Garden Chick - Notes from the Garden

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Elderberry 2013 Herb of the Year

Many of you recognize elder as a common shrub that grows around ditches and wet areas but may not know  the elder had a sacred past in England.  The tree was thought to house the "Elder Mother", and  permission had to be requested to use any of her parts.  And generous she was.  Flowers, roots, leaves, bark, and berries have been used in a variety ways for medicinal purposes.  If vampires are a threat you can bury an elder branch under a corpse or hang a twig over your doorway to fend off witches!   

Today elderberries are often used in jams jellies and pies.  

Elderberry Jelly
2 quarts elderberries washed and stems removed
2 cups water
1 box pectin
5 cups sugar

Bring berries and water to a boil in a large non reactive saucepan. Simmer  until berries are soft.  Strain through a jelly bag or cheesecloth.  Do not squeeze for a clear jelly.  You should have 31/2 cups of juice, if not , pour a little water through the crushed berries.  Return 3 cups of elderberry juice to the pan and add the pectin to the juice.  Bring to a boil.  Stir in the sugar and bring to a full rolling boil. Boil for one minute.  Remove from heat.  Skim and pour into hot sterilized jars.  Seal with hot paraffin immediately.

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Elderberry info and recipe from China Bayles Book of Days by Susan Wittig Albert

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Monday, January 14, 2013

Starting zinnia seeds

On my way to work at 6 a.m. this morning, I thought spring had come early. A balmy 59 degrees! But that came with a price.....drizzling rain. I will take it. I hate cold weather.  I grabbed the new Country Living Magazine, thinking I might get a minute to read the article on starting seeds. I have never had any luck bringing those little seedlings to fruition, and was hoping that this lucky 2013 year would be my year.

I think I will start with something easy like zinnias. Their bright colors and ability to thrive in the hot south, makes them a good choice to brighten up the split rail fence in my yard. There's a tall variety that grows over three feet tall that would be perfect.

About 6 weeks before the last expected frost date ( which would be around April 21st in north Georgia ) I can start my seeds.  Individual little peat pots may little more expensive, but they can be planted directly into the ground.
Place two seeds in each pot of soil and cover lightly.
Water enough to be wet, but not soggy. Cover with plastic wrap to keep moist. Place in a warm location with a temperature around 70 to 75 degrees.  I believe this is where I often have trouble with germination.  My house is never that warm, because I keep the thermostat down.  This year I believe I will purchase a grow mat to place under them.  After a week to 10 days the seeds should germinate. Remove the plastic wrap and keep the seeds moist, but again not soggy.  Once the plants develop two true leaves, remove one of the plants if two have germinated.  Cut one of the plants down with scissors instead of pulling it, to prevent damaging the tender roots of the other plant. About two weeks after the last frost, plant your zinnias outdoors in a sunny spot.  Keep watered until well established.  It won't be long until you will have these pretty flowers to enjoy.

Hurry Spring!

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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy Gardening New Year

Happy New Year to all my Gardening Friends

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