


Be mindful. As with exercise, there’s a lot to choose from. Yoga, meditation (on your own or guided), progressive muscle relaxation, mindful walking and tai chi are all effective techniques to calm the mind and replace negative emotion with uplifting ones. Even 10 minutes a day can help.


Connect with others. Isolation is the last thing you need when you’re feeling down – even if you don’t feel like putting on a bright face. Gather a friend or two for coffee or a walk. Join a book club. Volunteer once a week at your local school or library. Pick up the phone and catch up with a relative. “Support from people we care about and community engagement create a sense of purpose that keeps you going,” explains Hamann

Practice sound sleep habits. Stay rested. Rise and go to bed at the same times each day. Avoid caffeine and vigorous exercise late in the day. Have a bedtime ritual to signal your body that it’s time to wind down.


Pay attention to what you eat. You know the drill – more vegetables and fruits, fewer processed foods and fewer “bad” fats. It’s good for your physical health and it keeps your mood balanced. “Your body may crave pasta, doughnuts and French rolls, but try to opt for whole-grains like oatmeal and brown rice instead,” says Hamann. Boost your omega-3 fat intake by adding flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts and fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines. Add vitamins D and B12 and fish oil to supplement your diet.

Consider indoor light therapy. If the strategies above don’t help, your provider might suggest light therapy. This artificial exposure to intense light using a device called a light box is thought to kick off chemical shifts in the brain that calm symptoms of SAD.

If you can’t get out of your winter rut, your health care team can also suggest other avenues, such counseling at Spurwink in Portland, and medication, which you may only need during winter months. Let your providers know how you’re feeling, and together, we’ll find an approach to make winter bearable – and maybe even fun.

The Flu and You: 7 Habits to Stay Healthy

This year Maine, like many other states, has been hit especially hard with flu cases. According to a recent Portland Press Herald article, 531 new cases of influenza were reported the week of January 15th, 2018 and many were of a more severe type.

Here are some simple habits you can practice to stay healthy during flu season.

1. Avoid close contact.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.

2. Stay home when you are sick.
If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.

3. Cover your mouth and nose.
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.

4. Clean your hands.
Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.

5. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.

6. Practice other good health habits.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.

7. Get a Flu Shot (It’s not too late).
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses.

“I strongly advise getting the flu shot this year.  The flu vaccine is not perfect,  but it will make  you less likely to get the flu, and  if you do get it, you will likely get a milder case. The flu is all around us, but it is not too late to get vaccinated. A flu shot now may also  make you less likely to get the flu next year too”, adds Dr. Patrick Connolly, MD from Martin’s Point’s Health Care Center in Portland.

Martin’s Point Health Care patients can call and schedule an appointment for a flu shot at a local Martin’s Point Health Care Center. Generations Advantage members can learn more about your flu shot benefit by clicking here.

“The single greatest advance in medicine in the last 50 years are immunizations. Diseases such as measles, small pox and pox, which used to have devastating effects and killed or crippled  millions of people, have been effectively eradicated thanks to vaccines. Protect yourself,  protect your loved ones, protect your neighbors. Get  vaccinated today!” –  Dr. Patrick Connolly, MD

Visit the CDC website for more information on the Flu and You.


Five Common Scams Directed at Seniors

“We often hear from members that they’ve received suspicious phone calls or emails,” says Marcia Griffin, Director of Member Engagement at Martin’s Point. “Thankfully, it’s easy for seniors to protect themselves against such scams with awareness and knowledge. For starters, know that a Martin’s Point representative will never ask for your Social Security number over the phone.”

1. Medical identity theft.
If a thief captures your health insurance or Medicare numbers, you could end up having to pay for prescription drugs, medical tests and procedures you didn’t have.

• Do not give your Medicare, health insurance or Social Security numbers to people you do not know and trust.
• Avoid “free health checks” from sources you do not know, especially if they ask for your cards.
• Check your health insurance statements to make sure all the charges are for treatment and/or services you’re aware of.

2. Conning a grieving spouse.
Thieves know we’re especially vulnerable when we’ve just lost a life partner. They scan obituaries looking for victims to trick.

• Ask a relative you trust to help with your finances while you’re emotionally stressed.
• Be wary of phone calls and emails from people you don’t know during this time.


3. The grandparent scam.
After discovering you have grandkids on Facebook, scammers manipulate software to make it look like you’re getting a call from a police department and demand bail for the release of your grandson or daughter. Thieves might even pretend to be your grandchild, using personal information found on social media to trick you into believing them.

• Be suspicious of anyone who calls asking for cash related to your grandchildren.
• Tell the caller you need to talk with another family member, hang up, and consult with another relative.
• Report your suspicions to the police.

4. The freebie lure.
Con artists sometimes ask seniors to share their name, date of birth, doctor’s name and address, and health plan name in exchange for something free, like a medical alert device or an anti-aging product.

• Know that no organization that’s above-board would ask for this information online.
• Hang up on automatic and unsolicited calls, especially if you never contacted the company calling you.
• Do not pay for an item you did not order, even if the caller threatens to take legal action against you.

5. Counterfeit prescription medications.
These scammers use the Internet to lure seniors looking for low prices on medications. Not only could you waste your money, you might end up taking a substance that doesn’t help your condition, and may cause still more harm.

Prevention: Avoid websites that:
• Have prices much lower than most vendors
• Suggest a different drug for your condition
• Don’t have a phone number for consumers to call them.
• Sell prescription drugs without prescriptions.
• Don’t have a pharmacy on staff you can talk with.
• Are not located in the United States, and licensed by their state board.


Five Ways to Protect Yourself

1. Know you’re a target.
The sad truth is, scammers focus on seniors, whether they have a lot of income or not. If you know their games, it’s a lot easier to protect yourself.

2. Do not share your credit card, banking, Social Security, Medicare or other personal information with anyone you did not call yourself, or with unexpected visitors you don’t know.

3. Ask solicitors for printed information before you buy or donate.
If you get an unexpected call or visit asking you to make a purchase or give money to a charity, be suspicious.

• Ask the representative to send you information in writing.
• Get his/her name, contact information, and business license number.
• Don’t let solicitors pressure you or make you feel rushed.
• Make sure your phone number is on the Do Not Call list to keep telemarketers from calling you. To register, visit this website or call 1-888-382-1222 (TTY: 1-866-290-4236), using the phone you want to register.

4. Shred receipts that include your credit card number.
Safeguard yourself against identity theft by purchasing a paper shredder and using it regularly.

5. Safeguard your mail.
• To prevent theft of checks from your mailbox, set up direct deposit for benefit payments.
• Don’t leave outgoing or incoming mail sitting in your mailbox.

Where to learn more:
U.S. Food & Drug Administration: Learn more about health fraud
AARP: Reporting fraud
AARP: Identifying fraud