" 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.

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.

 

Beneficial Bugs:

Crab Spiders
Order: Araneae. Family: Thomisidae

About 1/2 inch in size, the Crab spider doesn't make webs but instead sits on the tops of flowers and plants and waits for insects that visit the plants to come by. They rely on touch and not sight to capture prey, which are usually pollen gatherers, and move by crawling sideways like a crab. They also do tend to bite or pinch if they get on your skin.

These spiders are mostly attracted to yellow or white flowers, so plant cosmos, daisies-like flowers, goldenrod and asters to attract them to your garden. They will often be camouflaged to the same color of the flower they are sitting on, so watch your nose.

 

Natural Insect and Disease Control:

Asparagus Beetle.

One of the most destructive pests of asparagus. This beetle lays dark shiny eggs no bigger than a speck at the top of the spears and hibernates in garden debris then emerges in spring to eat tender asparagus shoots. To help prevent this, it's important to keep dead leaves, grass and anything the beetle can hide in cleaned up around asparagus plants.

Ladybug larvae eat asparagus beetle larvae. Also the beetles do not like nasturtium, tomato plants or calendula, so planting them around asparagus will help repel the beetle.

Chickens, ducks and guinea hens will also eat the beetles. You can also try putting bone meal around the plants which will act as both a fertilizer and a repellent.

 

Companion Planting: For Corn.

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.

Sweet corn does well with potatoes, peas, beans, cucumbers and any member of the squash family including pumpkins. Planting peas and beans among the corn is very beneficial to the corn because peas and beans store nitrogen which corn needs a lot of.

Melons, squash, pumpkins and cucumbers like the partial shade provided by corn in the hot afternoons. In turn, their vines deter raccoons who do not like getting tangled up in the them. Pole beans and peas can use the corn stalks to vine on.

Do not plant tomatoes near corn as the tomato and corn earworm are identical and will wipe out both plants.

 

 

 

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Dandelions and Bees.

by Circkles.com.

We're not sure how all this insanity about killing dandelions started. More than likely with persnickety lawn owners who just couldn't stand the thought of anything disrupting their perfectly manicured lawns. However, we are now learning that those people who are so nitpicky about the natural imperfections in their lawns are contributing to killing off the honeybees. You see, honey bees love dandelions, they are one of this pollinator's favorite flowers, so when you spray pesticides and weed killers on your dandelions, you are killing the honeybees as well.

So why are a few brightly-colored spots of sunshine such a big threat? We think dandelions are rather pretty, and add some much-needed color to a lawn. It's all in how you look at it. I'm sure your friends and neighbors don't avoid you or say to themselves, "I'm not going to have anything to do with So and So because their lawn is full of dandelions." Let's be honest here; the only one who cares whether you have "unsightly" dandelions in your yard is you.

Friend or Foe? Let it go.

Quit fighting it. Think of all the work and expense and trouble you will save yourself if you just come to terms with all those yellow dots of color in your lawn. They are not around very long anyway and they go to seed and then blend into the rest of the green landscape. Besides, now so many homeowners are trying to plant flowers to sustain and attract the bees, and guess what, dandelions are free! And abundant! And maintenance free!

After the abundant rain fall we had last year, my lawn is riddled with those bright yellow heads popping up all over this spring, and I think they are a delight. Like miniature sunflowers brightening up the landscape. I have never used pesticides on my lawn or pulled dandelions, and this year, my lawn is also humming with honeybees. I will never again pull dandelions (unless I am going to use the roots for tea or eat the greens, which brings us to another great point about dandelions.)

Dandelions are also beneficial for their nutrients and herbal value. Dandelions are a very potent kidney cleanser and stomach tonic. Many herbalists eat the young leaves in the spring like spinach- which is the only time of year they are not so bitter. Or you can make a great coffee substitute by making a strong dandelion tea from the roasted roots, add some creamer just like you would coffee, and you have a great morning drink that will also help detox your body.

So quit being such a fuss-budget, retentive spaz about your lawn. And please, stop killing the honeybees! Instead of thinking of dandelions as obnoxious weeds, think of them as useful wildflowers or herbs. It's all a state of mind.

 

Greenhouse Idea:
Little Heaters out of Free 5 Gallon Buckets.

by Circkles.com.

It may be a bit early (or late) to be thinking about how to heat your greenhouse this winter, or maybe not.

We wrote an article a couple issues back on ways to heat your greenhouse in the winter without using electricity, well here's an idea that expands on the use of 55 gallon drums to retain heat in a greenhouse, and you can use all summer to collect the materials you need for it from construction sites.

Most greenhouse growers use large 30-55 gallon drums or garbage cans to absorb heat during the day and release it at night as an energy efficient way to keep a greenhouse cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Problem is, those big barrels take up a great deal of room and you cannot effectively spread the heat around to all the plants without using a fan, which defeats the purpose of trying to greenhouse grow without using expensive electricity.

