" 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.

How Safe is the Water from a Garden Hose?
You should not be drinking from a garden hose or watering your garden vegetables with one. See this month's Green Circkles Page for more info and what you can do to reduce your risk.

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, 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.

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:

Whitefly Predatory Beetle.
Order: Coleoptera. Family: Coccinellidae

Average Size: 1/16 inch.

Looking very much like a ladybug only shiny black, and the males have a brown head. Their favorite prey is the sweet potato whitefly and if those are scarce, they will turn to eating spider mites. The adults can eat several hundred whiteflies in a single day, and the larvae can eat about a thousand whitefly eggs before pupating.
You will find these little beneficials anywhere there are a lot of whiteflies, so be careful what you spray your plants with if you are spraying to rid them of whiteflies. If you wait a few days, these beetles may just do the job for you.

 

Natural Insect and Disease Control:

Armyworms:

Armyworms are usually controlled by birds, skunks, tachnid flies and toads, but you may have noticed that every so many years, they are overly abundant. This phenomenon seems to go in cycles. When this happens, they can do serious damage to corn crops, fruit trees and certain vegetables.
A well-known remedy for armyworm infestations on large crops that has been used by the old-timers for years is to dig a trench or ditch around the crop and keep the soil in it loose and dry if possible. The worms will be trapped in it and you can bury them or burn them.
Another old-time practice for armyworms is to plant alternate rows of sunflowers. Researchers in Cuba have confirmed that this method is effective.

 

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.

Plants that add Lime (Calcium) to your Soil Naturally:

Buckwheat stores calcium, so when it's composted or tilled under as a green manure it will add lime to your soil.
Lupine has very deep roots so it reaches the deep calcium in the soil. They do well in poor, gravelly areas so planting them there will help enrich the soil over time.
Melon leaves are rich in lime, so add them to your compost pile when the plants are done for the season.

Peas, beans, cabbages and turnips do well in soil containing lime.

 

 

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.

 

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Hail Protection for Your Plants.

This time of year, your plants are just starting to get going. How many times have you just gotten them planted, they are doing great, then one hail storm destroys all your effort?

Row covers can help, but often hail is too heavy when it starts to accumulate and will crush cloth covers and the plants underneath. If you drape the cloth covers over a taunt wire or plastic undercarriage or hoop structure, it will help greatly because the hail will roll right off and not accumulate on top of the fabric crushing it down.

For small bushes or trees, wire mesh works extremely well without having to build an elaborate infrastructure around every tree. It is sturdy enough to bend it into a teepee and just place it over small plants. However, it would be much too time consuming to do this with every individual plant in a garden, so a complete garden covering is more appropriate. I once built a pergola over an entire garden area and covered it with wooden lattice. It worked great for hail protection because any hail that made it through the holes in the lattice was not enough to do substantial damage. The lattice also offered partial shade for our intense Colorado sun, but it may provide too much shade in other areas.

Many garden supply companies make an actual hail covering made of varying types of material. Whatever type of covering you use, you will need to create support for it in advance of a hail storm, and keep in mind that whatever you use has to support a great deal of weight without tearing or stretching to the point of reaching the ground and crushing and breaking plants. Also keep in mind that if it is going to be left in place the entire season or most of the spring hail season, you want to allow as much light to reach the plants while still protecting them as possible. This is why wire works so well; it is very sturdy, can withstand a great deal of weight, will not crush down or sag and will allow plenty of light to still reach your plants. They only downside to using wire is that it is usually much more expensive than fabric, but when you consider that it will last forever without tearing or needing to be replaced, you may find the initial extra investment well worth it.

A wire structure is easy to install over raised beds or small areas, so for them the wire works best. Large gardens are a different story. You can get as elaborate as you want and as permanent as you want, but it's more cost effective to use cloth material to cover large areas. In the photo above, I buried 10 foot cedar posts in the ground 8 feet apart. Then fastened wooden rails across the top of them to secure one side of the fabric to. In this case, I used shade fabric which doubles as a hail covering in the spring and protection from the hot Colorado sun in late summer. I strung wire guide cables from one side of the garden to the other and connected them to each adjacent post. I tie up the fabric with the orange string you see in the photo so that when a hail storm is approaching, I can quickly just jump up on my chair, untie the orange string and pull the fabric across the top of the guide wires. I then tie it to the guide wires so the wind does not blow it up.
This system is quick and works very well. In the winter, and during nice weather, I simply keep the shade fabric tied back like you see it here. Make sure to pour concrete around the posts so they don't fall over from the tension of the guide wires pulling them. Even though I used concrete around them here, one of the posts in the middle is starting to lean in anyway, which is the reason for the wooden brace you see holding it up. During long periods of rain when the ground gets saturated, the posts may lean in a bit. Just push them back with a brace like I am here until the ground dries out again.

What we gardeners don't have to endure and get creative about in order to have any crops at all. We have to protect them from deer (which is why I also have a 7 foot wire fence all the way around my garden and attached to the wooden posts), the bugs, the weather and rodents. But, if we can manage to build Alcatraz around everything, we just might get to taste the fruits of our labor. Finding a way to do that and make it as low maintenance as possible is a gardener's unending dilemma. Hail damage can ruin an entire garden or crop in a matter of just a few minutes. Hopefully we have given you some quick and easy ways to help your plants actually make it to harvest. Garden on.

