Garden Chick - Notes from the Garden

Monday, February 27, 2012

Foxglove, Foxes, and Fairies


There is a legend that bad fairies gave the blossom of foxgloves to the fox that he might put them on his toes to soften his tread when he prowled among the roosts.
Mrs. M. Grieve, A Modern Herbal

Last year I bought two foxglove plants (digitalis purpurea) from the local high school's plant sale. I had previously hesitated planting a foxglove in my garden, since they are poisonous and I have animals and two granddaughters. The minute a plant blooms, they want to pick it and bring it into the house. (The granddaughters, not the cats!)  I knew they would not be able to resist these beautiful plants. But I bought them, and they went into my herb garden.  They survived last year's scorching heat, and I found them peeking out from under their mulch this morning.

Foxglove shouldn't get such a bad rap. It was one of the first medicinal herbs used widely in traditional medicine, and is still used today.  As a cardiac nurse, I am well aware of digoxin which plays an important role in the treatment of congestive heart failure.

Don't be afraid to add these pretty flowers to your garden. Be aware of any flower or herb you plant which may be poisonous,and if needed plant them out of the reach of children and animals.  And especially if you have chickens, be on the watch for those mean fairies and crafty foxes.


Foxglove photo courtesy of  

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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Top 5 Reasons for Choosing Heirloom Seeds

I won packets of Heirloom Seeds from the Grow it Forward Heirloom Seed Contest .  Woo Hoo! The contest was sponsored by BakerCreek Heirloom seeds, and Your Garden to promote perserving our heirloom plants.

There are many great reasons to choose heirloom seeds, but here are MY top 5.
  • Heirlooms are antiques. They have been around for hundreds of years.
  • Heirlooms are open pollinated. This means you can save the seeds from your heirloom plants, replant them again the next year, or give away to your friends to plant. 
  • Heirlooms have great names like mortgage lifter tomato, french breakfast radish, and big momma lima bean.
  • There are thousands of varieties available.
  • Heirlooms are much tastier.
Backyard gardeners and organic farmers have a wonderful opportunity to keep these seeds alive or they will disappear altogether.  This gardening year, be sure you include heirloom seeds in your garden, and "Grow It Forward" for generations to come.

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Friday, February 24, 2012

Sprouting Seeds Don't throw those old seeds away!

click on picture for directions on checking germination of seeds

About ten days ago, I placed some old seeds on moist paper towels to see which ones would sprout.  Out of all the seeds, the Four O'clocks, Shasta Daisy, and Wildflowers all sprouted. All were about 2 years old. The older seeds were as old as five years and none of the moonflower or evening primose would sprout.  If you find some old seeds and and don't want to throw them out if they are good, try testing the seeds for germination.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Calling all Chicken Lovers

Timber Press Books is having a giveaway for anyone with chickens or waiting to get started with a small flock.

Wina complete chicken garden start-up kit, including:
 The contest ends February 17!    Go to  

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentines Day

Love is the only flower that grows  and blossoms without the aid of the seasons.

Kahlil Gibran

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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Does Grape Jelly Come from Grapes?

My granddaughters and I were in the grocery store today, and I had to pick up some grape jelly for our morning biscuits. As I picked out a jar, I turned to Kendall ( my youngest at age 6), and said, " You know, we need to make grape jelly this summer from all of those grapes we get."  That's when she asked the question about grapes and grape jelly.  I thought my granddaughters were pretty savy on the whole gardening thing since they have been out with me since they could walk, but I see I still have a little work to do.

Since the weather was nice when we got home, we went out to the garden to look at the two vines I have. My husband pruned them in December and I wasn't very happy. In the South, January or February is the best time for pruning grapes but we will wait and see how it worked out.  Fertilization isn't necessary after the first couple of years, because it stimulates leaf and wood growth instead of fruit production.  Japanese beetles are a terrible problem with ours, since grapes are one of their favorite foods. I just hand pick them from the leaves and kill them.  Grapes also need a trellis. My husband made ours from rubber coated wire stretched between posts. While the plants are still dormant I need to get out and weed, then place straw over the area to keep weeds down.

