" 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 Googel Search above, and garden tips, more on beneficial bugs and natural pest and diseaase control are in The Hangout.
But you must be a Circkles.com member to access these pages.

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:

Ladybug / Ladybird Beetle
Order: Coleoptera. Family: Coccinellidae

Average Size: 1/8" to5/8".

Something not many people know, even avid gardeners, is that ladybugs come in different colors and do not always have spots. They can also be brown, black, yellow, gray and orange besides their common red color with black spots.

The larvae of the ladybug looks nothing like the adult. They are more alligator-shaped and do not have a smooth shell, but once you spot one, you will remember what they look like. They are usually dark brown to black and have a 2 distinctive red bands on their back. They are voracious eaters of aphids, so learning to recognize them and protect them is a plus.

The adults like tall grasses, so it's not always advantageous to cut every bit of grass in your yard. They also like borage, tansy, geranium and angelica.

Ladybugs purchased from garden suppliers don't always stay where you want them and will usually fly away, but here are a few tips to try to make them stay put:
- Release them just before sunup or just after dusk.
- Lay them gently at the base of aphid-infested plants.
- Spray plants with water just before releasing them.

Photo: Adult ladybug and larvae chasing some aphids on the leaf.


Natural Insect and Disease Control:

Spider Mites.

Spider mites are so tiny, you will likely not notice them until you see their webs all over your plants and the plant looking diminished like the sap has been sucked out of the leaves.

Some agricultural sprays and products will actually encourage spider mites in orchards and on plants. Sprays with copper and zinc will increase the numbers of citrus red mites. Nitrogen-rich fertilizers increases the number of red mites and two-spotted spider mites. The citrus rust mite likes copper.

Spider mites are very sensitive to any changes in their habitat and predators and some chemicals have been found to upset the natural balance that keeps mites in check. They favor hot, dry weather, so keeping plants well watered and using an overhead watering system will help keep them in check.

Homemade spray for control: Dr. G. Edward Marshall of Purdue University found mixing wheat flour with buttermilk coats the mites and suffocates them with their hind ends up in the air. They get stuck in the glue-like mixture and some of the mites appeared to have exploded when the mixture dried. He made his mix thick enough to stick to surfaces but thin enough to spray through a high-pressured sprayer. You will probably have to experiment with your spraying equipment and the consistency of the mixture to get it to work with your equipment.

The ladybug is also a natural predator of mites.


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.

Borage (Boraginaceae).

Also known as starflower, this flowering herb can grow the size of a small bush with some compost mixed into the soil and regular watering, and if it does, it will be covered with blossoms and honeybees. A perfect example is the photo to the right.

The flowers are edible and have a slightly cucumber flavor that can be added to salads or squash dishes. Borage is high in potassium, calcium and other minerals. It's also fairly high in vitamin C.

The seeds are used to make borage oil, one of the highest sources of Gamma-linolenic acid or omega 6 oils, however, you would need a great many plants to get enough seeds to make your own oil.

If you want to keep honeybees around, this annual herb is one of their favorites.

Garden Circkles 2013 Back Issues: You can also find these in our Google Search at the top of this column where you can search by topic.

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.




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Having Trouble Growing Blueberries?

The honeyberry, also known as blue honeysuckle may be your answer. Not only is it much more tolerant to pH levels than blueberries, this little shrub is outshining even the blueberry for nutritional benefits.

Researchers found blue honeysuckle berries to possess the highest content of phenolic acid as reported in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, March, 2005. Tested against blueberries, mulberries, juneberries, black currants, and blackberries, the berries from the blue honeysuckle consistently produced the highest level of antioxidants. It also contains high amounts of vitamin C.

Antioxidant and Cancer Prevention:
Recent research reported in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, December, 2008, analyzed a phenolic fraction from the berries to determine its nutrients and micronutrients. Researchers determined the content of anthocyanins, with cyanidin-3-glucoside being the most prominent. Anthocyanins are pigments in the plant from which it gets its antioxidant, anti-platelet, and wound healing abilities.

Other flavonoids found included the following:

Rutin - which reduces inflammation, fights cancer, boosts the effectiveness of vitamin C, maintains blood vessels, and supports collagen necessary for young, supple skin.

Quercetin neutralizes free radicals to prevent cellular damage, combats cancer, alleviates bruising and varicose veins, enhances cardiovascular health, prevents oxidation of cholesterol, and improves lung health and respiration.

Epicatechin is believed by many researchers to be able to prevent four of the top five killer diseases: heart failure, cancer, diabetes, and stroke. They see a shortage of this phenomenal nutrient as the cause of many diseases of modern times. Epicatechin is considered so important to the body that it is under consideration for classification as a vitamin.

Protocatechuic acid is anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic, anti-microbial, anti-viral, and anti-carcinogenic. It is another potent free radical fighter. Genistic acid is also another potent free radical fighter.

Ellagitannins convert in the body into ellagic acid, one of the most powerful antioxidants known, and a powerful cancer fighter. Ellagic acid has the ability to inhibit mutations in DNA, and promote apoptosis (appropriate death) of cancer cells. It also has anti-viral and anti-bacterial qualities.

