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: Big-Eyed Bug.
Order: Hemiptera. Family: Lygaeidae

The adults are flattened, yellow or brown in color, somewhat flat and so small you may not be able to see them without a magnifying glass. The eggs have a distinctive red spot at one end.

One big-eyed bug can devour dozens of spider mites, insect eggs, aphids and leafhoppers in just 24 hours. They can usually be found in low foliage and are attracted to potato plants, green beans and clover, so try using clover as a nearby attractant plant to keep them close to your garden.


Natural Insect and Disease Control:

Researcher's Garlic Spray: Here's the basic recipe the European researchers used as we mentioned in the article to the right called: "Grow Your Own Bug Potions." It can be used for many infestations and diseases as per the article.

3 oz. of chopped garlic bulbs soaked in 2 teaspoons of mineral oil for 24 hours.

Then slowly add a pint of water to which 1/4 oz. of soap has been dissolved (not detergent) - see our article on natural cleaners for an explanation of the difference. Stir well and strain through a fine cheesecloth or coffee filter and store in a glass container since it will react to metals.

To use as a spray, mix 1 part of this oil solution with 20 parts water. Shake up well before spraying.

For tree caterpillars: Dissolve a half cake of Octagon soap (which you can still by through surprisingly) in one gallon of hot water, add 2 mashed garlic bulbs and add 4 teaspoons of cayenne pepper.


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 inhabitants.

Alfalfa Medicago sativa:

Notably one of the most powerful nitrogen-fixing and maintenance free plants there is. The roots of the alfalfa plant have been known to go down into the soil as far as 50 feet bringing up many minerals and nutrients to the surface of the soil. The average depth for alfalfa roots is 20-30 feet.
The great thing about alfalfa is that once it gets established, you will never have to do anything with it because it's basically maintenance-free, and also that you can usually get 3 or more cuttings per season from one alfalfa plant. Like legumes, alfalfa also has the ability to fix nitrogen in the soil where other plants can utilize it, so cut it back 3-4 times per season and put the tops in the compost pile or till them into the garden and especially the greenhouse which always needs to have the nitrogen in the soil replenished. Alfalfa makes a great compost activator.

Alfalfa is very drought tolerant which is why so many farmers use it for hay. Just keep in mind those long roots make alfalfa impossible to eradicate if you want to get rid of it in the future. So be sure to plant it someplace where you want it to be forever. Alfalfa is a large, bushy plant usually becoming 3-4 feet tall and wide and so it offers shade to nearby plants and give shelter often keeping other plants alive longer during droughts.

Grow Your Own Bug Potions. By Circkles Staff Writers.

Many gardeners and backyard experimenters have discovered the fact that spicy or stinky ingredients make the best bug deterrents, such as garlic, pepper spray and aromatic herbs. Organic growers are always looking for new homemade bug potions. There are some eco-friendly commercial bug products such as pyrethrum made from the flower heads of Chrysanthemum coccineum, and rotenone made from the seeds and stems of members of the legume, pea, or bean family and the jicama vine. While both of these insecticides are considered natural and more environmentally friendly than toxic chemical alternatives, they both contain powerful components that kill insects very effectively but also will kill fish, so runoff from using these insecticides should be checked so as not to find its way into nearby ponds or streams. Neither usually appear in groundwater because both will biodegrade quickly in the soil before ever leaching into the ground very far, but they are both still considered harmful around pets and humans and they are not selective; meaning they will kill good bugs as well as bad.

Pyrethrins attack the nervous systems of all insects, and inhibit female mosquitoes from biting. When present in amounts less than those fatal to insects, they still appear to have an insect repellent effect. They are harmful to fish, but are far less toxic to mammals and birds than many synthetic insecticides and are not persistent, being biodegradable and also decompose easily on exposure to light. They are considered to be amongst the safest insecticides for use around food. They are thought to repel aphids, bed bugs, leafhoppers, spider mites, harlequin bugs, ticks, pickle worms and imported cabbage worms, and many other insects. Just the smell of Chrysanthemum coccineum is enough to repel some annoying insects and so it's used quite often as a companion plant among broccoli for protection from several common insect pests.

