" What is a weed?
A plant whose virtues have never been discovered."
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Garden Circkles:

Sustainable, eco-friendly and organic gardening tips and techniques.

See our Local Circkles pages for Farmer's Markets in your state. (Sorry, you must be a Circkles member.)

See our Green Circkles Page for tips and information on living a more sustainable lifestyle at home. Find more gardening articles in our Archives, and garden tips, more on beneficial bugs and natural pest and diseaase control are in The Hangout. But you must be a Circkles.com member to access those pages.

Heirloom Seed Suppliers: We have ordered from these suppliers and find them to be very reputable and honest.

Baker Creek carries one of the largest selections of seeds from the 19th century, including many Asian and European varieties. The company has become a tool to promote and preserve our agricultural and culinary heritage. Gardeners can request a free 212-page color catalog or order online.

Seed Savers Exchange's collections contain heirloom and open-pollinated (OP) varieties. Heirlooms are OPs with a long history of being cultivated and saved within a family or group. They have evolved by natural or human selection over time.

Annie's Heirloom Seeds: Heirloom seeds produce vegetable varieties that have been around for 50 years or more. These are the vegetables your grandmother grew. These are the vegetables that were around before the huge agrobusinesses that create most of the "food" on store shelves today.

 

Beneficial Insects: Spined Soldier Bug also known as Stink Bugs. Order: Hemiptera. Family: Pentatomidae

About 3/8" to 1/2" in size, the adult spined soldier bugs are shield-shaped, yellow to brown with black speckles and pointy shoulders with a distinctive black line on the top of each wing. The nymphs are wingless, smaller of course, and more oval shaped. They are also usually red, orange, cream or black. Spined soldier bugs usually inhabit crop fields and gardens, being found on garden plants and wild plants.
Their favorite prey is caterpillars, cabbage loopers, sawfly larvae, grubs, beetles, Mexican bean beetles and Colorado potato beetles.
Although they are mostly a "good bug," they will also prey on other beneficial insects such as ladybugs. They have also been known to eat their own young.

Their eggs are also spined - which makes it easy to remember that they belong to this bug - and usually a silvery color.

 

Natural Insect and Disease Control:

Mosaic Virus:
Unlike fungicidal chemicals used to control fungal diseases, to date there are no efficient chemical treatments that protect plant parts from virus infection. Additionally, there are no known chemical treatments used under field conditions that eliminate viral infections from plant tissues once they do occur. Practically speaking, plants infected by viruses remain so. Thus, control of tobacco mosaic virus is primarily focused on reducing and eliminating sources of the virus and limiting the spread by insects. Tobacco mosaic virus is the most persistent plant virus known. It has been known to survive up to 50 years in dried plant parts. Therefore, sanitation is the single most important practice in controlling tobacco mosaic virus.

Control for Seedling Growers and Gardeners
The most common method of transferring the virus from plant to plant is on contaminated hands and tools. The most common sources of virus inoculum for tobacco mosaic virus are the debris of infected plants that remains in the soil and certain infected tobacco products that contaminate workers hands. Cigars, cigarettes, and pipe tobaccos can be infected with tobacco mosaic virus. Handling these smoking materials contaminates the hands, and subsequent handling of plants results in a transmission of the virus. Therefore, do not smoke while handling or transplanting plants. Workers who transplant seedlings should refrain from smoking during transplanting and wash their hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water. Tools used in transplanting can be placed in boiling water for 5 minutes and then washed with a strong soap or detergent solution. Dipping tools in household bleach is not effective for virus decontamination. Any seedlings that appear to have mosaic symptoms or are stunted and distorted should be removed and destroyed. After removing diseased plants, never handle healthy plants without washing hands and decontaminating tools used to remove diseased plants.
Persons purchasing small tomato plants for transplanting should beware of any plants showing mottling, dwarfing, or stunting. Avoid the purchase of any affected plant. Gardeners are advised to follow the same procedures recommended for greenhouse workers when handling tomato transplants. Other control methods for home gardeners include roguing (removal of diseased plants), destruction of diseased and infected plants, and control of weeds and chewing insects. When roguing and destroying mature diseased plants from the home garden, be sure to wash hands and decontaminate any tools used in the process before contacting healthy plants.
Common plant hosts for the mosaic virus are tomato, potato, pepper, petunia, snapdragon, delphinium, and marigold. Tobacco mosaic virus also has been reported to a lesser extent in muskmelon, cucumber, squash, spinach, celosia, impatiens, ground cherry, phlox, zinnia, certain types of ivy, plantain, night shade, and jimson weed. Although tobacco mosaic virus may infect many other types of plants, it generally is restricted to plants that are grown in seedbeds and transplanted or plants that are handled frequently.

