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Companion Planting: Dandelions

Plants that assist each other to grow well, repel insects or even other plants when grown next to each other is called companion planting and can be a sustainable and eco-friendly way to improve and protect your garden against unwanted pests and disease.
Chromatography has been used to explain why some plants like or dislike being planted with other plants. It is possible to make a specific chromatographic test to find out why, or if at all, a plant is helping or hindering its neighbors. Chromatography has also been used to prove that plants do significantly better with compost than without.

bee on dandelionThis “weed” is not the spurge of lawn owners like most of us think. Dandelions do not actually compete with grasses because their roots go much deeper than any grass, and because of this, their roots bring up nutrients from the deeper soils that grasses can benefit from. Also, the dandelion is the honeybee’s favorite flower.

However, dandelions do excrete an ethylene gas that stunts the growth of neighboring plants, but this very gas also causes nearby flowers and fruits to mature early. So, keep dandelions away from plants you don’t want stunted and keep them around other flowers and fruits.

See our main gardening page, Garden Circkles, for much more information than what is posted on this blog, including full articles on greenhouse growing, sustainable and organic tips, beneficial bugs, the latest techniques such as aquaponics and vertical growing and much more.

Companion Planting: Chives

chivesPlants that assist each other to grow well, repel insects or even other plants when grown next to each other is called companion planting and can be a sustainable and eco-friendly way to improve and protect your garden against unwanted pests and disease.

Chromatography has been used to explain why some plants like or dislike being planted with other plants. It is possible to make a specific chromatographic test to find out why, or if at all, a plant is helping or hindering its neighbors. Chromatography has also been used to prove that plants do significantly better with compost than without.

Chives are good companion plants for carrots and will improve their growth and flavor. Chives are also beneficial if planted around the base of fruit trees in an orchard to deter mice and to prevent apple scab.
Make a tea of chives to spray on cucumbers, apples and gooseberry against powdery mildew.

Preventing Ants from Taking Their Aphid Harvests into Your Orchard Trees.

ants_aphidsAnts will protect and actually harvest aphids to serve their food supply. The ants eat the sticky, white, sweet substance secreted by the aphids and so the aphids are literally harvested by the ants and protected for the food they offer. Ants will collect aphids and put them under leaves for future food storage use.

One gardener I recently talked to found a clever way to prevent ants from taking their aphid harvest up into his cherry trees. He put a non-drying adhesive or sealing compoundaround the base of the trunks of his trees. The ants would get stuck in the compound and not go any further, however, ladybugs, who feed on aphids were not disturbed by the sticky barrier. The ants would drop their aphid cargo at the base of the trees and the ladybugs would eat them up.

Companion Planting: Chamomile and Identifying Two Types.

Plants that assist each other to grow well, repel insects or even other plants when grown next to each other is called companion planting and can be a sustainable and eco-friendly way to improve and protect your garden against unwanted pests and disease.

chamomile german vs romanChamomile:

There are two types of chamomile: German or wild chamomile can be distinguished from the Roman chamomile by the hollow bottom of its blossom. An excellent companion plant to cabbages and onions, chamomile with improve the growth of both.

Wheat grown with small amounts of chamomile will grow heavier and fuller ears.

Chamomile flowers can be used in a dog’s bed against fleas. Put the flowers in the stuffing of the bed. The blossoms soaked in water can be used as a spray to treat plant diseases like damping off in greenhouses and cold frames.

Photo: German chamomile is on the left, Roman on the right. German also has a more upright stem with many flowers on a multi-branched stem. Roman has a vining habit with only one flower at the end of a stem.

See our main gardening page, Garden Circkles, for much more information than what is posted on this blog, including full articles on greenhouse growing, sustainable and organic tips, beneficial bugs, the latest techniques such as aquaponics and vertical growing and much more.

Beneficial Insects: Tiger Beetle.

tiger_beetleOrder: Coleoptera. Family: Cicindelidae

Average Size: 1/2 to 3/4 inch.

Varying in color from metallic blue to a bronze color, green or purple, tiger beetles can run pretty fast with their long legs. Their prey of choice is ants, smaller beetles, grasshoppers and aphids. Because they run so quickly, you will probably not be able to spot one in the garden or elsewhere.

Tiger beetles are attracted to lights and warmth. They will sun themselves along roads, the edges of well-warn pathways and bare patches of soil or sand.

The larvae are shaped like an “S” and have a humped back and strong hooks on their abdomens that allow them to anchor themselves in the soil to seize prey which they drag back to their burrow to eat.