Rotenone is sold as an organic pesticide dust for gardens. Unselective in action, it kills potato beetles, cucumber beetles, flea beetles, cabbage worms, raspberry beetles, and asparagus beetles, as well as most other arthropods. It rapidly biodegrades under warm conditions, so harmful residues are minimal. A light dusting on the leaves of plants will control insects for several days. It is mildly toxic to humans and other mammals, but extremely toxic to insects and aquatic life, including fish. This higher toxicity in fish and insects is because the lipophilic rotenone is easily taken up through the gills or trachea, but not as easily through the skin or the gastrointestinal tract. Rotenone is toxic to erythrocytes in vitro.
The lowest lethal dose for a child is 143 mg/kg. Human deaths from rotenone poisoning are rare because its irritating action causes vomiting. Deliberate ingestion of rotenone can be fatal.
The compound decomposes when exposed to sunlight and usually has a lifetime of six days in the environment. In water, rotenone may last six months.

Back in the 1870s, Dick's Encyclopedia of Practical Receipts and Processes claimed a decoction of elder leaves sprayed on cucumbers and melon plants would kill thrips and discourage mildew. Dr. Lichtenstein of UW Madison found that parsnip roots contain a substance which effectively kills fruit flies, the Mexican bean beetle, pea aphid and mosquito larvae. The Henry Doubleday Research Association in England published a book on an 8 year study they conducted on garlic as an insecticide substitute for DDT. They concluded that the essential oil of garlic could be just as effective as DDT and similar pesticides. Researchers at the University of California also found garlic sprays controlled downy mildew on cukes and radish, cucumber scab and leaf spot, bean rust and anthracnose, tomato early blight, brown rot on stone fruits and bacteria blight on beans.

Growing pyrethrin in your yard may come in very handy if you get a severe bug infestation you cannot control with anything else. It makes a nice ornamental as it looks like a daisy and a lot like Feverfew but much bigger. It needs good, moist, well drained soil to get it going, or you can grow it in pots, but if you want it to reproduce and come back every year, plant it around the yard. Some seed suppliers such as Park Seeds and Johnny's are starting to carry the seeds for this plant, but there are many varieties or chrysanthemum out there, so make you purchase the Chrysanthemum coccineum variety mention in this article.

Plant garlic around your fruit trees, sunflowers, and any plants susceptible to cut worms or grubs. It will also repel mice who like to chew on the bark of young fruit trees and girdle them. Mulch it lightly over the winter in harsh climates and you can keep it going as a perennial. Separate the bulbs in the fall to start more. Often garlic will start to sprout in your refrigerator. Keep the smallest cloves and the ones that are sprouting until fall in your frig, then plant them in October for spring with the pointy tip up and just below the surface of the soil. Garlic likes organic matter mixed into soil so it doesn't get compact and remains fairly rich but also drains well. It does not like to be starved of water, so water it regularly like any garden vegetable.

Cayenne peppers and other hot peppers are easy to grow in pots since they require a long growing season and warm temperatures. As we mentioned in our Jan/Feb issue of Garden Circkles, you can make a very effective spray out of tomato leaves to control aphids. So not only can you harvest the tomatoes themselves, but keep in mind to make a spray of the leaves.

For the spray the English researchers used, see our Natural Insect Control column to the left and follow it monthly for many more homemade bug potions we will publish in the future.


Eco Garden Designs: Mosaic Garden Art. By Circkles Staff Writers.

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.

Garden Circkles 2013 Archives:

Jan/Feb 2013 - Heirloom Seed Suppliers

March 2013 - Ready, Set, Sprout.

April 2013 - Companion Planting, Apple Scab

© 2013 All images and articles.



May 2013
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