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

Asparagus officinalis:

Parsley planted with asparagus gives added vigor to both. Asparagus also does well with basil as do tomatoes, which will protect asparagus from asparagus beetles.

Since asparagus usually is harvested well before tomatoes can be planted, harvest the asparagus spears in early spring, then plant tomatoes on both sides of the spears when they are no longer big enough to harvest. Spears the size of a pencil or smaller should be left to grow into fronds to feed the roots for next year. It's these fronds that you will find the asparagus beetles on.

 

Does Anybody Can Anymore? By Redstone Publishing and Promotion.

With harvest season upon us, we turn our gardening thoughts toward the best way to preserve any surplus of produce. Canning foods is quickly becoming a lost skill, most of the younger generations have never seen or heard of the process the older homemakers and farmers used to use to "put up" or preserve homegrown fruits and vegetables.

With the increased convenience and time-saving feature of store-bought produce, you may ask yourself why on Earth anybody would go to all the work to can their own anymore. Well….if you are a grower or gardener, or want to take maximum advantage of the produce at the farmer's markets when it is available and in season, you need some way to preserve the excess you grow and there are still a few of us old-timers who prefer the taste of home preserves over the highly processed stuff anyway. And with the recent enlightenment of the general public as to the fact that we cannot often trust labels or what's in our food anymore, many people are going back to growing their own.

There are two basic canning techniques.

1.) Pressure canning, in which a steam pressure cooker is used is the safest method. Follow the manufacturer's directions for the steam canner regarding how long to process foods and the pounds of steam pressure to use. Most of them will give you a few recipes as well.

2.) Boiling water bath canning, which is only safe to use for a few certain high-acid vegetables such as rhubarb and tomatoes. While you only have to put a couple of inches of water in the bottom of a pressure canner because the steam does all the sterilizing, with a water bath process you must use a pot with a lid that's big enough to cover the jars completely with about 1-2 inches of water and the jars should not touch each other or they may break while processing. In all honesty, for the time it takes to do water bath processing, you are better off just buying a pressure canner and being on the safe side when canning your own food. While boiling water baths work, they are not as good as pressure canning for preventing spoilage and making sure your canned goods don't make you sick. We believe it's worth the extra expense of a pressure canner to be on the safe side. That way you can process any type of produce and not have to worry about it as long as the lids seal like they are suppose to.

The most important aspect of canning your own food is sterilization. The last thing you want is to lose an entire harvest and all the work you put into canning it to bacteria that will cause them to spoil. Keeping all of your canning utensils, jars, the cutting board, kitchen counter tops, your hands etc. clean is the first key to canning success. The rest depends on the temperature and time required to kill the bacteria on specific foods, and that varies according to the type of food and how vulnerable it is to bacteria. This is where a good canning cookbook comes in handy; to give you processing times and pressure required for each specific vegetable or fruit. If you live in a higher altitude, a canning book that gives you the adjustments you will have to make for canning at a higher altitude will also be useful.

Supplies: Most Walmarts and some hardware stores still carries canning supplies, but who knows for how much longer if this becomes a lost skill. Canning jars come in three sizes: pint, half-pint and quart. When it comes to buying jars and what size to use, think about how much you will be using per serving or meal. For example, you would probably never use a quart-sized jar of strawberry jam quickly enough before it got moldy after opening the jar. So most people use the smaller pint-sized jars for jams and jellies because they don't go through them very fast. But if your family will eat a quart-sized jar of green beans in one meal, it makes more sense to can green beans in the larger size rather than using up more storage space in your pantry using a bunch of small jars. Get it?
Canning lids, like everything else, are being made cheaper and cheaper. We have found several of the lids offered by Walmart are defective right out of the box. They do not seal well because the manufacturer does not put an adequate rubber seal on the lids. It's more of a cheap, spray-on rubber residue and we have found that 10-20% of the time, these lids do not seal during the processing and so they waste a great deal of your time by defeating the purpose. If you can find better-made lids somewhere other than Walmart, we would highly recommend it because they will save you time and frustration in the long run. You can buy the old-fashioned lids with BPA-free rubber gaskets that are reusable from a company called Tattler: http://shop.reusablecanninglids.com. They are a little more expensive, about $30 for 3 dozen lids and rubber gaskets, but like they claim, they are reusable where the Walmart lids are not. So the cost is about the same over the long run and you won't waste time prepping and canning jars of food that may not seal.

