" 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.

Find more gardening articles and topics in our Archives by using the Google Custom Search above.

See our Local Circkles pages for Farmer's Markets in your state.

See our Green Circkles Page for homesteading suppliers, tips and information on living a more sustainable lifestyle at home.

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:

Ichneumon Wasp
Order: Hymenoptera. Family: Ichneumonidae

These wasps have thread-like waists and very long antennae. They vary greatly in color from red and orange to many shades of brown and some have stripes and some not. There are over 3,300 known species in North America alone.

The larvae take up residence in caterpillars and sometimes spiders. The larvae then develops inside the host feeding on it and killing it.

Adults drink nectar and water, so to encourage them to stay, plant umbrella-shaped flowers such as tansy and lovage. They also prefer higher humidity. They range in size from 1/8 inch to 1 5/8 inch.


Natural Insect and Disease Control:

Preventing Ants from Taking Their Aphid Harvests into Your Orchard Trees.

Ants will protect and actually harvest aphids to serve their food supply. The ants eat the sticky, white, sweet substance secreted by the aphids and so the aphids are literally harvested by the ants and protected for the food they offer. Ants will collect aphids and put them under leaves for future food storage use.
One gardener I recently talked to found a clever way to prevent ants from taking their aphid harvest up into his cherry trees. He put a non-drying adhesive or sealing compound around the base of the trunks of his trees. The ants would get stuck in the compound and not go any further, however, ladybugs, who feed on aphids were not disturbed by the sticky barrier. The ants would drop their aphid cargo at the base of the trees and the ladybugs would eat them up.


Companion Planting: Chervil.

Plants that assist each other to grow well, repel insects or even other plants when grown next to each other is called companion planting and can be a sustainable and eco-friendly way to improve and protect your garden against unwanted pests and disease.

Chervil is one of the few herbs that grows better in shade, so planting it among taller plants is beneficial. It does not take well to being transplanted, so pick your spot and direct seed it in the spring. It is a good companion plant to radishes and will improve their growth and flavor.

The leaves resemble parsley in appearance and taste, with delicate overtones of anise.  Sow seeds directly into the garden about three to four weeks before the last spring frost and again in late summer; thin seedlings to 6 to 9 inches apart.



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.


Garden Circkles Back Issues:

You can find these articles and more by searching by topic using the Google Search at the top of this page or go to our Garden Circkles Back Issues Page.


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Converting a Barn to a Greenhouse.

By Redstone Promotional Communications / Circkles.com

When I couldn't ride anymore and gave my horses away, I kept looking at the now-unused barn and wondered what I would do with it. It seemed a shame to just let it sit there without a purpose. For about 2-3 years I had been eyeing it up as a potential greenhouse if I ever got rid of my horses, and when I put some serious thought and planning into it, I realized it would not take much work or money to turn it into a very large, really nice greenhouse that would be much less expensive than buying one of the same size.

I knew I wasn't going to convert the entire barn until I knew if my idea was going to work or not, plus, I thought converting the entire barn would be too much greenhouse space that I would not use, so I chose to do the side that received the most sun. The entire project only cost about $700 for a 10x20 foot greenhouse with 12 foot high ceilings. I actually use the rafter space to hang plants in pots from the rafters - such as strawberries. Of course, it looks much more impressive now that it has plants growing in it, but here is how you could possibly convert an old barn, shed or any building easily and affordably.

Building Materials List:

The Floor:
I started with building a box for the raised bed floor of the greenhouse. The raised bed would help absorb heat in the winter and keep the plants warmer. I also didn't want the wet dirt to rot out the main beams and frame of the wooden barn, so I lined the bottom of the walls with 2x6 redwood boards stacked on top of each other to make a 12 inch deep raised bed.
I knew mice would be my biggest pest problem in a barn sitting in an open field, so finding an ingenious way to keep them out was at the top of my list before doing any construction. I used concrete in the bottom of my smaller greenhouse for the floor to keep mice out, but I was planning to grow much bigger plants in this greenhouse and wanted to let the roots go into the ground as far as they needed to. I decided to line the floor with a metal mesh I also found at Home Depot. So far, nothing has dug underneath it.
Once the raised bed was done, I bought 7.5 tons of organic top soil from a local sand and gravel company and had my neighbor and his Skidsteer dump it into the raised bed for me.

The Siding:
Once the floor was done, I proceeded to tear off the barn's old wooden siding and replace it with the clear, corrugated roofing panels. This would have been very easy had the previous owners of the property not used twisted shank nails which were a monster to tear out. Even so, replacing the siding of the barn went fairly quickly (only took two days) and was relatively easy. I only did the South and West side since doing the North side seemed pointless as it would not let in much light and we get some very cold winds from the North in the winter, so I decided to keep the original wooden siding on the North side for extra wind and cold protection.

The Roof:
The metal roofing originally on the barn was super easy to just replace, panel for panel, with the clear roofing sheets. Just make sure if you have to match the clear corrugated panels to any existing corrugated panels that the corrugation style is the same as they can come corrugated differently. I only did the South side of the roof so far. I am still debating whether I need to do the North side or not, but I figured I could see how much sun I was getting in first and if I needed more, I could always open up the roof more later.

