" 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.

See our Green Circkles Page for homesteading suppliers, tips and information on living a more sustainable lifestyle at home.
Find more gardening articles
in our Archives Search above, on garden tips, more on beneficial bugs and natural pest and diseaase control and more.

Heirloom Seed Suppliers: We have ordered from these suppliers and find them to be very reputable, reasonably priced 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: Ant Lions.
Order: Neuroptera. Family: Myrmeleontidae

Adult ant lions may resemble damselflies, but their antennae are longer and blunter at the ends. They have long, thin bodies and transparent, veiny wings. Their larvae are often called doodlebugs because of the odd winding, spiralling trails it leaves in the sand while looking for a good location to build its trap that look like someone has doodled in the sand.

The larvae body is covered with spines and they have pincher-like antennae in front. They eat ants, hiding at the bottom of thier funnel-shaped traps for a curious ant to slide down the sloping sides of the pit. Both the larvae and adults eat small insects including ticks. Average adult size is one and a half inches to four inches.

Typically found in southern and southwestern areas of the U.S. in sandy soils. Photos: 1.) Ant lion larvae in palm of a hand for size ratio. 2.) Ant Lion pit or doodle.
3.) Adult Ant lion.

Natural Insect and Disease Control:

Bacillus Thuringiensis. Commonly referred to as BT.

BT is a selective bacterial disease effective against may insects such as the fruit leaf roller and various caterpillars, specifically tent caterpillars and other moths, the tobacco budworm, bollworm and cabbage loopers. The disease attacks the caterpillar in the larvae stage after they come out of their tent.

BT produces crystals during spore production that act as a stomach poison on insects eating the treated plants, but it is not toxic to plants, people or animals, and can be applied up to the day of harvest.

Plants that Benefit: Use on all members of the cabbage family that cabbage loopers just love to eat up. Fruit trees to stop tent and army caterpillars which in large infestation cycles can destroy whole orchards. Also good to use on lettuces and celery.


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 and disease.

Basil (Ocimum basilicum). Not only is this a prized plant for any cook's kitchen, this culinary herb makes for a very good garden companion plant as well because it's very aromatic and will drive many types of bugs away. It benefits tomatoes against insects and disease, and some people claim it improves their flavor. You would have to be the judge of that.

Basil also repels flies and mosquitos, so its a human companion plant as well. Plant it in several pots on your patio where you usually sit.

Growing: There are numerous varieties of basil and they all will do the trick. Basil does better in pots rather than planted in the garden as it will usually get chewed up by slugs if planted in the dirt. In a pot, it has very few pests. Keep the soil semi moist and place the pots among select plants to act as a companion plant.



Olla, Olla, Olla: 4000 Year Old Plant Irrigation May Be Your Answer.
By Redstone Promotional Communications / Circkles.com

I have some bushes and plants that are on a hill or very dry area and difficult to water - the water runs down the hill before it ever gets to the plant's roots, and living in the semiarid climate of Colorado, it's a challenge to keep plants moist without wasting lots of water to evaporation. Turns out the most effective answer to this problem is also the most simple one that comes from a 4000 year old system used in North Africa and China called ollas (oy-yahs). Still used in countries such as India, Iran, Mexico, Pakistan, Brazil and remote areas without other means of irrigation, ollas are gaining popularity with modern gardeners due to them being much more efficient than overhead watering and other commercial irrigation systems. Here's why.

Traditional ollas are unglazed clay or terra-cotta pots with a narrow, tapered neck that are buried in the ground with the top exposed above the soil surface and periodically filled with water. The porous, unglazed clay directs water from the clay receptacle directly to the plant's roots. When buried neck deep into the ground, filled with water, and crops planted near it, the clay pot allows water to seep out slowly due to the suction force which is created by soil moisture tension and plant roots.

"The plant roots grow around the pots and only pull moisture when needed, never wasting a single drop, virtually eliminating the runoff and evaporation common in modern irrigation systems, allowing the plant to absorb nearly 100 percent of water.” ~ City of Austin Water Conservation, 2006.

This makes ollas very effective in that they are self regulating without having to use timers or electronic sensors. If the area is already saturated, the clay pot will hold the water in, and if the area is dry, it will leach more water into the soil around the pot as needed. This is pretty darn energy efficient as well. One experimental study with ollas stated that olla irrigation used one tenth the water of conventional irrigation on corn fields in California. It has also been noted that far less weeding is required when using olla irrigation because it only waters the area within a selected plant range. That right there gave me all the incentive I needed to give them a try.

You can buy commercially designed ollas if you want to spend anywhere from $20 to $40 a piece for one: which can add up to a great deal of money very quickly just to irrigate a small area or many plants. Or, you can make your own ollas for about a quarter of the cost with traditional, unglazed clay flower pots that you can pick up at any garden store or Walmart.
You can also make what's referred to as a clay pot capsule or olla capsule, which is basically two clay pots glued together in a very effective capsule container which then does not require a cover to prevent evaporation and which can easily be hooked up to irrigation tubing by inserting it into the top hole so many ollas can be filled at once with a nearby large bucket, container or garden hose.

Determining the necessary size of your olla. Here are some basic guidelines:

Make sure the pots you use are not glazed since this will prevent them from being porous and allowing water to pass through them. Traditional clay flower pots are not usually glazed, they will look shiny if they are - check the inside of the pot for glazing too as sometimes they will be glazed on the inside and not the outside. If you want to double the watering capacity of your olla for larger plants without digging a big hole to accommodate a really large pot (say for a tree in which you need a lot of water but don't want to damage the roots by digging a large hole), make an olla capsule instead.