Better start looking for those grape jelly recipes for Kendall.


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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Test of Time: Are these seeds any good?

The weather has been so warm this last week, my thoughts have naturally turned to gardening. February in the south is a battleground for opposing weather fronts. Last year was ice and snow, this year, warm weather, rain, and the threat of tornados.   On any given day in February, you may be tempted to uncover those bundled up peonies, but you know this brief reprieve will be followed by colder days. The high for today is 58, but by the end of the week, the nights will be below freezing.  So what is a gardener, anxious to play in the dirt,  to do?  Well, clean of course. I found seeds downstairs in my office that were anywhere from 2-5 years old. 

I found vegetable, flower, and herb seeds.  I discarded the lettuce and cilantro, since many vegetable seeds may have a short shelf life.  The only way to see if your seeds may still be viable, is to do a seed test.

1. On a damp paper towel which has been folded in half, place about ten seeds. fold in half again, and then again into a square. 

2. Place in a plastic bag.  If less than than half of the seeds sprout in a week at room temperature, you should consider them unusable.

Four O'clocks, Shasta Daisy, Wildflower mix, Moonflower (the oldest at 5 years old), and Evening Primrose.

I will see you back next week to see if any of my seeds can be used.


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Monday, February 6, 2012

Is it Spring Yet?

 It's easy to be fooled into spring when the weather has been this great for the last couple of weeks. Daffodils are blooming, my Carolina Jasmine has taken on new growth, and my Stella D Oro lilies are peeping their leaves out from the cold earth. But, the mulch needs to stay on, and we can't be fooled. Freezing temps are headed our way late this week in the night time hours.

Stella d Oro lilies reaching for the sun.

My Carolina Jasmine has survived it'second
year, despite my husbands weed eater.

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Thursday, February 2, 2012

What Shadow?

I watched the news this morning and saw where the Ground hog had seen his shadow, and we were in for 6 more weeks of winter. Who would have known it here it Chickamauga, Ga.  After I picked my granddaughters up from school, we headed to the walking track around the local school. The temperature?  66 degrees.  Tomorrow's forecast is in the 60's with rain coming our way later in the day, along with rain on Saturday. But again, on Sunday we expect warm weather.

This groundhog saw her shadow and mine taking here picture!

We may be in for 6 more weeks of winter, but I am going to enjoy this warm weather while I can.


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MaryJanes FarmGirl Sisterhood

I met MaryJane Butters at Where Women Create two years ago. I had been reading her magazine for several years and admire her not only for her passion for living the organic lifestyle, but that her magazine always highlighted other women.  I had also read about her FarmGirl Sisterhood and decided to join.

A few months later I finally downloaded the catalog of Farmgirl "merit patches" (*Girlscouts for big girls), and was surprised to see there is also a catalog for boys and girls 6-13. What a great way to teach my granddaughters about the environment, sewing , cooking, and a variety of other skills. They too can earn their own merit badges.

Now, what to do first?

I decided on the "green living" and one assignment was to make my own laundry soap and share the recipe. So here you go!

1/3 bar Fels Naptha Soap
1/2 cup washing soda
1/2 cup borax powder
2 gallon bucket

Grate soap and put in sauce pan. Add 6 cups water and heat until melted. Add washing soda and borax, stir until dissolved. Remove from heat. Pour 4 cups hot watet into bucket, add soap mixture and stir. Add another gallon plus six cups of water. Let sit 24 hours to gel. Use 1/2 cup per load.

I used the whole bar and doubled the rest, including water, and made 5 gallons. The extra bar soap helped it gel more. You can also add 1/2 ounce to 1 ounce of essential oil per 2 gallons of detergent to fragrance.

The above photo is taken from the FarmGirlSisterhood website.

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