TATTLER REUSABLE CANNING LIDS KEY FEATURES!!!
• BPA Free!
• Made in the USA!
• Indefinitely Reusable
• For Hot Water Bath and Pressure Canning
• No food spoilage due to acid corrosion
• FDA approved materials
• Dishwasher Safe

Canning isn't difficult by any means, but it is time-consuming; mostly having to clean and cut up all the produce before it can be packed into jars. Here are a few time-saving tips and a couple of our favorite canning recipes to get you started. It's advantageous for any serious canner to buy a good canning cookbook for recipes and processing times.

A Few Time Saving Techniques:
It's worth the extra money in the time it will save you to purchase a food processor that has various settings for finely chopped and coarsely chopped food. Using a food processor to chop the food for you will save a great deal of time, because then all you have to do is clean the food and cut it up in small enough pieces to fit in the processor if necessary. Then you can chop a larger amount of food at one time and cut your prep time in about half. A blender will also do the job if it has a "coarsely ground" or "chop" setting, but food processors tend to have settings for chopping food so it is not so small and thus they are more appropriate for canning purposes.

Big Batches Save Time in the Long Run. As long as you are making a mess of your kitchen, make it worthwhile. It is best to do a large batch of canning at one time than to keep disrupting your kitchen area and spending more time on clean up and prepping by doing small batches of canning. Typically, a steam canner will only hold 6-7 jars at one time, so if you can gauge about how much produce you will need to fill that many jars for one batch of canning, it will save you a great deal of waste and time preparing food you will not be able to fit into one batch in the canner or stock pot. But, if you are using garden produce and are like most people, your harvest does not come ripe all at the same time and you may not have enough produce to even make one full batch in the canner. Then it's best to store it in the frig temporarily as you pick it until you get enough to can a full batch. You can always process smaller batches if you have to, you can process just one jar if you want, but it's not usually worth turning your kitchen into a disaster area and your time to process such a small amount. However, make sure the produce you are collecting in the frig does not spoil in the meantime. If you don't think you will acquire enough of a certain fruit or vegetable from your garden to can a full batch before what you have already picked will spoil, then yes, you are better off canning just a couple jars at a time so as not to waste what you have grown.

Here's a couple canning recipes to get you started. Follow our circkles_monthly_recipes blog or gardening forum for more canning recipes that are shared.

Cantaloupe Pickles. (Water bath process.)
With the increasing incidence of Ecoli and other bacterial issues regarding cantaloupe these days, this may well be the best way to eat them to minimize your risk of getting sick from them.

1 medium ripe but not over-ripe organic cantaloupe
1 quart apple cider vinegar
2 cups water
2 sticks cinnamon
1 Tbsp whole cloves
1 tsp ground mace
3 cups organic, raw honey.

Peel and seed the cantaloupe, cut it into 1 inch chunks and put in large mixing bowl. In a large saucepan, combine vinegar and water. Tie the whole spices up in a cheesecloth bag or coffee filter and add to the saucepan along with the mace. Heat to boiling. Pour boiling spiced vinegar over the cantaloupe in the bowl and let it set overnight in the refrigerator. The next day, heat the cantaloupe and vinegar mix to boiling, add the honey, and simmer for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile sterilize your jars, lids and any other canning equipment by boiling it in water for a minimum of 20 minutes. Then place on a clean cloth. Remove the spice bag from the cantaloupe mixture. Spoon it into sterilized jars to within 1/2 inch of the top of the jar. Run a sterilized, skinny, non-metal utensil or utensil handle along the sides of the jars to dislodge any air bubbles before processing. You can add more vinegar brine to top of the jars to a 1/2 inch from the top. Wipe the rims of the jars clean with a clean, sterile, damp cloth. Put on the lids and screw bands tightly by hand. Process packed jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes at altitudes below 6000 feet. 20 minutes above 6000 feet. When done processing use a canning jar lifter utensil so you don't burn yourself and take the jars out, set them on a cloth on the kitchen counter to cool. In approximately an hour or two, you should here the lids on the jars start to pop as an indicator they have sealed properly. If the jars are completely cool and you can press the lid down with your finger, that means the lid did not seal properly and you should keep that jar refrigerated and eat it immediately. The sealed jars can be stored at room temperature for 2-3 years.

