" 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.

 

This is the MOST IMPORTANT video of OUR TIME that you will EVER WATCH!!!!!!!!!!!!

Non-Monsanto Organic and Eco-Friendly garden suppliers we have used:

OMRI products. The Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) is a national nonprofit organization that determines which agricultural products are allowed for use in organic production and processing. OMRI Listed or approved products may be used on operations that are certified organic under the USDA National Organic Program. However, the OMRI certification and labeling usually only applies to large agricultural products. So OMRI supplies are very limited thus far for home use. Monsanto has purchased most of the major seed suppliers, so buying seed that is not organic from Burpee, Jung's, Johnnys, Henry's, Gurney's and almost any popular seed supplier means you are supporting Monsanto when you buy non-organic seed and products. And we will hunt you down and have you tarred and feathered. (Just kidding.)

Note: Products not assessed or listed by OMRI may still meet USDA organic rules. OMRI charges application, review and annual listing fees; it may be that the producer has decided against the expense of being reviewed or listed by OMRI. If you buy products listed as organic by the suppliers below, they are usually acceptable as not being supplied by Monsanto.

Gardens Alive: Natural and organic fertilizers, pest control and beneficial insects, pet products, orchard products, seeds, lawn products and harvesting equipment. These guys have been around for years and know what they are doing. A very reliable and ethical company we have used for years.

Arbico Organics: Horse care and fly control, household enzyme products and cleaners, soil care, testing and amendments, pest control, beneficial insects, pet products. Some OMRI products available, but limited.

Planet Natrual: Some OMRI fertilizers, soil amendments and pesticides. Heirloom seeds, garden tools, organic garden and greenhouse supplies. Household cleaners, pet supplies, body care etc.

Johnny's Selected Seeds: Be selective with Johnny's products because their non-organic seeds come from Monsanto, but they do offer some organic seeds and OMRI products, and a unique and larger selection of herbs than most garden suppliers.

Beneficial Insects: Damsel Bugs.
Order: Hemiptera. Family: Nabidae

Long, thing bodies with curved, needlelike beaks. Dull brown or straw colored. They resemble a lot of harmful bugs, but their heads are narrower than most species that feed on plants. The adults and nymphs prey on aphids, caterpillars, thrips, leafhoppers and other soft-body insects. They are partial to clover, and you will often see them on tomato plants while eating aphids. Average size is 1/2-3/4 inch.

Natural Insect and Disease Control:

Hot Peppers: Whenever handling hot peppers, be sure to wear gloves because the oils in the peppers will soak into your skin and if you rub your eyes or face, it will burn for hours.

Some people claim sprinkling cayenne pepper around ant hills will chase them away. Ants protect and harvest aphids, so you want to keep them away from grapes, roses and other plants aphids love or where you see ant hills around your prescious plants.

Make a potent spray by putting one clove garlic, 2-3 hot peppers like jalapeno or cayenne and 1/2 an onion in a blender. Blend and let set overnight, strain through a coffee filter so it can be used in a spray bottle. Keep refrigerated until you need it, or pepper juice spray can be frozen for months and work just as well. If beetles plague your dahlias, use this spray on the flower heads.

You can also mix cayenne pepper with a little soap for very effective protection against ants, spiders, cabbageworms, caterpillars, and tomato hornworms. The pepper will repel a larger variety of insects if mixed with onion and garlic as in the recipe above.
Pepper spray will also work against a number of viruses such as cucumber mosaic virus, ringspot and tobacco etch. It's a popular eco-friendly concoction with orchardists.

 

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.

Allium Allium:

Allium is the Latin word for garlic and pertains to chives, garlic, leek, onion and shallots. There are also flowering allium that are excellent to plant among roses because they repel aphids and moles. Some of the larger varieties of flowering allium, such as Jewel of Tibet, grow to a height of five feet, and have a flower head up to eight inches in diameter that come in several colors.

