" 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.

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: Minute Pirate Bug.
Order: Hemiptera. Family: Anthocoridae

Average adult size is 1/8 inch. They are very small with tiny heads. Look for a black body with a distinct white chevron pattern on their back. They like to dine on aphids, spider mites, corn earworms, leafhopper nymphs, whiteflies and the eggs of various insects. Don't let their size fool you, they are ferocious predators and very good hunters.
Plants that attract them are alfalfa, corn, daisies, yarrow, stinging nettle, clover and vetches. Greenhouses have used them for years to control thrips. The Minute Pirate Bug's nymphs are yellow or salmon-colored with the same shaped body as the adults.

 

Natural Insect and Disease Control:

Leaf Curl on Peach Trees and other fungus:
Peach leaf curl causes leaves of peaches and nectarines to discolor, thicken, pucker, curl, distort and eventually fall off. The fungus overwinters in these trees as spores, usually in the new buds. The rains splash these spores onto the emerging leaves, causing more problems.

Onion spray is very effective against disease organisms such as molds and fungus. California fruit grower Roger Dondero mixed up his own spray to see if it would help the leaf curl on his peach trees. Within a few weeks, the fungus on the leaves turned black and fell off after just spraying the trees heavily for three evenings in a row. Within a few weeks, all the fungus turned black and fell off. This spray can also be used on vegetables being destroyed by cutworms or aphids. One gardener states that he just ties the stems of wild onions to his plants to get rid of cutworms.

Put a few onions in a blender with water. Let this puree sit overnight and then strain the onions out so it will go through a spray bottle. Keep refrigerated so it doesn't spoil. This will have to be re-applied each time it rains. You can add a few drops of dish soap or vegetable oil to the spray to get it to stick to the leaves better. Shake well before each application.

 

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.

Nasturtium Tropaeolum:

Nasturtiums have beautiful flowers and a low, bushy habit. They do not get bigger than 24 inches and make an attractive decorative plant in borders and hanging pots, but they also make an effective companion plant.

Nasturtiums planted with squash will repel squash bugs, but the nasturtium must be started well before the squash in order to flower when you need them too since squash grows so fast. In a greenhouse, nasturtium will repel white flies and when planted next to broccoli will keep aphids away. This colorful benefactor will also benefit potatoes, radishes, cucumbers and any member of the cabbage family. When aphids see the yellow color of the nasturtium blossom they will avoid it. This is something to keep in mind since nasturtium come in several different colors from reds to oranges.

Also, did you know you can eat the leaves of the nasturtium plant? They have a slightly radishy flavor and are good in salads.

 

Tricks for Better Tomatoes. By Redstone Publishing and Promotion.

Tomato Tip #1: Getting More Tomatoes.
It is said by many garden experts that tomato plants stop producing when temperatures outside get above 85 degrees. While it is true when they are planted in an outdoor garden tomato plants will stop blooming when temperatures are 85º and above, this does not seem to apply to greenhouse tomatoes which makes a gardener wonder: "What is the key ingredient to getting tomatoes to produce passed the 85 degree mark?" We put this to the test and here is what we discovered:

- Yes, tomatoes will stop blooming and thus stop producing when outdoor temperatures are over 85 degrees.

- Covering them with shade fabric when temperatures get too hot can stave off this effect over a short period and if you live in a climate region that only sees temps above 85º maybe one month during the hottest part of the summer. Using shade fabric just during mid summer heat to drop the temperature around your plants temporarily can keep your toms producing for you all summer.

- In hotter, drier climates like the Southwest, we found tomatoes exhibit a profound desire to stop producing as soon as the weather gets too hot. However, the same tomato varieties planted in the same region in a greenhouse did not wilt or stop producing blossoms even at temps up to 100º.

Our conclusion: Tomatoes can withstand hot temps as long as they are not hot and DRY temps. Given adequate humidity, tomatoes can hold up better and produce longer even at temperatures above the dreaded 85º mark. You've seen your tomatoes wilt horribly during the mid-summer heat in hot climates? Yet tomatoes in a greenhouse will not wilt up to and over 100º temps if there is adequate humidity and ventilation. If they do wilt in a greenhouse that happens to get too hot or dry, they can quickly recover with a light spraying of mist or water.

Tomato Tip #2: Cracked Tomatoes.

Cracked tomatoes are caused by either too much water or not enough water. The fruit expands too quickly or shrinks slightly and cracks. It is important to try and maintain a constant supply of water one way or the other. It's more the drastic change between too much water and too little that causes blossom end rot, cracked fruit and rusty-looking leaves. Tomatoes do not like a sudden change in water, but can adapt to be sightly dry or slightly moist as long as the amount of water is consistent. Strange huh? Our's is not to reason why, and the tomatoes are not talking. Another words, unless you are a tomato, you aren't likely to ever understand this one. It's just the way they are. Think of it this way: you know tomatoes are a very juicy fruit, meaning they contain a great deal of water, so any sudden or constant fluctuation in the supply of their water will have an impact on the fruit.

Tomato Tip #3: Beautiful Plants, Few Tomatoes.

Many gardeners cannot resist the temptation to fertilize tomatoes, thinking they are heavy feeders because they bear large fruit, or perhaps some gardeners just think more fertilizer means more production. This is generally not the case with fruit-bearing plants. If you are growing a plant for its foliage, then yes, extra fertilizer or compost will make for a very large, healthy plant, but most fruit-bearing plants will actually produce more fruit if they are a little starved of nutrients. It has to do with their survival makeup in ha,t if times are tough, the best way to ensure their species will be around next year is to produce as many offspring (seeds or fruit) as possible. Fruiting plants required water more than fertilizers to keep their fruit from shriveling up, but extra fertilizer will not usually produce more fruit, just big, barren leaves and stems. See "Suckers" below.

Tomato Tip #4: Suckers.

It has been a long-time gardeners' folk tale that if you want more tomatoes or bigger tomatoes you should pinch off the "sucker" branches. These are the branches that start to develop in the armpit or crotch, so to speak, of other branches, or the junction between the main stem and a branch. We have experimented for several years with plants by not pinching off the suckers on some, and doing so on others, to see if we can notice any remarkable difference one way or the other. The only instance in which we noticed any significant difference is when waiting to nip off the sucker branches until the plant bears fruit. Then all the plants nutrients will go into the fruit and some of the fruit appeared to be larger because of it. If you nip off the suckers before a plant bears fruit, it encourages more suckers and more leaf growth. Keep in mind that you do not want to cut off too many leaves as they offer shade to the fruit so it doesn't get burned by the sun. Also, some of the suckers go on to produce fruit as well. Cutting off bottom leaves can help provide more nutrients to the fruit, but again, the difference is minimal. So don't panic if you realize you never pinched back the suckers on your tomato plants when you go to harvest them this fall. The choice to nip them or not comes down to: Do you want more fruit that is smaller, or fewer large fruits? In cubic inches of fruit, this amounts to about the same either way, so pinching suckers is not a huge deal-breaker one way or the other.

Photos from top: 1.)Large, beautiful commercial tomatoes. 2.) Blossom end rot. 3.) Cracking of tomato. 4.) Sucker growing between branch and stem.

 

 

Eco Friendly Garden Designs: Chinampas. By Circkles Staff Writers.

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!

Garden Circkles 2013 Archives:

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.

 

 

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

July 2013
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