" 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.
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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:

Bumble Bee.
Order: Hymenoptera. Family: Apidae

Average Size: 1/4 inch to 1 1/4 inch.

Of course we know bumble bees to be good pollinators, so we want to keep them around our garden and yard for that reason, but did you know that they have longer tongues than honey bees so they are able to pollinate clover and alfalfa? Honey bees tend to like a more flat, open blossom, while bumble bees are able to pollinate the small, tubular type blossoms better. There are several varieties of bumble bees that come in many different sizes.

Bumble bees are used in greenhouses to pollinate melons and tomatoes. Bumble bees do not form a lasting colony like the honey bee. Their colonies are annual and only the fertilized queen bumble bee survives the winter. She emerges in the spring to start a new colony. Bumble bees also do not build a hive and store honey like honey bees, but make a nest in the ground.

Photo: A bumble hive in the ground.


Natural Insect and Disease Control:

Apple Maggot.

Also known as apple fruit fly, the adult apple maggot fly similar to the house fly that lays eggs inside the flesh of the apples around late July. They usually go unnoticed until you bite into an apple. The larvae overwinter in dropped fruit, so discarding and cleaning up fruit from the ground in the fall is a good idea.

You can make a trap to catch the flies before they lay their eggs. Mix one part molasses to nine parts water and add some yeast to encourage fermentation. Pour the beer-smelling liquid into small, plastic containers. Once fermentation subsides, hang the containers from your apple trees.

The Cooperative Extension of New Hampshire uses a bait made of 2 tsp ammonia and 1/4 tsp soap powder mixed in a quart of water. Distribute to smaller containers and hang them on the sunny side of the trees. Renew the bait if necessary.


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.


There are two types of chamomile: German or wild chamomile can be distinguished from the Roman chamomile by the hollow bottom of its blossom. An excellent companion plant to cabbages and onions, chamomile with improve the growth of both.

Wheat grown with small amounts of chamomile will grow heavier and fuller ears.

Chamomile flowers can be used in a dog's bed against fleas. Put the flowers in the stuffing of the bed. The blossoms soaked in water can be used as a spray to treat plant diseases like damping off in greenhouses and cold frames.

Photo: German chamomile is on the left, Roman on the right. German also has a more upright stem with many flowers on a multi-branched stem. Roman has a vining habit with only one flower at the end of a stem.

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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Easy Peasy Trellis and Double Crop of Peas.

This is so easy, its disgusting.
For years I tried all the conventional types of trellises for peas, but had one problem or another with them. Usually, they were too flimsy, would get blown over by the strong winds we have in Northern Colorado, or they just were not big enough. My family loves snow peas right out of the garden, so I grow a lot of them. In the fall, if there happens to be any left, I pressure can them, pod and all, and use them in stews, soups and stir fry.

My peas plants are usually done producing by mid-summer, but I found I can get a second, small crop of peas from the same plants if I cut off the spent vines to within about 6 inches from the ground. They will produce new shoots and more peas. The second crop is never as large as the first, but it's a great way to get some fall peas too without having to plant another crop of them. By fall, my family tends to get a bit tired of eating peas and doesn't mind that the fall crop is a bit smaller. We use the fall crop mostly for just snacking on.

After my peas are completely done in the fall, I cut off the vines, chop them up, and work them into my greenhouse soil because they are an excellent source of nitrogen which the greenhouse soil is in desperate need of. I let the pea vines compost right in the greenhouse beds over the winter where they will release their stored nitrogen into the soil for next years greenhouse crops.

So…back to my easy, peasy (yes, I said it) pea trellis. Go to Home Depot or another building supply or ranch supply store and buy the 8 foot wire livestock panels. Some people call them cattle panels, but they are 4x8 foot welded metal sheets of fencing with 4x4 inch square spaces between wires. Similar to regular metal fencing, but these come in 8 foot sheets not rolls, and the spaces are bigger. You could also use rolled metal fencing, but you would have to cut it to the length you want, and it tends to curl making it a bit difficult to use as a trellis, but not impossible. Rolls of metal fencing tend to be cheaper than the panels if you are making many trellises or covering a large area.

Also buy 2 pieces of metal rebar, 5 feet in length, per each 8 foot section or panel of fencing. That's it! If you buy the 8 foot panels, which do not require any cutting, you are done with your pea trellis. Go home and place the panels where you want them and secure them into the ground with the rebar. I take a piece of rebar and weave it through the panel a little bit by putting it through the top row, a middle row, and the bottom row of wire. Then I pound it into the ground with a small sledge hammer. I will link two 8 foot panels together to make a 16 foot long pea trellis simply by weaving a piece of rebar through both panels, as I just mentioned above, while overlapping the two panels slightly so I can weave one piece of rebar through both panels. You could simply bump two panels up to each other and secure them in the ground with separate pieces of rebar, but my way saves having to buy extra rebar.

These trellises will last a lifetime, are easy to take apart and store, and can serve multiple uses for vegetables or flowers. I even use them to make a square fence around small trees so the deer and elk don't eat them or rub their antlers on them and destroy them.

