" 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.

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.

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:

Hover Flies
Order: Diptera. Family: Syrphidae

Adult hover flies look like bees and wasps because of their yellow and black or white and black bodies but their bodies are definitely shaped like a fly not a bee or wasp.
Their name comes from hovering over flowers. They are only about 1/2 - 5/8 inch in size and have just one pair of wings.
The adults are not predatory, but are beneficial as pollinators. It's the larvae or maggots can consume aphids at a rate of one per minute. Hover flies lay their eggs among groups of aphids. Since they need pollen to reproduce, to encourage them to hang around your garden, plant flowering plants they like such as feverfew, Italian parsley and coreopsis.


Natural Insect and Disease Control:


The best natural defense against roaches is a clean house. They like to eat food crumbs, so vacuuming under stoves, refrigerators and anything elso will help keep their numbers down if your house is infested.

Catnip is a natural repellent to cockroaches. The active ingredient is nepetalactone, which is non-toxic to humans and pets. Small sachets of catnip can be left in areas of cockroach activity. Catnip can also be simmered in a small amount of water to make a "catnip tea" which can be used as a spray to apply around baseboards and behind counters. This natural repellent should only be used in homes without cats! 

Diatomaceous earth is a safe alternative which can be sprinkled in areas where roaches congregate, especially hidden areas such a cabinet tops and behind appliances. Harmless to people, the tiny particles cut the waxy exoskeleton and kills the insect within 48 hours. For a week or so after the treatment, the dehydrating insects will search more actively for water. Therefore, do not be surprised if you see roaches more often after the treatment. Most roaches should be killed within two weeks of application

Boric Acid: It is a little known fact that roaches like high places. If you put boric acid on TOP of your kitchen cabinets (not inside), if space allows between ceiling and cabinets, the roaches will take the boric acid to their nests, killing all of them. Boric acid is toxic by mouth - keep away from children and pets. 


Companion Planting: Collards

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.

Cornell University's College of Agriculture found that planting collards among tomatoes kept the flea beetle - the primary pest of collards - greatly reduced.



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Keeping Your Greenhouse Warm Without Electricity.

When I started my first greenhouse, my neighbors were quite curious about it - being organic foragers themselves and avid gardeners. When I explained my setup to them and that I was trying to have it be as electricity-free as possible, I loved my neighbor's response. He said, "Yes, otherwise you would end up with a 50 dollar tomato." Well put, in a basic sort of way.

Raised Beds are Crucial:

The best decision I ever made was to use raised beds in my greenhouses rather than potted plants or trays on stands. The big advantage to this is not only that the plants grow better because they have good drainage and plenty of root space, but all that dirt used to fill the beds acts as a heat absorber and radiator when there is no sun and it's cold in the winter. Dirt absorbs a great deal of heat and then releases it to keep plants from freezing. Many times, all I've had to do during a cold spell is throw a tarp over my plants to hold the heat in from the beds and this was all that was needed to prevent the plants from freezing. I'm talking about cold-weather plants that I grow over the winter months.
My raised bed are a minimum of 1 foot deep and 3 feet wide, and built out of redwood. They go all along the sides of the greenhouse leaving a path in the middle to walk, or, my newest greenhouse is just one big raised bed that covers the entire floor. I found the path I made between raised beds in my first greenhouse always got in my way more than anything and the space I wasn't using to grow plants in was space that could have been used to help retain more heat in the greenhouse. So I changed my design slightly for the next greenhouse. However, you must leave some way to block the dirt from getting in the way of your greenhouse doors. So some sort of redwood barrier, or block barrier will still have to be build right in front of the inside of your doors to hold the dirt back a bit.

Best Insulation to Use:

We did an article last month on walipinis - underground greenhouses. While this seems like a good idea as far as holding in heat due to the dirt around the greenhouse, they do not allow as much light in as an above-ground greenhouse. If you can bury one side of your greenhouse with dirt because it's up against a hill or something, this will be an added bonus, but not many people think of doing this when they set up a greenhouse. I am able to do it with one of my greenhouses because it's built into the side of a hill, and I am gradually filling in the hill side with more dirt.

Since most of us cannot dig a huge hole for a walipini, or already have above ground greenhouses, insulation is the next best thing. The very easiest and best way to insulate a greenhouse is with rolled, air-filled insulation that looks like aluminum bubble wrap called reflective insulation. You can get it in various roll lengths and widths from Home Depot. The next best thing that has a much better insulation rating is using 1/4 -1/2 inch foam board insulation. If you have a greenhouse that is built with individual panels like a Rion Greenhouse, it is easy to cut this foamboard to fit into the panels.

DO NOT USE the type of foamboard Lowes has that is made from compressed Styrofoam. It is extremely difficult to cut and get a straight edge because as soon as the knife hits it, it breaks apart into thousands of tiny Styrofoam beads that make a mess all over the place. It also does not have the insulating quality of solid foamboard, which only costs about a dollar more per sheet and is well worth it. Home Depot has R-Matte Plus-3/Thermasheath-3 is rigid foam plastic thermal insulation board composed of environmentally sound, closed cell, polyisocyanurate foam bonded to a durable white-matte (non-glare) aluminum facer and a reflective reinforced aluminum facer. 