The November, 2008 journal Molecules reports a study of blue honeysuckle berries to determine their ability to prevent nervous system disease. Researchers found them to be potent sources of neuron-protective antioxidants that could prevent neurodegenerative diseases.

Nervous System Benefits:
Ferulic Acid provides rigidity to cell walls and is a protector of the nervous system. It normalizes blood pressure. Caffeic Acid and chlorogenic acid work together to protect cerebral neurons. These acids are effective against liver toxicity, promote cell differentiation, and normalize colon function. They have been found effective in halting cell proliferation and inducing apoptosis in breast cancer cells.

Other Benefits:
In one study blue honeysuckle dried fruit was shown to reduce the ability of parasites to form and adhere. These included Candida, Staphylococcus, E. Coli, Enterococcus, and Streptococcus varieties.

The Archieves of Dermatology Research, June, 2008, reported a study finding that blue honeysuckle fruit suppressed UVA induced free radical production and decreased intracellular lipid peroxidation while increasing glutathione production. Glutathione is the most potent of the endogenously produced antioxidants.

A study reported in Experimental Eye Research, May, 2006, found that blue honeysuckle berry extract reduced inflammation from eye disease and produced pro-inflammatory mediators in the eye.

The American Journal of Chinese Medicine, 2005, reported that blue honeysuckle works as a potent anti-inflammatory by suppressing production of nitric oxide and tumor necrosis factor alpha. Nitric oxide is a producer of free radicals during inflammatory responses. Another study from China reported in November, 2005, found blue honeysuckle berries reduced inflammatory reaction to food induced allergies.

The blue honeysuckle bush, botanically known as Lonicera caerulea, is a hearty plant with all the endurance and pest resistance of other honeysuckle plants. It is easily reproduced from seed or cutting and is extremely drought tolerant. It's cold hardy to -50 degrees and grows to 4 feet tall. All it really ever needs is sunshine, water and a little pruning every now and then to keep it looking its bet. It can be grown anywhere from zone 2 to zone 8 in the U.S. The northern climates and the Pacific Northwest are where it does best, but it can be acclimated to just about anywhere.
Prized for their fruit and for berries which are much larger than blueberries with a flavor described as a cross between a blueberry and a blackberry or raspberry. Flowers appear in February or March and develop into the abundant fruit that ripens in May. Each bush can yield about four to seven pounds of fruit a year.

Raintree Nursery carries 4 different varieties for different climates. The Berry Blue and Blue Belle are the highest recommended varieties, but there are others for the Pacific Northwest region.


Herbs For Bees.

What do avid gardeners do in February? Why order seeds of course. The seed supply catalogs usually hit everybody's mailbox right about now and gardeners start preparing a list of what they want to grow in the coming spring with a twinkle in their eye. If you are planning flowers to attract more honeybees, you may as well grow flowers you can use too; like herbs. We've compiled a list of flowering herbs sure to do the trick.

Borage: Boy do the honeybees love the little purple star-shaped flowers that bloom non-stop until a hard frost. You can enjoy the blossoms too, they are edible and have a mild cucumber flavor. They look pretty in salads and your guests will certainly ask what they are - giving you the opportunity to show off your gardening expertise. These plants can get rather large: 3 feet by 3 feet.

Chives: Surprisingly, bees like the blossoms on chives. Cut back some of the chive stalks before they blossom, such as the ones around the perimeter of the clump, for your use as once the stalks get flower heads, they get tough and woody. Leave the center of the cluster to flower for the bees. Or, grow several bunches so you have some and the bees have some.

Oregano: Although the flowers are very small, if you plant a large batch together, bees will find them.

Motherwart: An intrusive and very prolific herb, so if you don't want it all over your yard, be sure to cut off the blossom stalks when they are done and before they go to seed. However, bees love them and they get quite a few flowers on their tall stalks. Very hardy.

Mints: Mountain mint, or wild mint flowers more than some commercial varieties and they do attract bees when they flower. These mint plants can get up to 4 feet tall.

Comfrey: Can't say I've seen a lot of bees on my comfrey, but they do flower profusely, and this is an herb every household should have. It's one of the herbs I call my "miracle herbs" because after seeing what it can do for bruises, cuts, injuries, swelling and sprains ., I'm a fan.

Lavender: Not very useful as a medicinal herb, but love the smell. Make sachets of the dried stalks to hang around your house, in front of an open window so the breeze will catch it. Or….I use one of our Gift Wraps to hang large bunches of aromatic herbs around my house because they are decorative and large enough to hold generous amounts of wonderful smelling herbs. Crush them up a little every once in awhile to release the aroma. Works very well with clary sage also.

Lemon Balm: Good for flavoring teas and Asian dishes. Very similar in appearance to mountain mint. When it flowers, bees love the tiny little blossoms.

Sages: One that smells great and is loaded with blossoms is Clary Sage - pictured to the right.

Hyssop: Anise hyssop is great for making very flavorful tea, and although the stalks get more of a spike than a flower, they do attract bees.

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February, 2014