" 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 homesteading suppliers, tips and information on living a more sustain-able lifestyle at home.
Find more gardening articles
in our Archives by using the Google Custom Search above.

Organic Non-GMO Seed Suppliers:

High Mowing Organic Seeds has just announced they plan to be the first non-gmo project certified vegetable seed supplier in the U.S. highmowingseeds.com

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 agri-businesses that create most of the "food" on store shelves today.


Beneficial Bugs:

Aphidiid Wasp
Order: Hymenoptera. Family: Apidiinae

Average Size: They vary in size but are just slightly larger than an adult aphid: about 1/8 inch.

As the name implies, these wasps love aphids. They are all black and look similar to an ant with wings. The females lay their eggs inside the aphid and when they hatch, the young feed on the aphid eventually killing it. Almost (almost) makes you feel sorry for aphids. But not when they are chewing up your potatoes or brussels.

Active in the late summer and fall, aphidiid females can parasitize hundreds of aphids per day. You'll know you have these wasps around if you see "aphid mummies" or paper-bag colored aphid shells stuck to leaves.


Natural Insect and Disease Control:


It is said that mosquitoes are never found in swamps or ponds where Calamus, also known as sweetflag or sweet root is growing. If you have a backyard pond, many pond supply stores have this great stuff called "Mosquito Dunks." You can also order them online. They are little donuts made of BT that you can float in your pond to control mosquitoes. Fish will also eat mosquito larvae.

Mosquitoes are heat-seeking missiles. They pick up on body heat, so the warmer you are the quicker they will pick you out of a crowd. They are also attracted to carbon dioxide when we breathe, so if you are breathing heavily, they will find you. Because they are attracted to these two things primarily, there isn't a particular herb or smell that will deter them. However, they are attracted to body odor.

Everyone knows they hang out around any little source of water, so keep rain barrels covered, empty any receptacle in your yard that holds water after a rain or cover it. f you have horse troughs or large containers for livestock, empty them every 7 days before any mosquito larvae in them has a chance to hatch.

Lactic acid in skin care products:Have mosquitos been buzzing around your face and head a lot? It could be your body care products that are attracting them. Alpha hydroxy used in many facial products is an attractant.

If there isn't water readily available, they like tall grass, so keep it mowed.


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.


Onions, leeks and strong-smelling herbs such as rosemary, sage and wormwood repel the carrot fly.

Carrots grow well with leaf lettuce and tomatoes but do not like dill. Carrot roots contain exudate that is beneficial to the growth of peas.

If you are having trouble with nematodes in the soil making your carrots twisted and deformed, try planting cloves of garlic all the way around your carrot patch.


No more searching the web for hours looking for recipes that have not even been tested only to find they don't work. Pop our CD into your laptop, or download the efile onto any electronic device and head for the kitchen!

Make your own ingredients and healthy recipes without pre-packaged and processed ingredients.

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It's Almost Time Again: Harvest Time.

It's hard to believe fall is just around the corner. As is our editorial tradition, every year around harvest time, we publish a harvesting and preserving article with recipes. Last year we did harvesting apples, apple festivals and apple harvest recipes like spiced apple rings and apple butter. See our archives for that yummy edition.
This year, we thought we'd go with a couple more non-traditional recipes. Pickled green beans are the best way to eat green beans in my opinion, other than raw. If you plant Blue Lake green beans, they are the best tasting and rarely tough, so they make great preserves or eating raw.
Then we decided to throw in an old heirloom recipe of my Grandmother's. She called them Slim Jims, most people call them pickled watermelon rinds, I call them a delicious way to use that part of the melon you would otherwise throw away. They were my favorite as a kid.

Crispy Spicy Pickled Green Beans: Makes 6 - half pint jars

I like this recipe better than most because the beans stay crunchy.

2 1/2 pounds fresh green beans
1 large red pepper
2 1/2 cups distilled white vinegar
2 cups water
1/4 cup salt
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 bunch fresh dill weed
3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

Sterilize 6 (1/2 pint) jars with rings and lids and keep hot. Trim green beans to 1/4 inch shorter than your jars.
In a large saucepan, stir together the vinegar, water and salt. Add garlic and bring to a rolling boil over high heat. In each jar, place 1 sprig of dill and 1/8 teaspoon of red pepper flakes. Pack green beans into the jars so they are standing on their ends. Add a couple thin slices of red pepper per jar.

Ladle the boiling brine into the jars, filling to within 1/4 inch of the tops. Seal jars with lids and rings. Place in a hot water bath so they are covered by 1 inch of water. Simmer but do not boil for 10 minutes to process. Cool to room temperature. Test jars for a good seal by pressing on the center of the lid. It should not move. Refrigerate any jars that do not seal properly. Let pickles absorb the flavor for 2 to 3 weeks before eating.

Slim Jims: Makes about 4 quarts.

Most people call these pickled watermelon rinds, but my Grandmother called them Slim Jims. But then, she made her's a bit differently. More like a sweet pickle, she sliced them the long way instead of into 1 inch chunks the way most recipes today suggest. As a kid, out of all the things she canned, these were my favorite and whenever I went over to her house, I had my own jar which I devoured while I was there. Why throw the rinds away when you can make a tasty treat like this out of them?

4-pounds watermelon rind, sliced
8 cups water
2 tablespoons salt
1 cup honey
1 1/4 cups apple cider vinegar
8 whole cloves
8 whole black peppercorns
2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 tsp pickling spice
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground fresh ginger root

Cut the watermelon rind into quarters then 1 inch wide slices to make it easier to handle. Cut off the green outer skin. You can leave a little pink pulp on the slices. Combine 8 cups water and 2 tablespoons salt in large pot; bring to boil. Transfer rinds to large glass bowl. Pour salt water mixture over them, cover and let sit overnight in the refrigerator.

