Notes from the Field

How does your garden grow: what local soil temps mean for spring germination

We recently posted a link to a Blog by Cliff Mass: Why aren’t my seeds growing?
In his blog he shares some interesting information about the soil temperatures needed for seed to germinate. He also references the WSU AgWeatherNet ( which includes 177 automated weather stations throughout the state. Here in Jefferson County we currently have one station located near the Chimacum School . This station has both 2” and 8” soil temperatures collected at a 15 minute interval. It’s worth taking a look because there is a wealth of information for those of you who might like looking at weather data.
Just like air temperatures, soil temperatures show a daily pattern usually lagging behind air temperatures and showing less amplitude. In Chart 1 you can see that the soil temperature is affected by the daily air temperature swings but to a much lesser degree. Chart 2 shows the hourly soil temperatures for the past 30 days with a trend line showing that the soils are slowly warming up as we head into the spring season.

PLANT OF THE WEEK: blue elderberry


This lovely shrub grows throughout Washington from sea level to 5,000 ft. It grows well in wet or dry sites, but does best in full sun.

The bright white mid-summer flowers grow in flat-topped clusters.

Its dark blue berries, with a delicate white bloom, are edible and tasty – unlike red elderberry. They can be used in jams, syrups, pies, and wine and are highly prized for their immune-boosting properties during the cold and flu season.


Elderberry Syrup 

adapted from

One cup of fresh or ½ cup of dried BLUE elderberries

1 to 2 tsp of whole cloves (use less if you are using ground cloves)

1 inch of fresh ginger root, chopped

1 cinnamon stick

3/4 cup of raw unprocessed honey which acts as a preservative and enhances flavor

3 cups of water


 Simmer the elderberries and spices in 3 cups of water.  Once the berries have softened smash up the berries and spices in the water- a potato masher works well.    

Cook at a low boil for about a ½ hour or until the liquid reduces by one-half.  Strain the mixture with a fine mesh strainer.  Make sure to get all the seeds out, which can be somewhat irritating to the digestive tract.

 Return the liquid to the pot and add the honey.  Heat until the honey just melts.  Then bottle, label (include the date!) and refrigerate your new syrup.  It will keep in the refrigerator for about three months. 

Take 2 to 3 teaspoons for adults and 1 teaspoon for children (ages 2 and up) 3 to 5 times a week as an immune-booster during cold and flu season.

You can also add it  to sparkling water for a natural soda.

Only the blue elderberries (Sambucus nigra) should be used as the red ones are toxic.  Elderberries are generally considered to be quite safe though they can be drying and irritating for folks suffering from migraines.  If you have a reaction, stop taking it immediately.


PLANT OF THE WEEK: trailing blackberry


trailing blackberry Carr

Trailing blackberries (Rubus ursinus) are one of the most delicious native berries in the Pacific Northwest. They are kind of like nature’s sweet tarts. You have to work to get them; they are so tiny that you can pick for well over an hour and end up with only 2-3 cups.

Why not start your own patch so you don’t have to compete with the rest of the community for these juicy summer treats!

This plant thrives in dry, open areas –recently disturbed, not problem!



What should you do with a bounty of these berries?

Devil’s Shoelace Custard Pie
adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook

1 pie crust (prebaked for 8 minutes at 450 degrees)
1 1/2 c. trailing blackberries
4 eggs
1/2 c. sugar
1/8 tsp salt
2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups of cream or whole milk

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Lightly beat eggs with a fork. Then, stir in sugar, vanilla, and salt.
3. Gradually, stir in milk until mixture is thoroughly combined.
4. Spread berries in prebaked crust and set pie pan on the oven rack–this will minimize spillover.
5. Pour filling into pastry shell over berries. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean.
6. Cool for 1 hour or chill in fridge.
7. Yum.