" 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.

About Garden Circkles:

Gardening is great exercise, relaxing and very therapeutic, that's why we encourage people to get your hands in the dirt, walk barefoot in the grass and grow things.
We created Garden Circkles to help people do that in a healthy, sustainable way, and to stay in touch with gardening even if they live in the city and for those times they cannot garden year 'round. The best tasting food and most nutritious will always be food you grow yourself. Recent studies are revealing that processed, commercially grown food is unhealthy for many reasons not to mention chemical contamination is high in commercially grown foods

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house centipede

Beneficial Bugs: Centipedes.

Class: Chilopoda

Contrary to popular myth, centipedes do not have 100 legs. They have 1 pair of legs per body segment. They have multi-segmented bodies, so this can add up to a lot of legs depending on the size of the centipede, which allow them to move very quickly.

Centipedes have poisonous claws on the first segment of their body, behind their head, which they use to subdue their prey. They grow quite large in rainforest climates and in the South where they can inflict a painful bite to humans.

They eat a variety of insects including spiders and snails and are mostly found in moist areas under logs and rocks. The photo at top is of a house centipede, but there are many varieties, mostly beneficial.


Natural Insect and Disease Control:

Damping Off Fungi.

This invisible fungi cause a disease in newly-planted seedlings called damping off. Naturally found in most soils, it causes a collapse of the stems and can occur before the seeds germinate or after.

Once simple method for home gardeners to prevent this is to dry heat the soil you will be using in the oven. Place about 4-5 inches of soil in a large, shallow pan and buy a small potato about 1 1/2 inches in diameter in the dirt. Bake at 2oo degrees and when the potato is done, so is your soil. This sterilizes the soil.


flowering dill

Companion Planting: Dill.

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.

Chromatography has been used to explain why some plants like or dislike being planted with other plants. It is possible to make a specific chromatographic test to find out why, or if at all, a plant is helping or hindering its neighbors. Chromatography has also been used to prove that plants do significantly better with compost than without.

Dill is a good companion planted with cabbage to improve its overall health and growth, and benefits lettuce, onions and cucumbers often deterring the insects that visit these plants.

Honeybees like dill blossoms. Do not plant dill with carrots as it will greatly reduce this crop.

Use Us:

We've archived all of our articles, tips and recipes for our readers to access for future reference any time they want. It beats remembering all this stuff.

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.
You can also take advantage of our many clubs where we also archive tips and advice from articles to use as a reference. See Clubs under the Hangout Menu.

See our Local Circkles pages under the Main Menu 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. We have ordered from them and are very happy with their service and they seem to have fresh seed that has no problem germinating and a good variety of vegetable and grain seeds. 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.


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tomato leaf with magnesium deficiency

Epsom Salts to Benefit Plants.

by Circkles.com.

Epsom salts have been around for decades as a household remedy for sore, achy muscles and constipation. In recent years, it has been used as a magnesium supplement for diet deficiencies because magnesium is more easily absorbed through the skin than through the stomach in foods. Now it seems, Epsom salt advocates have found another good use for this household wonder: to give added benefit to tomatoes, peppers, roses and other plants.

Epsom salts is dehydrated magnesium and sulphur. While most plants get adequate amounts of sulphur from soils and fertilizers, they may not be getting enough magnesium if you live in areas that are sandy or lack hard minerals, such as the Pacific Northwest, coastal regions and some Midwest regions, or if the soil pH is above 7.

Magnesium is critical for seed germination and the production of chlorophyll, fruit, and nuts. Magnesium helps strengthen cell walls and improves plants' uptake of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulphur, which is a key element in plant growth, is critical to production of vitamins, amino acids (therefore protein), and enzymes. Sulphure is also the compound that gives vegetables such as broccoli and onions their flavors.