See our main gardening page, Garden Circkles, for much more information than what is posted on this blog, including full articles on greenhouse growing, sustainable and organic tips, beneficial bugs, the latest techniques such as aquaponics and vertical growing and much more.

Natural Insect and Disease Control: Kitchen Cures.

Salt sprinkled on slugs will reduce them to a glob of slime. Don’t use more than a couple shakes as salt in garden soil will kill many plants.

VLUU L100, M100  / Samsung L100, M100Coffee: A cup of strong coffee spray on plants can prevent the red spider mite. Coffee ground are high in nitrogen and will also benefit most soils greatly.

Horseradish mixed in water and used as a spray will repel potato bugs.

Cedar chips or sawdust: A tea made by soaking the chips or sawdust in hot water will keep away Mexican bean beetles, potato beetles, spider mites, mealybugs, cucumber and squash beetles. You can also just work the cedar into the dirt around plants for the same effect. Sprinkled on lawns the sawdust works well against chiggers.

Wood Ashes: Sprinkled around the base of plants will stop beetles, mites and aphids. Some people in certain areas claim wood ashes also work to repel deer, mice, cutworms, slugs and rabbits, being almost 80% effective.

Flour: dusted on cabbage plants after a rain or watering will cause worms to get all gummed up in the paste and dry out in the sun.

See our main gardening page, Garden Circkles, for much more information than what is posted on this blog, including full articles on greenhouse growing, sustainable and organic tips, beneficial bugs, the latest techniques such as aquaponics and vertical growing and much more.

Natural Insect and Disease Control: Birds.

bluebird-bugInsect-eating birds are one of the best pest controls around the garden, however, you have to keep them away from your fruit and berries by covering your fruit bushes and trees before the berries are noticed by the birds and usually before they are even ripe. A Chinese deterrent is to hang sliced onions in the tress to deter fruit-loving birds.
Birds such as purple martins are very beneficial to have around and encouraging them to stay close to your garden is a big advantage since they have to catch and eat flying insects constantly in order to live. Many people build martin houses to keep them around. Bluebirds also eat many insects and are not known for going after fruit.

Putting bird houses of all different sizes around your yard and garden will encourage birds to nest close by and return every year to catch many insects to feed their young with. Certain birds, such as robins and towhees love fruit more than insects, and will forego eating insects if fruit is easier to get to, so the key is not to make it easy for them by using bird netting, mesh or other materials that you can use to cover your fruit crops but still allow the sun to get to the plants. We find coverings are much more effective than anything you can hang in a tree to scare or throw off the smell, because eventually the birds will figure out how to get around anything that just hangs in a tree to deter them. Birds are clever.

For full articles on Gardening not shown on this blog, go to our Garden Circkles Page.

Eco Garden Design: Chinampas.

  

Eco Friendly Garden Designs: Chinampas. By L.J. Hodek-Creapeau, Circkles Editor.

Chinampa is a method of ancient Mesoamerican agriculture which used small, rectangle-shaped areas of fertile land to grow crops on the shallow lake beds in the Valley of Mexico. The word chinampa comes from the Nahuatl word chināmitl, meaning “square made of canes.”
Sometimes referred to as “floating gardens,” chinampas were artificial islands that usually measured roughly 98 ft × 8.2 ft. Chinampas were used by the ancient Aztec Indians in Tenochtitlan, and ranged from 300 ft × 15 ft to 300 ft × 30 ft. They were created by staking out the shallow lake bed and then fencing in the rectangle with wattle: Wattle and daub is a composite building material used for making walls in which a woven lattice of wooden strips called wattle is daubed with a sticky material usually made of some combination of wet soil, clay, sand, animal dung and straw. The fenced-off area was then layered with mud, lake sediment, and decaying vegetation, eventually bringing it above the level of the lake. Often trees similar to a willow or a cypress were planted at the corners to secure the chinampas which were separated by channels wide enough for a canoe to pass. These “islands” had very high crop yields with up to four crops a year.

The earliest chinampas have been dated back to the Middle Postclassic period, (1150 – 1350 CE) and showing use primarily in Lakes Xochimilco and Chalco near the springs that lined the south shore of those lakes. The Aztecs not only conducted military campaigns to obtain control over these regions but, according to some researchers, undertook significant state-led efforts to increase their extent. With the destruction of the dams and sluice gates during the Spanish conquest of Mexico, many chinampas fields were abandoned, although remnants are still in use today in what remains of Lake Xochimilco.
Among the crops grown on chinampas were: maize, beans, squash, amaranth, tomatoes, chili peppers, and flowers. It’s estimated that food provided by chinampas made up one-half to two-thirds of the food consumed by the city of Tenochtitlán.