Photos from top: 1.) Hail damaged squash. 2.) Wire that comes in a roll makes an easy support. Cut it to size with a wire cutter and stake it in place. When needed, just drape a cloth or tarp over it and pin it in place with clothespins. 3.) Permanent covering that can be tied back when not in use. 4.) a small, delicate tree covered with 1/4 inch wire mesh for the summer. Sun gets in, hail does not.

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

 

 

Edible Weeds (Part two of a series on common edible wild plants).

Dandelion: This much despised "weed" has many benefits and should not be exterminated just because some people consider them unsightly in their lawns. I rather like their color in the spring. Dandelions are one of the wild flowers honeybees collect nectar from. So for that reason alone, you should consider keeping them around. The root, when roasted, can have an almost chocolate flavor, and has been used for centuries as an herbal substitute for coffee. I wouldn't go that far, but it does make a tasty drink and when mixed with roasted chicory root, can be a very nutritious one as well. Dandelion is a good kidney cleanser, and because the roots go so deep (as you know) they are high in many minerals.
If you choose to eat dandelion greens, make sure to pick them in the early spring when they are small otherwise they can be quite bitter. Steam them, add them to soups or throw them in a salad.

Lamb's Quarters: Another "weed" not many people know to be edible. Lamb's Quarters is an annual wild edible that from a distance, tends to always looks dusty; this is because there is a white powdery coating on the leaves. Lambs Quarters is a purifying plant and helps to restore healthy nutrients to the soil if need be. However, if there is a large patch of lamb’s quarters, be sure that the soil is relatively good and not contaminated. This unique plant tends to spread quickly in areas in which soil is contaminated in order to restore nutrients. This wild edible has an earthy, mineral rich taste; some say is close to chard. It’s difficult to describe, but if you enjoy leafy greens such as kale, collards, and spinach then chances are you will like lambs quarter. One lamb’s quarter plant can produce up to 75,000 seeds, which is a good reason to cut it and eat it if you don't want it all over the place.
Leaves, shoots, seeds, flowers. Saponins in the seeds are potentially toxic and should not be consumed in excess. Lamb’s quarters contain some oxalic acid therefore when eating this raw, small quantities are recommended. Cooking removes this acid. Lamb’s quarter can be eaten in salads or added to smoothies and juices. Steaming this edible weed is one method of cooking, or can be added to soups, sautés and much more. Drying this wild edible is one way to add this nutritious plant to your meals throughout the winter or you can blanch and freeze the leaves.

Purslane: Warning: Hairy-stemmed spurge is a poisonous plant that is similar in appearance to purslane. Hairy-stemmed spurge is distinguished by a milky sap, which can be seen if you squeeze the stem and hairy stems whereby purslane has smooth stems and no milky sap.
Purslane is a succulent annual trailing plant that grows in many countries because it thrives in poor soil. It can be eaten as a cooked vegetable and is great to use in salads, soups, stews or any dish you wish to sprinkle it over. Purslane is antibacterial, antiscorbutic, depurative, diuretic and febrifuge. The leaves are a very rich source of omega-3 fatty acids which prevents heart attacks and strengthens the immune system. Leaves, stems and flower buds are the edible parts.

Amaranth: Also known as pigweed, is an annual great leafy green vegetable that many gardeners love to hate as it tends to show up everywhere. This wild edible can be a beneficial weed as well as a companion plant serving as a trap for leaf miners and some other pests; also, it tends to shelter ground beetles (which prey upon insect pests) and breaks up hard soil for more delicate neighboring plants. Because of its valuable nutrition, some farmers grow amaranth today.
The stem of the pigweed is what makes this plant so distinctive. Stems are erect, and can grow anywhere from 10 cm - 2 m high, but usually 50 - 90 cm, simple or branched, lower part thick and smooth, upper part usually rough with dense short hair, greenish to slightly reddish but usually red near the roots.
Young leaves can be eaten raw or cooked like spinach, sautéed, etc. Pigweed has a mild flavour and is often mixed with stronger flavoured leaves. Fresh or dried pigweed leaves can be used to make tea. The seed is very small but easy to harvest and very nutritious. The flavour is greatly improved by roasting the seed before grinding it. Pigweed seed can be ground into a powder and used as a cereal substitute, it can also be sprouted and added to salads. The seed is very small but easy to harvest and very nutritious.

Chicory: Chicory has the most brilliant, blue flowers. A perennial herbaceous plant, its leaves are tastiest in the spring and autumn as the summer heat tends to make them taste a little bitter – but they are still edible. Toss them in a salad but before doing so, blanch them. They can be mixed with other greens to minimize their strong flavor. The mature green leaves can be used as a cooked vegetable. Leaves and roots are the parts most used. Although the flower is edible, it is very bitter. The roots has been roasted and used as a coffee substitute since the Wild West days.
Chicory is a branching, scraggly-looking plant. It often stands out alone in gravel areas or open weedy fields and the flowers only open on a sunny day. It will tolerate some afternoon shade however. Before it gets the very tall flower stalks on it, it is just a rosette of leaves that look similar to a dandelion.
If you can collect some seeds from a roadside plant and start them in containers, then transplant them outside, they will readily self sow and you should have them all around your yard where you can enjoy their beautiful blue flowers. If they end up where you don't want them, the main plant is low to the ground and you can easily mow them down.

Photos from top: 1.) Lamb's Quarters. 2.) Purslane. 4.) Amaranth. 5.) Chicory.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

June, 2014