ShadyGardens Blog

April 19, 2014

Easter Egg Dyes Made from Garden Vegetables and Kitchen Spices

Filed under: beets, cabbage, color, dye, Easter, eggs, homemade, natural, onion, skins, spices, vegetables — shadygardens @ 12:34 pm
Easter has always been an important day for my family. The true meaning of Easter is of course to remember the resurrection of our Lord. Many families miss church on Easter Sunday to get ready for that big family Easter egg hunt, but we never did. 

Many fond memories are in my heart as Easter approaches. I think of my dear late Mother even more on Easter, because she enjoyed it so much. Mama always made sure we had new Easter clothes to wear to church on Easter Sunday, even if she did not. She taught us the true meaning of Easter. And although the “Easter Bunny” did visit us each year leaving us lots of goodies in our Easter Basket, he left me my very first big Bible, reminding me that Jesus, not the Easter Bunny, is what Easter is all about. In our Easter basket every time, along with the candy, was a couple of dyed Easter eggs. 

When I got older, Mama let me help her color the Easter eggs. And when my children were old enough, she taught them. We’ve always used the store bought egg dying tablets or food coloring. But a few years ago I ran across the idea of using vegetables and spices from the kitchen instead. 

Now I adore anything homemade! Coloring eggs with vegetable scraps is fascinating to me. But when you think about it, it really makes sense. Take beets, for instance. They stain anything they come in contact with, from cutting boards to kitchen counters to fingers. But there are other vegetables that will work and some spices have concentrated color that makes a wonderful dye. 

The original color of the egg will alter the effect, in that darker eggs will yield a deeper or even a different color. Since our eggs now are several different colors because we have different breeds of chickens, I can’t wait to see what we end up with after they are dyed.
Here’s a list of foods and spices along with the color egg they will give you:
  • Beets make white eggs pink or brown eggs maroon
  • Red or Purple Onion Skins make lavender or red eggs
  • Yellow Onion Skins make white eggs orange or brown eggs rusty red
  • Purple Cabbage makes white eggs blue but brown eggs green
  • Spinach makes eggs green
  • Cumin makes eggs yellow
  • Turmeric makes yellow eggs
  • Paprika makes orange eggs
To make the dye, shred the vegetables and add 4 cups of the shredded vegetables to 1 quart of water. Bring to a boil and then lower the temperature, cover, and simmer 20 to 30 minutes, until a deep color is achieved. Remove from the heat and allow to cool before straining the liquid. 



With spices, add 2 tablespoons of the spice to 1 quart of water. It is not necessary to boil the spice and water mixture–simply heat through and allow to steep. Colored teas will also work. Just steep as you normally would for drinking. 

To help the eggs soak up the color, stir in 2 tablespoons of vinegar to the dye before using. 



(Once, I got the bright idea to save myself a step and I boiled the eggs in with the vegetables. That didn’t work for 2 reasons: the white of the egg was dyed too but also the eggs were too hard, so don’t do that.)

A single dipping will not color your eggs much with this dye. The eggs will need to soak for awhile. I lay my eggs in a single layer in a glass casserole dish and pour the colored liquid over the eggs making sure they are submerged in the homemade dye. Refrigerate. Allow the eggs to stay in the liquid as long as it takes to achieve the color you want. Taking a few out at different stages will give you different shades of the same color.

After the eggs are dyed, drain and dry them well with a paper towel and rub them with a little vegetable oil so they will really shine.

June 20, 2013

Pests in the Garden: How to fight them without Pesticides

Filed under: aphid, beetle, bug, caterpillar, control, garden, insect, Japanese, natural, pests, soap, worm — shadygardens @ 12:57 pm

While our gardens are full of bad insects that bite us and eat our plants, many of the bugs in our garden are not only helpful and beneficial but responsible for much of the food we eat. Many of our valuable pollinators are on the decline due to habitat loss and overuse of pesticides by both commercial farmers and home gardeners. Since pesticides cannot tell the difference between a good bug and a bad one, it is best to not use them at all. 


Yet, insects like aphids, Japanese beetles, and squash bugs can destroy a plant quickly. And fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes? In addition to those itchy bites, they carry diseases which can be fatal. What can we do? It depends on the insect really.


Here in our garden, we use a variety of different methods for insect control. We have chickens, ducks, and guineas that roam free-range throughout the day eating every bug they see. Since introducing chickens to our garden, we have seen a significant decrease in Japanese Beetle damage. Guineas love to eat ticks, I am told. And ducks just eat every bug within reach. Since I have read that geese eat snails, I am entertaining the thought of getting a goose for my garden. (Don’t tell my husband.)




Aphids will usually be taken care of by Ladybugs, if you haven’t killed them all with pesticides. If you don’t have a good Ladybug population, you can order them online from Gardens Alive. Be sure to follow their instructions when you release them. Its really the Ladybug larva that devours the most aphids.






If you can’t wait for the Ladybugs to do their job, use the safest insecticide you can, insecticidal soap. You can purchase it ready made or make your own (1 or 2 Tablespoons of pure liquid soap like Castile, not detergent, to 1 quart of water.) Spray on the undersides of leaves and only where you see aphids.



For Japanese Beetles, mix up a cup of soapy water and add a little vegetable oil. Take it outside and as you see a Japanese Beetle, knock it into the soapy water. The oil will prevent its being able to climb out. This is a good job for your little boy, if you have one.

For many plant pests like squash bugs and tomato hornworms, the best method of control is to simply pick them off by hand. Since I don’t like to touch bugs and caterpillars, I use my pruners to knock them off. You can then mash them, or if you have chickens, knock the bug on the ground for them to fight over. It’s been years since I’ve seen a grasshopper in the garden here. Our chickens used to fight over them. It was fun to watch.
For ticks and fleas, here is an excellent recipe for homemade repellent.



December 4, 2009

Christmas Tree for Birds

Filed under: Berries, birds, Christmas, natural, nuts, ornaments, peanut butter, peanuts, pinecones, seeds, tree — shadygardens @ 3:40 pm
Our Christmas Tree usually goes up the weekend right after Thanksgiving. This year we’re still involved in a major home remodel, so we won’t be putting up the tree for another week or so.
Decorating for Christmas is a wonderful way to spend time together as a family. Plus, we try to involve the children in providing for our wildlife friends outdoors.
Decorating an outdoor tree for the birds is a great way to spend an afternoon. When you put your imagination to work, you can come up with all kinds of decorations made from things birds can eat. Materials can be berries, nuts, seeds, and breads along with natural items found outside like pinecones and sweet gum balls.
Fresh cranberries can be strung on cotton twine to be hung throughout the tree.
Using regular loaf bread, we used cookie cutters to to cut out shapes and a straw to poke a whole to string twine through for hanging. We then toasted the bread slightly to make it stiff before spreading with chunky peanut butter. A sprinkling of seeds makes the ‘cookie’ appealing to the birds. We looped cotton twine through the hole in the top and hung these from the tree.
Additional decorations were made using pinecones. We applied peanut butter to the pinecones before rolling them in birdseed.
A walk through the garden gave us more ideas. Nandina berry clusters made beautiful ornaments. Creampuff our newest little hen likes those.
Popcorn looks beautiful on the tree, but I’m surprised to find the birds are not eating that. The peanut butter toast was gone the next day, so we had to make more!

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