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


Buckwheat - The Small Gardener's Grain.

Most gardeners never think of growing a grain because it require acres and acres in order to get enough to make growing it worthwhile, large-scale equipment to harvest it with and a large irrigation system to water it all. Also, growing your own grains was never a big requirement, but with commercial grain crops all being contaminated with pesticides and GMOs, and cross-contaminating even organic fields, finding a clean source for grains is becoming more and more difficult and will quickly be a thing of the past.

What can you do if you don't have a large-scale farm? You can plant buckwheat. Specifically Japanese buckwheat which has very large kernels or grains, grows extremely fast, and doesn't require thrashing equipment to harvest it. Oh....and did I mention...bees love the stuff. Buckwheat honey is highly prized and sought after. So if you are also a beekeeper, buckwheat will bring the value and price of your honey up and it offers a high nectar source of fall blossoms for bees.

Another added benefit to growing buckwheat is that it will choke out grass. So why not turn a section of your yard or garden area that is always full of unwanted grass into buckwheat and get an additional benefit from it too? You can bring in a usable harvest with a patch as small as 10x10 feet.

The buckwheat plant is entirely different from other grains because it is not a grass. It's a summer annual with rather coarse, branched stems and large, broad arrow-shaped leaves. Flower panicles and leaves rise from the nodes, both on the main stem and branches. Growth habit is indeterminate with flowers opening throughout a long season, so the seed crop does not mature at one time. The seed is partially but not entirely enclosed by adhering flower parts during development. You can harvest the greens steadily (but  lightly) for salad (it is particularly good during the heat of summer since it has a lightly nutty taste  and will grow in hot weather), cook some of the mature greens, harvest the  seeds, then cut the plants back to about an inch, leaving the plant material on the ground.

Buckwheat is usually seeded only after the ground is thoroughly warm in early summer and after all danger of frost, but about 3 months before fall frost so the seeds mature when it is cool. That's about late June, first week of July, to sow for most folks. If they mature during hot weather, specifically hot nights, they won't produce well or may not seed at all. Harvesting is done when a substantial part of the seed is ripe, or brown instead of green.

Buckwheat does not need well-worked soil, although numerous studies have shown that early seedbed preparation promotes high yields. Till up a patch or area for your buckwheat. Rake some of the top soil into a pile off to the side of your patch, scatter the seeds in the patch, then rake the soil back over the seed to cover it to about 1/4 inch deep. A pound of seed will cover about 300 square feet. Keep it damp until it sprouts - which usually only takes about a week if you mulch it lightly so it doesn't dry out. Buckwheat can have emergence problems if the top of the soil gets dry or crusty. About 2 weeks after it sprouts, you can ease up on watering it a bit. Buckwheat likes humidity, so you people in the Southwest, keep this in mind, but it does tolerate poor soils. It's not impossible to grow buckwheat in the Southwest, I do it in Colorado, but I keep it under shade fabric during the hottest, driest part of the summer. I mulch it lightly to keep the roots cool, and water it more than most plants just to keep the humidity around it up a bit more. During humid years, like this year when we are being blessed with El Nino and getting lots of rain, keeping it humid enough is not a problem. During our drought years, it's a bit more of a challenge. A misting system works great. Definitely use an overhead watering system, not soaker hoses, to get the foliage wet frequently.

Plants will begin blooming in about 40 days from seeding and first seeds mature about 35 days later. This is one of the reasons it's great for small gardeners, another is that you don't need thrashing equipment to harvest the buckwheat grain. It will fall into a bowl or bucket just by shaking it or whacking it with a stick or broom. Similar to the way wild rice is harvested. Japanese buckwheat has much larger grain than most other varieties, which means higher yields from a smaller area as well.

Because buckwheat blooms indeterminately (over a period of time), late in the season the plants will have flowers as well as both ripe and unripe seeds. When about three-quarters of the seeds have become dark brown, we cut the stems near the ground with grass shears. We always harvest before the first killing frost; otherwise the foliage will collapse in a tangled mass and many of the seeds will "shatter" (fall off the plant). Even before frost, the most mature seeds shatter easily, so we try to be gentle when harvesting.

Buckwheat grain is not hard like some grains and can be ground into a flour using a blender or a coffee grinder. We also make Cream of Wheat instant cereal by grinding 1/4 cup buckwheat in a coffee grinder to a fine powder. Pour 1 cup of boiling water into a bowl, gradually stir in the buckwheat powder and whisk out any lumps. Flavor with honey, cinnamon, raisins, chocolate or any of your favorite spices. You can also add this buckwheat powder or flour to your baked goods to give them more nutritional value. Buckwheat is a very good source of protein, B vitamins and minerals.

Photos from top: 1.) Buckwheat seedlings sprout in just a week. 2.) Buckwheat offers bees long-term blossoms and supply a good fall nectar source. 3.) Buckwheat patch about to seed.

© 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.







July, 2014