Alliums are winter hardy, but should be mulched in colder climates. They like plenty of compost, but don't like to by soggy. Plant onions, garlic and chives around the base of fruit trees to stop mice and moles from girdling them during the winter months when food is scarce or buried under a lot of snow. Girdling will kill trees, and rodents love to chew the bark of fruit trees like apples, cherries, peaches and plum when they are handy.

Garlic bulbs planted around plants that are prone to grub worms and cutworms will repel the worms, such as sunflowers and corn. Anymember of the allium family will repel aphids.

Applications of herbicides can trigger pest outbreaks. ~ From the Rodale Institute: An authority on growing since 1947.

"David Pimentel and I.N. Oka at Cornell University studied how corn treated with increasing amounts of 2,4-D herbicide reacted to insect and blight attack. According to their study in "Environmental Entomology," the herbicide stimulated pests and increased their numbers as rates of application increased. Corn borer larvae were significantly heavier on treated corn, female moths raised on treated plants were more fertile and the larvae survived better in treated plots than untreated ones. Corn leaf aphid populations rose from 30 percent to 80 percent on treated corn and Southern corn leaf blight produced heavier galls on treated corn."

The commercial agricultural chemical companies want everybody to believe that we cannot possibly produce enough food without chemicals. Organic research has proven that is not true and that organic soils produce healthier plants that are much more efficient and able to resist pests naturally simply because the plants are stronger and healthier, the soils have all the beneficial microorganisms they need to combat disease, and beneficial insects, birds, and companion plants are not destroyed by chemicals and can do their job.
Not to mention, when one pesticide or herbicide is used, more and more need to be used to combat the damage to the balance of the natural ecosystem caused by the first introduction of chemicals. When one chemical creates a Superbug, harsher and harsher chemicals must be used thereafter. And when nature is thrown out of balance, more and more chemicals must be used to try and correct it, which never happens, thereby throwing the ecosystem even more out of balance. It creates a vicious cycle of continual chemical use and dependency: exactly what the chemical companies want.

Mother Earth gave us everything we need to survive without chemicals. The problems we are having are due to the fact that we think we know better than she does. The Earth is a perfectly balanced ecosystem when it is not tampered with. It will give us everything we need if we work with it instead of against it. Mankind is suppose to be the most intelligent species on this planet, yet we are the only one destroying it.

Foodscaping: It's Catching on like Wildfire. By Circkles Staff Writers.

It's called foodscaping - landscaping with edible food plants - and it's catching on like wildfire all over the globe. The basic idea and motivation behind it is that if you are going to spend the money, water, time, effort and other resources on landscaping you may as well do it for something you can eat. After all, with the impending water shortages we all are facing, it makes a great amount of sense to only utilize our precious water reserves on something we can also benefit from not just look at. This also goes a long way to supporting the fact that we are quickly running out of usable agricultural land and are facing a food supply problem in the very near future as well. If every home in America turned a portion of their land into a garden large enough to sustain their own family, that would go a long way to easing the burden on our agricultural production which is already straining to produce enough food to feed us all.

Foodscaping is a concept that makes a bit more sense in the cities and suburbs, because in the country, you would have to protect your edible landscaping from the deer and other critters or expect to share it with them. So in the country, it makes more sense to have one large fenced area to keep the critters out.
City dwellers are catching onto the fact that if you have to maintain, fertilize, water and groom grass, why not use the same efforts on something you can really enjoy, like homegrown tomatoes; which cannot be matched in flavor by any store-purchased tomatoes and are getting ridiculously expensive. Many apartment dwellers have learned the concept of container gardening on decks and patios, now the same basic principle is spilling over to homeowners with small city lots.

The foodscaping concept works best for the backyard of a city home, because some cities have ordinances against growing anything they might consider unkempt or unsightly in the front yard, which often leaves out garden plants. You would have to mulch a front yard garden and keep it immaculate and weed free, but even then, we have heard of some city ordinances having a problem with anything other than a grass lawn on the street side of the property. Some cities like everything to look the same and conform. So check with your city offices before attempting a front yard vegetable garden. Most cities couldn't care less what you do with your backyard because nobody sees it.