Creamed Style Corn. (Pressure canning process.)
Since farmer's market corn is only available for a short time, this is a good way to preserve it to eat during the winter. Imagine sitting at the table and eating farm fresh sweet corn in January.

3-6 pounds of corn on the cob = 2 pints
or, 1 bushel of corn = about 12-20 pints.

Very fresh sweet corn is best. Husk corn and remove silks. Cut corn from the cob with a knife. Save the juice while doing this, so do it over a bowl. The juice is the "cream" you will be using. Also scrape the cobs with the back of the knife to squeeze more juice out of them. Cold pack the corn and juice into hot, sterilized jars to within 1 inch of the top. Don't shake or press the corn down to pack it tightly because corn needs room to expand as it cooks. Add 1/2 tsp of salt to each jar and top with boiling water to 1 inch of top of jars.
Wipe the rims of the jars clean with a clean, sterile, damp cloth. Put on the lids and screw bands tightly by hand. Process packed jars in a pressure canner at 10 pounds pressure for 20 minutes or follow the directions for the canner. When done processing use a canning jar lifter utensil so you don't burn yourself and take the jars out, set them on a cloth on the kitchen counter to cool. In approximately an hour or two, you should here the lids on the jars start to pop as an indicator they have sealed properly. If the jars are completely cool and you can press the lid down with your finger, that means the lid did not seal properly and you should keep that jar refrigerated and eat it immediately. The sealed jars can be stored at room temperature for 2-3 years.

The best way to can is to get the family, neighbors or friends to help and make a canning party out of it. It makes the task much more fun and go by more quickly. You would be surprised how much canned foods you can "put up" in one weekend or day. And come winter, you will be enjoying every bit of your efforts because nothing beats home grown, home preserved foods: you know exactly what is in them and you can't beat the flavor or ability to customize taste any way you want by tweaking recipes a bit.

Prize-Winning Piccalilli. (Water bath process.)
Piccalilli is a fancy name for a type of relish. Most people won't even buy relishes anymore because they only think of using them in terms of putting it on hotdogs, but you can use relishes on any meat sandwich or brats to dress it up and add more veggies to it, or use relishes to make stir fries, chicken cacciatore, a zesty beef stew and anything your imagination can think of. This piccalilli also serves as a great digestive aid.

12-16 medium green tomatoes
1 medium red peppers
3 medium green onions
2-3 large onions
2 pounds of cabbage
1/3 cup sea salt
3 1/2 cups red wine vinegar
1 1/2 cups honey
2 Tbsp whole mixed pickling spice
2 sticks of cinnamon
1 Tbsp whole cloves
4 whole allspice
1/2 tsp ground ginger root
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg.

Put all vegetables through course setting of food processor. Put in large mixing bowl and combine with salt. Let sit in the frig overnight or at least a couple hours. The next day, drain vegetables, combine vinegar and honey in large kettle. Stir in the ground spices and tie the whole spices in a cheesecloth bag or coffee filter and add to kettle. Heat to boiling then add vegetables. Reduce heat and simmer about 300 minutes or until vegetables just start to get soft. Remove the spice bag. Spoon into sterilized jars to within 1/4 inch of the top of the jar. Run a sterilized, skinny, non-metal utensil or utensil handle along the sides of the jars to dislodge any air bubbles before processing. Wipe the rims of the jars clean with a clean, sterile, damp cloth. Put on the lids and screw bands tightly by hand. Process packed jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes at altitudes below 6000 feet. 20 minutes above 6000 feet. When done processing use a canning jar lifter utensil so you don't burn yourself and take the jars out, set them on a cloth on the kitchen counter to cool. In approximately an hour or two, you should here the lids on the jars start to pop as an indicator they have sealed properly. If the jars are completely cool and you can press the lid down with your finger, that means the lid did not seal properly and you should keep that jar refrigerated and eat it immediately. The sealed jars can be stored at room temperature for 2-3 years.

© 2013 Redstone Publishing and Promotion for Circkles.com. All articles and images.

Garden Circkles 2013 Back Issues:

Jan/Feb 2013 - Heirloom Seed Suppliers, natural pest control etc.

March 2013 - Ready, Set, Sprout, Beneficial bugs etc.

April 2013 - Companion Planting, Apple Scab, etc.

May 2013 - Grow Your Own Bug Potions, Mosaic Garden Art, etc.

June 2013 - Foodscaping, Grape Arbors as Decor.

July 2013 - Better Tomatoes, Chinampas, Leaf Curl, Nasturtium.

 

 

 

August 2013
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