These two forms of insulation are the least messy, can easily be removed when necessary to allow light in, and are relatively safe regarding off-gasing and fibers that may end up in your soil just from moving them around. Cut foamboard panels to fit the roof and use the rolled insulation for the side walls. This setup works great and can get your greenhouse through mild winters where you get enough sun every couple of days to warm up the dirt in the raised beds again.



Water Barrels and Small Containers:

The next best investment you can make to keep heat in your greenhouse during winter is 33 gallon, dark-colored garbage cans. Place them along walls or in the corners of the greenhouse where they will be out of the way of plants and fill them to the top with water. Cover them. They will absorb heat during the day and release it at night.
If you can find something called Glauber's Salt or Eutectic Salt (European companies have it more readily than in the U.S), this salt will hold more heat than plain water will, but water in a 33 gallon barrel or garbage can will rarely freeze solid in a greenhouse in climates that at least get sun every couple of days and works pretty well without the expensive salt.

For even more heat dispersion closer to plants, fill 1 gallon used plastic bottles or containers with lids and place them on the dirt around plants. This will provide even more heat directly and closer to plants. I have used emptied 1 gallon vinegar bottles, Gatorade bottles and soap bottles. Fill them with water and keep them capped, what's great about this added extra heat absorption is you can place them anywhere and they aid the heat being thrown off from the 33 gallon barrels. In severe cold weather, place these smaller water containers close to plants and cover your raised beds with a blanket or cloth tarp to hold in the heat.

Cold, Northern Climates:

Northern climates may be a bust. I don't think you can insulate a greenhouse with anything that will withstand a Wisconsin winter or any of the Northern states. So unfortunately for these folks, we suggest just giving your gardening and yourself a break during the winter months. You could use an old wood stove to heat an insulated greenhouse with, but it still would more than likely be more work than it is worth as the days will be too short for the plants to get enough sun to do much growing anyway.



Growing Citrus.

by Redstone Promotional Communications / Circkles.com

Miniature citrus trees are not difficult to grow in pots if you are diligent about just a couple things.

Soil: should have good drainage, a sandy loam that still holds water for at least 24 hours is best. Not too much compost if any. These plants do best when adding an organic compost tea once a year when it is fruiting. Citrus fruit takes about a year to mature to full ripeness and all this growing time, plus the nature of this fruit requires good fertilizing with a nitrogen fertilizer. If you are using organic compost tea, using aged horse or cow manure to make it with will give it adequate nitrogen for citrus trees. You can also use grass clippings added to your compost pile to add nitrogen to all of your compost, just don't use them to make fertilizer for plants until it has fully "cooked" or broken down in a compost pile. The strong ammonia from decaying grass and green vegetation can kill plants.

There are several varieties of miniature citrus suitable for pot growing. Meyer lemons are the most common and are a very prolific lemon tree often loaded with lemons on a very small tree. Mexican lime and Kafir lime or Key lime trees are the most common limes for potted trees.

The thing to know about growing citrus is that once the roots are even slightly damaged by over or under watering, the plant will suffer greatly and usually die. So get your citrus trees on a regular watering schedule and stick to it as well as making certain to use the right type of soil. The soil can dry out slightly between waterings, but if the leaves start to yellow, you are not watering often enough. Water with tepid water.

Buying bareroot citrus trees from mail order suppliers is not a good idea for the same reasons mentioned above; that if the roots dry out in transit, the tree will likely die before it even gets a chance, so always buy potted seedlings or trees.

Make sure to place your citrus tree in front of a Southern window in order for it to get enough light to flower and fruit. Citrus requires at least 8 hours of full sun. Also keep them above 50º at all times. If in front of a cold window at night in the winter, be sure to cover it with a towel or move it away from the window.

It takes a whole year for citrus to mature to full ripeness. With limes, because they do not turn a ripe color, it's a bit tricky to tell when they are fully ripe. Generally, lemons will be a full yellow color and soft when you squeeze them, limes may start to turn a slight yellow and this is the time to harvest them when they are soft to squeeze and the most juicy. The two slightly yellow limes on the tree in the photo above are perfect for picking when they are only slightly starting to turn yellow. Under-ripe lemons and limes will be very potent tasting and bitter, so give them all the time they need to ripen up. Better to be a bit over ripe than under.

Since all your lemons or limes may ripen at once, and you may not be able to use them all at once, here are a couple ways to preserve excess harvested fruit for future use.

Dehydrate Them: Wash the fruit, slice them thinly and dehydrate them in a dehydrator of oven until hard and completely dry. Break them up and use them to make tea out of. Lemon, cinnamon and honey tea is very good.

Make Juices or Lemon / Limeade: Juice the limes or lemons and make a refreshing drink out of the juice mixed with orange juice, kiwi, banana and almond milk in a blender. Or omit the almond milk and serve on ice.

© 2015 Redstone Promotional Communications / Circkles.com. All rights reserved to articles and images.


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February, 2015
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