The next day, drain the rinds, combine honey and next 7 ingredients in heavy large saucepan. Bring to boil, stirring until honey dissolves. Add rind pieces and boil until tender or the rind is transparent, about 30-45 minutes.

Pack the rinds into hot sterilized 1-quart jars, pour enough hot brine over them to get it to within 1/4 inch of the top of the jar. Run a slim, non-metal spoon handle or other object along the inside of the jars to release any air bubbles. Top off with more brine if necessary. Wipe tops and threads of jars clean with a damp, clean cloth and apply lids. Tighten by hand until snug but do not over tighten with a wrench. Process jars in a large pot with enough water to cover their lids for 10 minutes. For altitudes from 1,001 to 6,000 feet, process for 15 minutes. For altitudes over 6,000 feet, process for 20 minutes.

© 2013 Redstone Promotional Communications / Circkles.com. All rights reserved to articles and images.


It's Time to Prepare and Rejuvenate Your Greenhouse for Winter Crops.

Once the garden is almost done for the season, I'm starting seeds for my greenhouse cool-weather crops. Plants like brussels, kale, radishes, kohlrabi, greens and maybe a small trellis of peas will always be staples for my winter crop rotation. Any plants that can withstand a slight frost or cold nights can be planted in a greenhouse for the winter providing it gets enough winter sun. Depending on how much light your greenhouse lets in and your location, you may find that even though your plants are still alive in December and January, they are not doing anything because the days are just too short and they aren't getting enough light. Hang tight. About mid February they will pick up again. All you have to do is stop them from freezing during the coldest months of the year.

If you've grown plants in your greenhouse for about 3-4 years, it's time to give the soil a good nutrient kick. I add compost to my greenhouse beds before every planting anyway, so I add some in the spring before I start my summer plants, and I will add a little more in the fall and mix it in before I plant cool crops. But the soil in a greenhouse gets depleted eventually because there is nothing to add nutrients to the soil like Mother Nature does automatically, and you are growing high demand vegetables in the same area over and over. Hence, you will have to play the role of enriching the soil periodically. I plant my greenhouses with this yearly procedure in mind. I try to plant vegetables that will all mature at about the same time on one side of my greenhouse so when the plants are done, I can pull them all out at once and really get in there to rejuvenate the soil before I plant that area again.

A very necessary nutrient that greenhouses are almost always lacking in time is nitrogen. Because they are isolated from the nitrogen that is released into the atmosphere during thunderstorms, the plants in a greenhouse do not readily get access to this vital nutrient like they would in a garden. This is were green manures really makes a big difference. If you notice your greenhouse plants, or even your garden plants, are looking a bit yellowish, or are not a nice, dark green, and you don't believe it is a watering issue, it's probably nitrogen depletion in your soil.

We published an article in last month's Garden Circkles on Buckwheat, which makes an excellent green manure because it matures extremely fast and you can plant it just about anywhere. Pea plants and bean plants are another excellent green manure as well as alfalfa.
When fall rolls around and my pea plants are spent, I chop them up and add them directly to the raised beds in my greenhouses and mix it in with the soil a bit. I let them compost right in the greenhouse soil. Just make sure there are not insect eggs on the leaves before you use them. You don't want a crop of bugs in your greenhouse next season
You could take a little hiatus from greenhouse growing for 2-3 months and grow buckwheat in your greenhouse beds and then till it under when it matures if you have a small tiller or hand hoe. As mentioned above, buckwheat grows so quickly, you will only experience about 2 months of down-time in which you will not be able to grow vegetables in your greenhouse. Since buckwheat likes cooler weather, you could time this for in the fall or winter, and when spring rolls around, you will have a nice kickstart of nitrogen rich soil to boost warm weather plants which use a lot of it.

Alfalfa makes an excellent cover crop as well. I have it growing all around my property. Because you can usually get 2-3 cuttings from one alfalfa plant per season, I simply cut them off about an inch above the ground just before they flower or go to seed and throw them into my compost pile, or chop them up and use them as green manure.

If you have the luxury of leaving your greenhouse dormant for a season, work in some compost and green manure and let it sit for about 6 months. Water it to get the organic matter to compost into the soil. However, with our fervent demands for high productivity as growers, we rarely ever have the luxury of just giving up planting space for 6 months. Which is why we recommend the rejuvenation of the soil as mentioned in this article.

Photos from top: All of these photos are examples of nitrogen deficiency in plants. The top photo shows a sunflower and the other two are tomato plants. Nitrogen-deficient plants are yellow and stunted, with the symptoms expressed on the older leaves first. In severe cases, leaves eventually turn brown and die. Fruit may be misshapen and few in number.

© 2013 Redstone Promotional Communications / Circkles.com. All rights reserved to articles and images.


Garden Circkles 2013 Back Issues:

You can also find these articles and more in our article archives where you can search by topic using the Google Search at the top of this column.

Jan/Feb 2013 - Heirloom Seed Suppliers, Natural Pest Control etc.

March 2013 - Ready, Set, Sprout, Beneficial Insects 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 - Ollas, Ollas, Ollas; Urban Farming Family, Basil as a Companion and more.

November 2013 - Tilapia Farming and Backyard Aquaponics, Greenhouse Designs: Frame Materials Compared.
(Part one of Two.)

December 2013 - Making a Greenhouse Self Sufficient (Part two of two), Growing Winter Greens etc.







August, 2014