Some good plants for foodscaping are tomatoes, lettuces, asian greens, peppers, melons, squash, any member of the cabbage family, just about any food plant can be made to look ornamental in landscaping if it is kept free of weeds and mulched well. Throw in a couple self-pollinating fruit trees if you have the room, or berry bushes / patches since berries are so expensive and rarely ever anything but moldy and rotten when you finally get them in the grocery store.
The only food plant that really does not lend itself well to foodscaping is corn, due to the fact that corn must be grown in a very large patch because it's wind pollinated and so requires being in close contact with a great many other corn plants in order to pollinate properly. In order to grow corn and have it produce anything worthwhile requires a corn patch that is a minimum of 6-8 rows wide and long, which requires a great deal of space. Corn is also a very heavy feeder and requires a lot of nutrients, so overall, it 's not very practical for foodscaping considering all it's requirements and that it is only a starch that does not offer much in vitamins or minerals and thus is really not worth wasting the extra space, water and fertilizer on. There are much more nutrient beneficial food plants to use.

The best thing to do if you are going to convert your lawn into a garden is to plan it out on paper first. The fruits and vegetables you will be able to grow will primarily be determined by how much space you have, how much time you have and your climate, but you would be amazed what you can grow if you know how to take advantage of any microclimates your property may offer along with some container planting techniques here and there if allowable. Shallow-rooted, small vegetables like beets, radishes, kohlrabi etc, don't require much space and can be planted almost anywhere the soil is loose enough. They can even be planted in trays that are at least 6 inches deep, or other large planters and kept on a deck or patio. They prefer cooler microclimates such as an area of partial shade, and don't require much work once established; just water.
We highly recommend laying out your foodscaping idea on paper, mapping out where your beds should be for food plants that like a little shade and those that need full sun, as well as where to put bushes and larger plants so they don't shade smaller ones etc. Putting in an irrigation system will save a ton of time and mapping out your foodscaping will make it much easier for you to figure out what kind of irrigation setup you will need and where.
If you want to keep some of your lawn, a design that is very popular and works well is to keep the grass in the middle of your property and arrange foodscaping beds all along the perimeter as border plantings. That way you still have lawn that's easy to mow, and you are utilizing the outer edges of it that are difficult to mow or would require weed whacking.

Plants that make good container plantings:
Cherry or determinate tomatoes - meaning they only get to a certain size, whereby indeterminate tomato vines will keep on growing as long as weather will allow, getting quite large and requiring much more space. Peppers of all varieties do very well in pots as well as most herbs.

Herbs have many benefits for foodscaping: Splash some herb plants around for added color and interest, to repel insects, and for culinary and medicinal purposes. Our companion planting column of Garden Circkles will come in handy for this as many fragrant and flowering herbs can be used to naturally repel insects. Check our article archives and follow this page for new companion planting information and techniques. Many herbs make beautiful flowers and can be used as ornamentals here and there while still giving added food benefits to your efforts. Plant culinary herbs such as basil, thyme, sage, chives, oregano, or tea herbs such as mint, anise hyssop, lemon balm, pineapple sage and more. Fresh herbs are much more flavorful and have more nutritional benefits than the dried variety that's been sitting on store shelves for months and years. No kitchen garden should be without them.

Backyard orchards are making a huge comeback, as well as using grape trellises for ornamental purposes - see our article on grape arbors below. If you can afford it, nothing beats a backyard greenhouse because they are so much easier to control the climate of, you can extend your growing season much longer, and they are much less work. We will be publishing a greenhouses guide soon to help you determine which styles and structure material may be best for your location.

Local restaurants are even using the foodscaping concept in what they call kitchen gardens. Their use of just-picked fresh edibles such as salad greens in their restaurants has become very popular. If they can find the time to do it, so can you.

 

Eco Friendly Garden Designs: Grape Arbors. 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.

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.

© 2013 Circkles.com. All images and articles.

June 2013
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