Vegetables such as beans, peas, lettuce, and spinach can grow and produce good yields in soils with low magnesium levels, but plants such as tomatoes, peppers, and roses need high levels of magnesium for optimal growth. However, plants may not show the effects of magnesium deficiency until it's severe. Some common deficiency symptoms are yellowing of the leaves between the veins, leaf curling, stunted growth, and lack of sweetness in the fruit.

rose leaves with magnesium deficiencyMagnesium tends to be lacking in old, used-up soils with low pH, notably in the Southeast and Pacific Northwest and in greenhouses that do not have their soils replenished adequately with compost. Soils with a pH above 7 and soils high in calcium and potassium also generally have low magnesium levels. Calcium and potassium compete with magnesium for uptake by plant roots, and magnesium often loses. Sometimes, a soil test will show adequate magnesium levels in soil, but a plant grown in that soil may still be deficient because of that competition.

For Grass: Epsom salt can help in the germination process and aid in healthy growth of a seed in its early stages. The minerals within the Epsom salt can help grass with a healthier and greener look, and assist grass roots to grow stronger to withstand effects from the environment. For every 1250 square feet of grass apply 3 pounds with a spreader, or dilute in water and apply with a sprayer.

Yellowing Bougainvillea and Gardenia Leaves & Chlorsis – Bougainvillea and Gardenias are a beautiful and fairly low maintenance plants. But heavy flowering, and if the soil pH is off can drain magnesium levels down and yellow foliage can appear. Use a spray mixing 1 tablespoon per gallon of water.

Leaf Curl: Can be caused by low magnesium especially in fruit trees that use up a lot of nutrients to product fruit.

Test Research:

Four out of the six testers reported that the Epsom salts-treated pepper plants and fruits were larger than the controls. For the treated roses, testers reported greener foliage, bushier plants, and more roses than on the control plants.

Kathy Stone Downie of Alameda, California, noticed many differences in her treated 'Gypsy' peppers. "The fruits were much bigger, almost twice the size. They were juicier, sweeter, and triple the thickness of the untreated peppers." Tommy Owen, in Rogersville, Tennessee, said that his treated roses had greener foliage and bigger flowers with deeper colors.
little research has been done on the use of Epsom salts as a supplemental fertilizer on soils with adequate levels of these nutrients.

Renee Schloupt, horticulturist at Delaware Valley College in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, is testing peppers and tomatoes grown in a greenhouse environment under drought and non-drought conditions. She's comparing control plants with those watered with applications of 1, 2, and 3 tablespoons of Epsom salts mixed with 1 gallon of water and applied at planting, flowering, and fruit set. So far, she has not seen any measurable evidence of growth or yield differences in the treated tomatoes or peppers. "The peppers have greener leaves, and it seems the 1- and 2-tablespoon doses yield a better result than the 3-tablespoon dose, but I haven't seen any dramatic effects on yields so far," she says. "The magnesium in the Epsom salts applied to the soil could be getting tied up with other nutrients. We might see better results when we apply Epsom salts directly to the leaves."

Large green pepper plantAt Auburn University in Alabama, plant pathologist Kira Bowen and soil scientist Beth Guertal see similar results when they apply Epsom salts directly on the soil. They are conducting a 3-year study of roses in field plots that includes applying 1 cup of Epsom salts per plant per month as one of the treatments to increase plant vigor and control black spot. "The first year, we saw reduced defoliation in the Epsom salts-treated plants, but the second year the differences weren't there," Bowen reports. "It's hard to find a direct link between a specific nutrient such as magnesium sulfate and increased yield or plant growth because of all the other variables in the soil, such as pH, calcium and potassium content, and weather, that may affect the plants."

When diluted with water, and especially when applied as a foliar spray, Epsom salts can be taken up quickly by plants. Epsom salts can still be purchased the same way they were decades ago. Walgreen's, most grocery stores and health stores contain Epsom salts in powdered form. Be careful not to add to much or it may burn the roots. If your plants are needing a boost, dissolve about one to two tablespoons of Epsom salt in a a gallon of water. Pour at the base of the plant and allow the water-salt solution to soak into the ground. Repeat throughout the season as necessary. As a Top Dressing during the growing season, sprinkle about a 1 tablespoon directly around the base of the plant and water it in.

Photos from top: 1.) Magnesium deficiency in a tomato plant.2.) Magnesium deficiency in a rose leaf. 3.) Large peppers that benefitted from applications of Epsom Salts.