I purchased a used sliding window and installed it into the remaining wood wall on the North side. Then cut two openings into the clear panels on the South side to offer cross-ventilation. I put screens over the openings and in the winter I screw the pieces I cut out back onto the openings to cover them, then insulate the entire South side with removal foamboard panels as needed in the winter.

The entire right side of the barn is a sliding door. I was going to replace it and put up a wall with a standard-sized entry door, but upon looking at the way the door was constructed, decided to leave it as is and just replace the wooden siding with the clear panels. I was glad I did because it made it much easier to get the dirt inside the barn for the raised bed, and I like to slide that door all the way open on nice days for more air circulation and sun.

I bought foamboard insulating panels from Home Depot and cut them to the size I needed to insulate the walls. I made the inside walls that do not get any sun permanently insulated, so I tacked foamboard to the walls with drywall nails. The walls that allow sun in I insulated with rolled insulation that looks like aluminum bubble wrap, and foam board on the bottom so I can easily remove them during the day to allow sun in.
I plugged any holes or gaps in the corrugated roofing panels with strips of foam insulation, spray foam and calking.

Finishing Touches:
I hang potted plants from the rafters with strawberries in them, which looks very cool when the light is shining in through the rafters in the morning, and to utilize that otherwise dead space in the roof. I put metal shelves along the back and side walls that do not need to be open to the sun and put trays of potted plants on them as well. I also use portable metal shelves in places not occupied by tall plants to utilize as much growing space as possible. Eventually I will make a second tier of growing area by using shelves about half way up the walls to put potted herbs and plants on. I may put some shelves in the rafters as well even though they will have to be reached with a step ladder. I always wait to see how a greenhouse will perform over the winter before I go too nuts with planting the first year.

Photos from top:
1.) Finished conversion project. I started cutting my insulating foamboard into panels and was putting them along the bottom left side. They are the silver panels you see there
.2.) The interior where I lined the walls 12 inches up with redwood to form the raised bed and so the walls would not rot out.
3.) A before picture of the barn to greenhouse conversion project.




by Redstone Promotional Communications / Circkles.com

A perennial tropical vine, chayote (Sechium edule) bears a delicious, light green, pear-shaped fruit in the fall. In colder climates it is treated as an annual. It requires a minimum of two vines for cross-pollination or it will not produce well. They are known for having few if any insect enemies and grow well with cucumbers.

Chayote is originally native to Mexico where it grows abundantly and has little commercial value. It has been introduced as a crop all over Latin America, and worldwide. The main growing regions are Brazil, Costa Rica and Veracruz, Mexico. Costa Rican chayotes are predominantly exported to the European Union, whereas Veracruz is the main exporter of chayotes to the United States.

The word chayote is a Spanish derivative of the Nahuatl word chayohtli. Chayote was one of the many foods introduced to Europe by early explorers, who brought back a wide assortment of botanical samples. The Age of Conquest also spread the plant south from Mexico, ultimately causing it to be integrated into the cuisine of many other Latin American nations.

The chayote fruit is used in mostly cooked forms. When cooked, chayote is usually handled like summer squash, it is generally lightly cooked to retain the crisp flavor[clarification needed]. Though rare and often regarded as especially unpalatable and tough in texture, raw chayote may be added to salads or salsas, most often marinated with lemon or lime juice. Whether raw or cooked, chayote is a good source of amino acids and vitamin C.

Although most people are familiar only with the fruit as being edible, the root, stem, seeds and leaves are edible as well. The tubers of the plant are eaten like potatoes and other root vegetables, while the shoots and leaves are often consumed in salads and stir fries, especially in Asia. Like other members of the gourd family, such as cucumbers, melons, and squash, chayote has a sprawling habit, and it should only be planted if there is plenty of room in the garden. The roots are also highly susceptible to rot, especially in containers, and the plant in general is finicky to grow. However, in Australia and New Zealand, it is an easily grown yard or garden plant, set on a chicken wire support or strung against a fence.

Chayotes in cream sauce is considered a dish
"fit for the gods."

3 large or 4 medium chayotes, cut in halves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup organic half and half
1 cup chicken broth or water
1/2 cup sour cream
3 green onions, sliced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/4 teaspoon salt or more to taste
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper or more to taste

PLACE chayotes in large saucepan; cover with water. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium; cook until tender when pierced, about 40 to 45 minutes.

MEANWHILE, after 20 minutes of cooking chayotes, combine flour and 1/2 cup half and half or milk with wire whisk in small bowl until smooth. Warm remaininghalf and half or milk and broth in small saucepan over medium heat. Gradually stir in flour mixture. Cook, stirring constantly, until sauce comes to a boil and thickens slightly. Reduce heat to low; cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in sour cream, green onions, parsley. Season with salt and pepper, adding more to taste.

DRAIN the chayotes; place on cutting board and remove seeds. Carefully cut into 1/4-inch slices. Place in serving bowl. Pour sauce over sliced chayotes; serve immediately.

© 2014 Redstone Promotional Communications / Circkles.com. All rights reserved to articles and images.


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November, 2014