" 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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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.


predatory mites vs spider mites

Beneficial Bugs: Predatory Mites not Spider Mites.

Order: Acarina. Family: Phytoseiidae

There are good mites and bad mites, they are both the same minute size (almost undetectable with the naked eye) and they can change color in response to their prey, so it is next to impossible to tell the good guys from the bad guys. About the only way to tell is if you observe mite webs on your plants and your plants look like the leaves have been sucked dry of their juices, you have the bad mites. Spray those with a garlic spray to get rid of them.

Predatory mites are happiest in humid conditions, so you won't see them in the Southwest much. They are often smaller than the prey they eat, but you can attract them with pollen-rich plants.


spider mites on plant

Natural Insect and Disease Control:

Spider Mites.

As we mentioned above, there are good mites and bad and you can really only tell them apart by the damage they do to your plants. (Read above.) Spider mites will also create web-like threads all over your plant leaves which will start to look speckled like the mites are sucking the juices from the leaves, which is exactly what they are doing.

Spray the front and back of all leaves with a garlic spray. Neem oil sprays work as well. Take the plant outside if it is a potted plant, wash the leaves and mites off with a powerful blast of water, relocate the plant so the mites don't just crawl back on it after hosing them off, then spray it well with the garlic or neem oil.

Let it sit outside for a couple days for the mites to get discouraged by the spray and move their operations elsewhere.


honeybee on dandelion

Companion Planting: Dandelions.

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.

This "weed" is not the spurge of lawn owners like most of us think. Dandelions do not actually compete with grasses because their roots go much deeper than any grass, and because of this, their roots bring up nutrients from the deeper soils that grasses can benefit from. Also, the dandelion is the honeybee's favorite flower.

However, dandelions do excrete an ethylene gas that stunts the growth of neighboring plants, but this very gas also causes nearby flowers and fruits to mature early. So, keep dandelions away from plants you don't want stunted and keep them around other flowers and fruits.

Garden Tidbit:

The “lady” in ladybug refers to the Virgin Mary

The legend goes something like this: During the Middle Ages, the crops in Europe were being devastated by pests, so the farmers began praying to the Blessed Lady, the Virgin Mary, for help. Lo and behold… ladybugs began to appear in the fields, and the crops were saved.

The farmers believed the black and red beetles were sent by the Virgin Mary, and so they began calling them lady beetles. The ladybug’s red color is thought to represent Mary’s cloak, and the black spots represent her sorrows.




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comfrey plantComfrey:
A plant No Home Should Be Without.

by Circkles.com.

Comfrey root is one of the herbs I call my "Miracle Herbs" because it can do miraculous things, that I have seen with my own eyes. It is the best remedy ever for bruises, sprains, swelling from injuries, healing wounds, and some ancient herbalist claim it can even mend broken bones. After seeing what it can do with other injuries, I have no doubt that it could possibly heal bone as well with enough time. Since it takes away inflammation it probably increases circulation and healing of broken bones much faster than without it. I've seen it take down swelling and eleviate almost all bruising and pain within just 30 minutes to an hour of applying a comfrey compress.

I keep comfrey around as a staple for those inevitable injuries around the house, not just for my family but also for my pets. Comfrey used as a poultice or herbal tea applied to wounds will seal them with a gel-like of the root and keep a wound clean that cannot be bandaged well on animals. It is similar to aloe in its mucilaginous quality that when dry seals a wound from dirt, bleeding and irritation. Comfrey is very soothing and most animals don't mind it. There is some question as to how safe it is for internal use, so we recommend it only be used externally. Make a strong tea (decoction or extract) and compress from it, and I keep some of the extract frozen in the freezer for emergencies and winter use.

Once you get comfrey established, it pretty much takes care of itself, but it does require the right conditions however. It does not like to be too dry or too hot, so plant it is a semi-shady location that gets regular watering. It can get up to 4 feet tall, and bees like the flowers.

Purchase comfrey from root cuttings or small, potted plants as it does not reproduce easily from seed. Mulch it well to keep weeds away from the base of the plant and to keep the soil moisture even around the plant. Comfrey will overwinter well in most climates, but we recommend mulching it in cold, northern climates since it is not native to those areas and a deep frost could damage the roots enough to kill it.


multiple rain barrels

Think the Rain is Free? Think Again.

by Circkles.com

Many people don't know this, but it is illegal to collect rain water in most U.S. cities. You are probably asking yourself the same thing everybody does, "Why on earth would it be illegal to collect rain water. You would think the city would want us to conserve water?" You would think right? But here is how it was explained to us regarding Colorado's laws. Colorado does not want water of any type diverted from it's original path, including rain water. Meaning, they want any and all rain water to seep into the ground and become part of their municipal water supply. They want it to drain into gutters and waterways so the city water system is not shorted. Even a local government official was not aware of this and made state news when he was caught using rain barrels on his property. He sited that even he did not know it was illegal.