Elderberry Plant

Elderberry: Sambucus Nigra.

by Circkles.com

First and foremost, let us remind everybody out there that elderberries should not be eaten raw. They contain high levels of cyanic acid which is a poisonous compound in even small quantities. It will cause nausea within just a few minutes of eating the raw berries. However, that does not mean elderberry does not have many uses and medicinal qualities once the berries are cooked or processed.

Elderberry has been used for centuries as a medicinal remedy more than anything else. Back in the Wild West, it first became popularly marketing for snake bite. Then it dropped out of favor for a few decades because it's flavor is similar to chokecherries; which means it is so bitter as to not really be palatable for cooking. With enough sugar, it does make a good jam or jelly though, and if you use boiling water to make a tea of the berries so as to cook them enough to get rid of the cyanic acid, it makes a good tea. Bring the water to boiling and pour it over about 1 tsp of dried berries. Let it steep for a minimum of 2-3 minutes to actually cook the berries and minimize the risk of getting nausea from them.

Medicinal Benefits:

Not every elderberry has medicinal properties. Primarily only the Sambucus Nigra variety has any notable medicinal benefit. Sambucus Nigra elderberry has compounds that can combat almost any virus. It contains natural components that boost the immune response and actually prevent viruses from multiplying in the human body. If taken at the first signs of the flu or other virus, it can greatly shorten the time it takes to recover by about half, prevent the virus from getting too severe and greatly reduce symptoms. For this reason, it is an excellent flu remedy. Drink elderberry tea, or recently, elderberry syrups and extracts have regained popularity in health food stores for cold and flu supplements.


If you live in the Midwest, you will have no problem growing this low bush-like plant. In the Southwest, in arid, semi-arid climates, it can be a challenge to get elderberry started and to thrive unless you know its secret. Elderberry like humidity, cooler temps, semi-shade from harsh, hot sun and to be moist but not soggy. It does well under the shade of other trees and plants, so in the dryer, hotter climates, you must plant it in partial to semi-partial shade.
Elderberry also requires a lot of watering its first year to get it going. Make sure it does not dry out or it will quickly lose its vigor, stop growing and likely die.

Honeybees like the blossoms of elderberry, but it takes two plant varieties to get the blossoms to produce fruit. So be sure to plant at least 2 different varieties or you will not get berries.

elderflower champagneElderflower Champagne Recipe:

Making elderflower champagne is easy and quite the treat if you grow your own elderberries. It is a bit of a toss-up as to whether to let the blossom heads go so you have elderberries for tasty jellies or their medicinal qualities, or to use the flower heads for this delightful and refreshing beverage. We suggest growing enough elderberries that you can do both.

Pick half a dozen full elderflower heads ideally on a sunny day in the morning when they are most fragrant.

Half fill a clean bucket, large crock or stainless steel stock pot with 1 gallon of cold water.

Dissolve 2lbs of white sugar in the water or 1 lb of honey in 1/2 gallon of the water heated until the honey dissolves, and stir well.

Shake any debris and insects clear from the elderflower heads, rinse lightly in cold water and immerse in the bucket of water.

Cut two lemons in half and squeeze juice into water and throw in the squeezed halves. Add 4 tablespoons of white wine vinegar and stir gently. Cover with a clean tea towel and let sit for 24 hours stirring occasionally.

After 24 hours, sterilize plastic carbonated drinks bottles – 10 x 1 litre lemonade/pop bottles are ideal – and strain jugfuls of the liquor through a sieve or muslin cloth into the bottles and screw the plastic tops on firmly.

Leave for a week and the naturally occurring yeast on the elderflower heads begins to ferment with the sugar creating a very weak alcohol content but lots of carbon dioxide. Lots of CO2 = lots of fizz.

We emphasise using plastic screw top bottles as personal experience has taught us that homemade elderflower champagne causes corks to pop out and the contents overflow to leave a sticky mess. Also, glass bottles can explode from the pressure of the carbonation as it builds up. Once your champagne is done doing it's thing, then you can permanently store it in glass bottles. If you use plastic bottles you will at least notice the stretching and rounding if the pressure becomes too great and can release the gas (or drink it).

If stored in a cool place and the bottles remain in tact, elderflower champagne can be kept for over a year – until the flowers begin to appear again for the next batch.


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August 2015
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