" 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 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.

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: Thrips.
Order: Thysanoptera. Family: thripidae

Bad thrips eat plants, but good thrips such as six-spotted thrips, banded-wing thrips and black hunter thrips eat other bugs. These thrips are fond of spider mite eggs, nymphs, aphids, other thrips and the eggs of corn earworms, peach borer, whiteflies, leaf miner and scale insects.
Thrips are extremely small, usually 1/20th o f an inch, and nearly unnoticeable to the eye.
To attract good thrips, have plenty of flowering plants around, such as caraway, because thrips will resort to eating pollen when insect prey is scarce.


Natural Insect and Disease Control:

Powdery Mildew affects a wide variety of plants, usually in high humidity areas, and is caused by a any variety of fungi in the order Erysiphales. It's also one of the easiest diseases to diagnose since the white powdery spots on the leaves or stems of an infected plant are very distinctive.

Powdery mildew is unattractive and it can affect the flavor and reduce yields of some fruits and vegetables. Although plants are unsightly and can be weakened by an infection, they do not usually die. Powdery mildew on ornamentals is an aesthetic issue, and not usually worth treating. Prevention and control is more important for vegetables.

Powdery mildew of wheat thrives in cool, humid climates and proliferates in cloudy weather conditions. The pathogen can also be an issue in drier climates if wheat fields are irrigated. Ideal temperatures for growth and reproduction of the pathogen are between 60 °F (16 °C) and 70 °F (21 °C) with growth ceasing above 77 °F (25 °C). Dense, genetically similar plantings provide opportune conditions for growth.

Milk has been popular with home gardeners and small-scale organic growers as a treatment for powdery mildew. Diluted 1:9 (1 part milk to 9 parts water) and sprayed on susceptible plants at the first sign of infection, or as a preventative measure, with repeated weekly application often controlling or eliminating the disease. Any milk can be used, even skim milk. Studies have shown milk's effectiveness as comparable to some conventional fungicides, and better than benomyl and fenarimol at higher concentrations. Milk has proven effective in treating powdery mildew of summer squash, pumpkin, grapes and roses. 
New Zealand also found out about this new cure and has started to see changes on the grapes that are used for wine production.

Spraying leaves with baking soda (1 teaspoon in 1 quart water) raises the pH, creating an inhospitable environment for powdery mildew.

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.

Good plants for landscaping: Azaleas, holly and rhododendrons are good companions for a landscape planting because they like acid soil with humus.
DO NOT plant azaleas or rhododendrons near black walnut trees because a substance called juglone washed from the leaves of black walnuts is detrimental to them.

Bay: Bay Laurel leaves put in stored grain bins or containers such as wheat, rice, rye, beans, oats and corn will eliminate weevils. Bay belongs to the same family as cinnamon, camphor, avocado and sassafras.


Happy Harvest Season. By Redstone Publishing and Promotion.

Almost any state in this country has an autumn harvest festival or an apple festival the first couple weeks in October. Some growers will open up their orchards and let people pick their own apples. You can find pick-your-own orchards on our Local Circkles pages in our Main Menu for your state, but the best part of the fall harvest season is what to make out of all that great stuff!

Apple pie, apple butter, apple jelly, apple preserves, apple cobbler, applesauce, apples are probably the most liked and versatile fruit of the fall harvest season. But I would have to say that my all-time favorite recipe for apples, next to apple pie, is spiced apple rings. I came up with a refrigerator recipe for them a few years ago that I love. For you "lazy" preservers like me, here it is, of course, you can also pressure can this recipe to make them last for years, but they will last about 2-3 months in the frig without being pressure canned.

Spiced Apple Rings:

8-10 apples, cored and sliced into rings
1 tsp garam marsala
3/4 cup honey
3/4 cup apple cider or red wine vinegar
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup cranberry juice (for color)
4-5 whole cloves per jar

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and heat to boiling. Let cool to room temperature. Stack apple rings in a wide mouth jar or put in a small bowl and pour brine over them. Make sure the brine covers all the apples, cover and let sit in the refrigerator for a minimum of a week before eating.


Apple Butter:

10 apples such as Granny Smith (cored and sliced - don't peel, all the flavor and nutrients are in the peel.

1/2 cup honey or to taste (some people find apple butter is sweet enough without much sugar or honey, it depends on the type of apple you are using and your taste, but we find a minimum of 1/2 cup honey is a good place to start for any apple and taste

1/2 cup apple or cranberry juice
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Simmer everything in a pot until the apples are soft, most of the liquid has evaporated and the sauce is thick and dark brown.
Puree the mixture. Put in canning jars and process according to the directions for your canner.


Garden Tricks: Best way to Protect Brussels Sprouts from Aphids.

The only way to manage to get to harvest season with your crops is to keep them away from the deer, various other critters, the hail, the drought and if they survive all of that, the bugs. Brussels Sprouts are particularly difficult to keep from the aphids. With all the little leaves and crevices on the sprouts, there are an infinite number of areas for aphids to hide from insect sprays, predators and you. For years, we tried all kinds of sprays, dusting powders and protective covers. The protective covers worked against the aphids, but they also shaded the brussels too much and they needed much more sun in order to mature.

Finally we arrived at this concoction; which keeps aphids off the part of the brussels you eat (the tender young sprouts) but lets the rest of the plant have all the sun it craves. For the last 5 years, our brussels have donned ladies knee-hi stockings throughout the summer. It wasn't much of a fashion statement, but it worked like a charm.

Buy the cheapest, lightest-colored nylon knee-high stockings you can find at Walmart or Kmart. White stocking work the best, but if you can't find those, nude color is good. White will reflect the most sun and heat of course, and you want to keep your produce cool. If you can find the ones that come ten to a package, they are the most economical.

Cut the toe end off the stockings, place it over the stalk of the plant before they get too large. You can tie the ends to the stalk with string or twist ties, or, I twisted the ends tight and clamped them in this picture. Whatever you use, just make sure it is tight enough at both ends to prevent the aphids, or anything else, from crawling up inside the stocking and having a feast while you least suspect it.

This trick holds up all year under any conditions. You don't have to keep applying insect sprays all summer long, the stockings are reusable from year to year, and we have yet to find anything that works better. For so many years, we waited in anticipation for our brussels harvest - because I love brussels and nothing in the supermarket tastes as good as homegrown - but every year, until this trick, we had to throw all our brussels away because they were coated with aphids. Sure, we would soak them in water to try and get the aphids off, but there were always plenty of them in between the tiny leaves of the sprouts and I just couldn't get passed the idea in my head of eating them. Now....it's not a problem.


Plants Can Tell Us Secrets.

Some plants can tell us a great deal about our soil conditions. If you are familiar with the wild plants growing in your area, they can tell you a great deal about your soil conditions better than most soil testing kits. Of course, knowing which plants like moisture and which prefer it arid, or which ones can withstand your winters is a huge help when selecting plants for your area, but a couple other little hints here and there from the local vegetation never hurts.

Many asters are indicators of the type of soil you have. The sea aster (A. tripolium) grows on seasides and near salt mines and is an indicator of salt and soda in the soil. The poisonous wood aster (Xylorhiza parryi) of the West indicates an alkaline soil.

If the bushy type (Boltonia asteroides) or the purple-stemmed type (A. puniceus) show up in your pastures or fields, they indicate a need for drainage because these two types of asters like low, moist soil.

Photos from top. 1.) A.tripolium aster. 2.) Poisonous wood aster of the West.

© 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 - Does Anybody Can Anymore?, (With canning recipes), Beneficial Insects etc.




September 2013
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