Colorado's rainwater collecting laws have become such a controversy that they even made the Washington Post, who wrote:

Water laws are so strict in Colorado that rainwater collection is virtually prohibited. The doctrine is written into the state’s Constitution. All the rain is already spoken for. It belongs to someone, and that someone probably isn’t you. So don’t you touch it.

“The rain barrel is the bong of the Colorado garden,” local columnist Dave Philipps wrote in 2007. “It’s legal to sell one. It’s legal to own one. It’s just not legal to use it for its intended purpose.”

That might change soon, slightly.

On Monday, Colorado representatives voted to allow people to store up to 110 gallons of the rainwater that flows off their roof. One hundred gallons is on the high end of how much water a person in America uses per day. It’s about three tubs full of water, or four loads of laundry

There has been increased interest over the past five years in legislation allowing, defining, and clarifying when rainwater harvesting can occur. Rainwater harvesting is the act of utilizing a collection system to use rainwater for outdoor uses, plumbing, and, in some cases, consumption. States have also passed legislation encouraging the use of gray water. Graywater refers to the reuse of water drained from baths, showers, washing machines, and sinks (household wastewater excluding toilet wastes) for irrigation and other water conservation applications.

rain barrelStates must ensure water-quality standards and public health concerns are met. In some states, such as Colorado, previous water law stated that all precipitation belonged to existing water-rights owners, and that rain needed to flow to join its rightful water drainage. However, a 2007 study conducted by the Colorado Water Conservation Board and Douglas County determined that only 3 percent of rain actually reached a stream or the ground. Colorado followed-up by enacting two pieces of legislation, one allowing certain types of well owners to use rainwater and one authorizing pilot development projects.

Texas and Ohio are among states that have devoted a considerable amount of attention to this issue, and have numerous enacted laws regulating the practice of rainwater harvesting. Texas offers a sales tax exemption on the purchase of rainwater harvesting equipment. Both Texas and Ohio allow the practice even for potable purposes. Oklahoma passed the Water for 2060 Act in 2012, to promote pilot projects for rainwater and graywater use among other water saving techniques.

Colorado has since cleared up the confusion over collecting rain water and stated that homeowners who are on wells can collect, but residents on city water systems cannot. Chances are, if you live in the burbs, your city has restrictions on collecting water as well. Some people do it anyway, thinking that if they ask their city departments they will just tell them no the minute they bring up the issue just because they brought it up. However, to prevent yourself from being fined, we suggest you find out what the laws are for your state before you even purchase a $100 rain barrel or any other cistern.

For updates on pending legislation over past years, please see the NCSL Energy and Environment Legislation Tracking Database


kinked garden hose mess Camco safe drinking garden hose

Is There Such a Thing as a Kinkless Garden Hose?

by Circkles.com.

Gardeners spend countless hours moving garden hoses around all summer long, and it's very frustrating when they kink constantly and you have to walk back to where it is hooked up to unkink it. You wind up walking a great deal more than you had bargained for to unkink hoses continuously, and it's even more frustrating when you are just about 1 foot short of reaching your destination and the darn hose gets hung up on something because it's balled up in a knot.

There are hoses on the market that make the claim they are kinkless, and we thought we would put a few to the test. In general, thicker hoses kinkless, and a 5/8 " diameter hose will kink a lot less than a 1/2" diameter and allow quicker water flow.

Neverkink Pro garden hoseThe top rated, and most highly rated by our product testers was the Neverkink Pro. NeverKink 8642-50 Series 3000 Extra Heavy Duty Garden Hose, 5/8-Inch by 50-Feet. $27 for a 50ft through Amazon.com.

Of course, you're going to pay more for a commercial grade or pro grade hose, but this one isn't a bad price.

Next in ratings from our staff and other product tester was the Camco Safe hose that comes in two different styles.

Camco 22853 Premium Drinking Water Hose (5/8"ID x 50') $21.50 at Amazon.com

Third was a little bit of a toss up between the Scotts Maxflex and the Tuff-Guard The Perfect Garden Hose, Kink Proof Garden Hose Assembly, Blue, 50 Foot Length $55.13 at Amazon.com, so it's pretty expensive compared to the Scotts SMF58050CC MaxFlex Premium Heavy Duty Garden Hose, 5/8-Inch by 50-Feet which is only $34.97 at Amazon.com.

All of the above manufacturer's hoses come in various lengths and thicknesses and some, such as the NeverKink come in professional grade, commercial duty etc models. The Camco is the only one rated well for being kinkless and safe for drinking out of.


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July 2015
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