Today many horticulturists have adopted a modern version of the chinampas and call it hydroponics. While occupying a great deal less space, no soil whatsoever, and often being used indoor such as in a greenhouse setting, the principle is basically the same as the ancient chinampas except it has been made more efficient and convenient. Using the chinampa method can have many benefits: such as practically no weeding and watering as well as protection from animals and certain pests. Building a chinampas in your backyard pond can certainly be an entertaining and efficient way to utilize a decorative space for edibles. While nutrients must be continually replenished in conventional hydroponic gardening, chinampas are more self-sufficient in that the soil materials they are built on supply the nutrients for plants, and the water that permeates that soil offers nutrients as well in a more natural way. So supplementing the water periodically is not necessary as with hydroponics. As mentioned above, the Aztecs often constructed their chinampas with dung, which would offer a constant supply of natural fertilizer to their floating gardens.

Plants that we believe would do well with this type of planting are lettuces and Asian greens because you can plant a large number of them in a small area, they would do well with the added humidity of the surrounding water, and slugs can’t swim!

 

©2013 Redstone Promotional Communications/Circkles.com

Grape Arbors are Not Just for Gardens Anymore.

 By Circkles Staff Writers.

Grapes are not just for the garden anymore as more people are using them for lawn accents and special features with the added benefit of being able to eat them or juice them. Grapes are not picky, and as any vintner will tell you, they produce better if they are not pampered or overwatered. Instead of planting vining flowers on a trellis and using water to keep something growing that you can only look at, try putting that same effort into something you can eat.

Most garden centers carry potted grapevines in the spring, this is the best way to get a vine going. Trying to start one from root cuttings is difficult at best. There are many varieties, but you probably want to pick a seedless variety, and after that it’s just a matter of personal taste as to whether you prefer red or green grapes.

Planting:
Pick a spot that gets moderate to full sun, but not direct sun hitting the root base of the vine. The base of the vine does better with some shade from the hot sun, so plant larger bushy plants around the base to shade it if you must plant it in direct Southern exposure. In the wild, grapes love to climb and attach themselves to trees, with some vines reaching heights of 30-40 feet in a tree. Keep in mind a grapevine likes to spread it’s roots wide, so allow at least 10 feet all around for future root spreading that won’t encroach on other plants or trees. Dig your hole to just allow for the root base because it’s not necessary to amend the soil around the planting area with compost or mulch. Grapes that are well fed with compost or fertilizers will produce a beautiful vine but little fruit. So don’t fertilize or amend the soil for your grape if fruit is your main goal. You don’t want the soil hard and compact either, so if your soil is mostly clay, amend it with some sand, but very little organic matter.

Training and Pruning: 
Give your grape 2-3 years to get well established with a good root base before starting to prune it and train it. In the beginning, you want to leave as much foliage and branches on the vine as possible so the roots will get plenty of food to get well established; then you can start pruning. For best grape production, trim the vine similar to a tree, with a main trunk and solid, alternating branches on the sides that are attached to a trellis. When you see where the grape clusters are going to be for that season, clip off the vine about 8-10 inches after the last cluster so all the vine’s resources go into the grapes and not new growth for that season.

 

   

Mosaic Garden Art.

 

Mosaic art is a beautiful way to recycle old glass bottles, plates, tiles etc. Rather than just throwing it away, you can make a lasting piece of art to enjoy for years, maybe even generations. Here are the basic instructions to get started.

1.) Draw out your design concept beforehand so you can use it as a template.

2.) The size of the mosaic pieces depends on how detailed you want your design to be. Drawing it out ahead of time will help you establish the size of the tiles you want.

3.) Once you are certain of your design and have cut your pieces of glass with a tile saw or other means, glue your pieces onto your design surface one at a time. Wood glue works, or any glue that will dry quickly. Make sure to leave at least a minimum 1/8 to 1/4 inch gap between pieces to fill in with the grout later.

4.) Make sure to allow the glue to set the full recommended time before attempting to start grouting the gaps. You don’t want your pieces to be moving around on you while you are grouting.

5.) Mix your grout according to manufacture instructions. Always wear a face mask to avoid breathing the grout dust. Slowly spread the grout into the cracks. Using a sponge make sure to remove any and all excess grout. Rinse out your sponge often to avoid clumps dragging across the surface and scratching the glass. Don’t overdue wiping down the cracks or you will start to remove the grout between the tiles. Keep the surface damp while you work so the grout does not cure too fast as it will crack. Once the grout has set up and dried, you will probably need to wipe down the area again to get any dried grout residue removed from your design before you display it.

    © 2013 Redstone Promotional Communications / Circkles.com