There's an easier, more manageable solution that just happens to also be free. You can get 5 gallon paint or wood putty buckets from construction companies or sites. Check their dumpsters or ask them to save the buckets for you with the lids. These buckets can be stacked on top of each other to conduct more heat; you can build a whole wall with them, but the best thing about them is you can put them closely around your plants as a more efficient way to keep them warm or cool. A bit like the "Wall of Water" gardening product that is plastic bag-like cones you fill with water to keep your tomatoes and garden plants from freezing early in the spring, only these 5 gallon buckets are much more durable, easy to move around, stackable and, like we said, free. Construction workers just throw them in the dumpsters anyway and they end up in some landfill. Very few construction companies recycle them and they certainly would not care if you took them off their hands for them.

We keep our 5 gallon buckets filled with water all year. We stack them along one wall of the greenhouse, out of the way when not in use, then when the weather gets extremely cold, we put them around the more cold sensitive plants. We have found this works much better by keeping the warmth the buckets absorb during the day closer to the individual plants. We also like the convenience of being able to move them anywhere we want when we want, which is something you cannot do with a 30-55 gallon drum once it is full of water. The big drums have to be placed along one wall in order to stay out of your way when planting, and for this reason, they only keep one side or area of the greenhouse warm vs the 5 gallon buckets which you can put in among your plants to disperse their heat more evenly throughout the entire greenhouse.

The 5 gallon buckets dispersed around the raised beds in a greenhouse also help to hold moisture in the soil like mulch does so it doesn't evaporate so quickly. Just look for slugs every once in a while, which like to hide under the buckets for the very same reason.

A friend of mine was very upset when he went to the landfill one day and saw what he said was, "about 20-30 five gallon buckets just laying there, but the landfill won't let you take them out." It's true, some landfills will not allow people to pick through the garbage and take anything. So if this greenhouse energy idea appeals to you, you're better off going right to the source - the construction sites or companies - and getting the buckets before they are taken to the landfill.

 

Ways With Rhubarb - Besides Always Looking for Recipes for it.

by Circkles.com.

Yes, it's rhubarb season again, and as always, we see plenty of gardeners looking at those prolific stalks, as one of the first signs of spring and edible rewards, sprouting from the ground while scratching their heads wondering what they can do with them all.

There's the typical rhubarb pie, rhubarb jam, rhubarb sticky muffins (okay, that may not be so typical for you, but our recipe for it is a big hit) and it's easy to preserve, but a person can only do so much with rhubarb. Right?

Something non-recipe related that you can do with rhubarb that most gardeners don't because of an old wives-tale is, let it flower. That's right. One thing many people don't know about rhubarb is that honeybees love the rhubarb flowers; they are one of the few insects that actually utilize them. However, there's been an old gardening rumor circulating for centuries that if you let your rhubarb go to seed, you will have rhubarb all over your yard, it will take over, and you will never get rid of it. For this reason, we know most gardeners are ever-diligent in watching for those giant seed stalks to appear and then they frantically cut them off as soon as they do.

In reality, we have never seen rhubarb sprout from seed, only from dividing the root clumps and starting a new plant by transplanting the root divisions. Maybe in very moist, cool climates, a rhubarb may sprout from seed, but this would still take ideal conditions. That's not to say it won't, so if you are still paranoid about it, you can let your rhubarb flower, then cut off the flower stalks when the blossoms are spent but before they set seeds.

Landscaping with Rhubarb:

Another thing most people don't think of is using rhubarb as a decorative landscaping plant. These plants are so hardy, and do well in partial shade, why not use them for an edible landscape? One great aspect of rhubarb is that it has a natural herbicide in the leaves and plant that prevent anything else from growing too close to it. So if you are looking for a nice short hedge or large plants to go along a fence or area you don't want to have to weed, rhubarb is a great choice. It makes a very nice, green, large, low maintenance bush and you can start with just one or two and divide them to create a hedgerow as wide as you want.

Another great benefit to using rhubarb as a landscaping plant is that nothing eats it. It's 100% deer proof, rabbit proof and insect proof. About the only thing that can damage rhubarb is hail. It will be one of the first green plants to come up in your yard and it will stay that way as long as you water it. Rhubarb does not like hot sun, so plant it in a semi-shady location in hot climates, or an East-facing location where it will get some shade from the hottest afternoon sun. It does well in poor soils, but does need good drainage in that it does not like it's roots to be water-logged, but that's about it: a little sun and water.

In keeping with tradition, here's another rhubarb recipe. If you are looking for more, including our popular rhubarb sticky muffins, see our Recipe Club.

 

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May 2015
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