The general rule of thumb when selecting an olla for a particular pot or space, is to keep in mind that the water seeps out approximately the radius of the olla; the larger the space, the bigger the olla you will need. For example: a 6 inch clay flower pot (radius is the area across the pot not around the pot) will water an area approximately 6 inches all the way around the pot. In theory, a more tapered, flat-bottomed vessel with a narrow neck to reduce evaporation should be more efficient due to an increased surface area and water seepage, allowing for less ollas to be used to sufficiently irrigate a greater space. Five to twelve quart volumes have been used to irrigate vine crops such as tomatoes, squash, melons, cucumbers, etc.

Making Your Olla:
Once you decide if you are going to use a single olla or an olla capsule, you will need some glue or caulking to fill holes with or connect two clay pots to make a capsule. You can go a couple of ways with this: 1.) You can use something like concrete caulking that will adhere to the clay pot well and fill the hole in the bottom that all clay pots come with. Make sure to place your pots on a surface you don't mind getting messy with the caulking as it will seep through the hole. Or place them on plastic or used plastic food container covers you were going to recycle anyway. 2.) You can glue two clay pots together to make an olla capsule with Gorilla glue, tile or clay pot adhesive, and cover the hole at the bottom by gluing something over it, like the discarded plastic food container covers from something like yogurt or cottage cheese.
Also decide if you are going to fill your ollas by connecting them to irrigation tubing or fill them individually. If you are connecting them with tubing, you can find relatively inexpensive, small, irrigation tubing at Home Depot that can be custom configured almost any way you want by using various different connections to join pieces together that will work with your pots such as "Y" connections, corner connections etc. (See photo at right.) You may want to glue or caulk these connections to your clay pots as well, and will use a stopper like the one in the photo to plug the hole and attach a connection.

Let the caulking or glue dry for a minimum of 24 hours or per the manufacturer's recommendations before burying you pots in the dirt. If using caulking to fill the bottom hole in your clay pot, make sure it is dry all the way through. You will probably have to let it dry upright for about 10-12 hours then tip it upside down and let it dry thoroughly from the other side for another 10-12 hours so it will not dissolve or come out once buried.

Using Your Olla:

1. Bury the Olla in soil leaving top exposed. Of course, it makes sense that in order to get the maximum utilization out of an olla because they are round, plants should be planted around it in a circular pattern so none of the water seepage is going into soil that isn't being used by desired plants. Also, if you have plants on the side of a hill like I do, bury the olla uphill from the plant so gravity will work in your favor and the water from the olla will seep downhill toward the desired plant. In this instance, you can potentially get a much broader seepage range from your olla because gravity will also act to pull water from it.

2. Plant seeds or plants within 5-6 inches of your olla. Typically, it has been found that this is the maximum seepage distance for a standard 5-6 inch olla, but use the chart above that calculates the average estimated watering distance for different size ollas.

3. Fill the Olla with water and check it every couple of days depending on the weather and plant usage. Water should be added to an olla whenever the water level in the olla falls below 50% in order to avoid build up of salt and mineral residues along surfaces of the olla that may later prevent it from being porous.

“Depending on factors such as the plant’s water needs, soil type, time of year, and environment, ollas may need filling weekly or daily. Water usually takes between 24 and 72 hours to flow through an olla.” (Bulten, 2006)

4.) Depending on the type of olla you are making, cover the top with a flat stone or tile to reduce evaporation.

5.) Winterization: Remove your ollas before the water freezes in them and keep them in a dry spot such as a shed or garage because any frost or moisture will also be absorbed by the porous clay pots, freeze and break them. When you dig the hole for your olla, leave the dirt near it if you are using it on perennials so you can fill in the hole in the fall thereby reducing the root exposure to frost and the hole from collecting moisture that may turn into ice causing root damage.

Buried clay pot irrigation is useful for gardening, landscaping, containers on patios or porches, and house plants when you go on vacation. It is also excellent for starting plants from root cuttings and is the most effective method I have found yet for semiarid and arid climates.

The only disadvantages to olla irrigation to be found so far are that prolonged use may decrease the porosity of the pot. Some heavy soils may be inappropriate for ollas and the longevity of ollas (without frost) is unknown but estimated in one study to be 5 years or more.

Photos from top. 1.) Traditional olla. 2.) Olla capsules glued up in advance (a good winter project to prepare for next spring.) 3.) Homemade olla buried and filled with water. 4.) Olla size and usage chart. 5.) Ollas sealed with caulking to use as single ollas not capsules. 6.) Olla covered with any flat rock to reduce evaporation.


You'd Be Surprised What You Can do With an Ordinary City Lot.


The Dervaes Family transformed an ordinary 66' x 132' urban (city) lot in Pasadena into a self-sufficient homestead with an organic garden that supplies them with 6000 lbs of food year-round.  Each family member takes part and has their duties, and despite its size, they have created a fully functioning urban farm in every way, feeding this family for almost $2.00 per day per person. Now THAT's urban farming!

© 2013 Redstone Promotional Communications / Circkles.com. All rights reserved to 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 - Does Anybody Can Anymore?, (With canning recipes), Beneficial Insects etc.

September 2013 - Plants Can Tell Us Secrets, Apple Harvest Recipes.




October 2013
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