" What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have never been discovered."
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Garden Circkles:

Sustainable, organic gardening and homesteading
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

We also cover small farming and homesteading articles in this section.

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seed matters

"An insurance policy against climate change is breeding for diversity," Dillon says. "As we get a more chaotic climate, it's very important to have greater diversity in our food crops, so they are resilient enough to withstand unpredictable diseases that are already starting to appear." ~ Matthew Dillon from Seed Matters.

Seed Matters has partnered with Seed Savers Exchange to improve our Community Seed Resources programs. Free educational resource guides are available and you can apply for your own Seed Toolkit. You can also apply for a mentorship and get assistance for your community seed project from an experienced seed saver. For more information visit Seed Saver Exchange.

Organic, Non-GMO and Heirloom Seed Suppliers:

We have ordered from these suppliers and find them to be very reputable, reasonably priced and honest.

High Mowing Seeds. 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.

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.

Seeds Now. Grow Organic with Our Unique Collection of 100% Pure Raw Un-Treated Garden Seeds

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Use Us: We've archived all of our articles, tips and recipes for our readers to access as an online reference any time they want. It beats remembering all this stuff.

Garden Circkles Back Issues:
For issues that go further back than 2015, see our Back Issues Index. Or use the Google Search above and search by topic.

January 2015: The Lazy Wife (Green bean) Comes Back to Life. Cool Garden Gadgets 2015, Aphid Midges, Companion planting with clover, Grasshopper traps and more.

February 2015: Keeping a greenhouse warm without electricity, Growing citrus, get rid of cockroaches naturally, Hover flies, collards.

March 2015: Growing Moringa, a vitamin powerhouse, Hover flies, Building a coldframe from an old window, plants that are good for composting.

April 2015: Rototillers Compared: Which ones will save your back and buck. The Best Mulch is Grass Clippings. Companion Planting: Coriander.Leafhopper. Tachinid Flies.

May 2015: Dandelions and Bees. Greenhouse Idea:
Little Heaters out of Free 5 Gallon Buckets.
Asparagus Beetle. Crab Spiders. Ways With Rhubarb - Besides Always Looking for Recipes for it.

June 2015: Growing Hardy Kiwi. Oh no. Late Frost. Can Plants Still be Saved? The Purple Veggie Craze. Companion Planting: Cucumbers. Natural Deer Repellents. Green Lynx Spider

July 2015: Comfrey: A plant No Home Should Be Without. Think the Rain is Free? Think Again. Is There Such a Thing as a Kinkless Garden Hose? Spider Mites.

August 2015: Epsom Salts to Benefit Plants. Epsom Salts to Benefit Plants. Elderberry: Sambucus Nigra with Elderflower Champagne Recipe. Beneficial Bugs: Centipedes.

September 2015: Best U.S Harvest Festivals. China Aster. Callistephus chinensis. Organic Non-GMO Seed Suppliers.

October 2105: Those Nasty Thistles. Devil's Shoestring: Tephrosia virginiana. The Edible Daylily. Beneficial Insects.

November 2015: Holiday Gifts From the Garden. Diatomaceous Earth. Companion Planting Eggplant. It's a Good Time to Reinvigorate That Greenhouse.

December 2015: Growing and Making Your Own Molasses. Potato Onions. No, this is not a Typo. Seed Matters.

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


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rosa rugosa hedge

Growing Rosa Rugosa for the Hips.

by Circkles.com

Not the flashiest rose you will ever see, so you may wonder why would anyone want to grow it? Well, for the rose hips mostly. And again, you may wonder why anyone would grow a rose just for the hips.

Also known as the beach rose because it naturally grows on the beaches of Japan, China and Siberia, rugosa roses have the largest hips of any rose. The flowers are single or double petal and the entire plant looks very much like a wild rose with a similar wild rose fragrance. But, if you are looking for rose hips, or a very hardy, low maintenance rose hedge, the rugosa rose is the most productive and with the lease amount of fuss or worry.

Rose hips are very high in vitamin C and collagen. Many herbalists use them dried and ground for a tasty tea. Make a very strong tea or infusion and put it on your face to lighten age spots and reduce loose skin and wrinkles due to the high amount of collagen in the hips.

single rugosa roseRugosa roses are also virtually maintenance free once established. They do well in rock gardens and dry climates. About the only thing you have to worry about with rugosas is deer; they will eat them just like any rose.

The rosa rugosa is very good for short hedges as the bushes can get quite dense. Keep clipping them and they will keep producing pretty flowers and nutritious hips all summer long. Mulch them well in cold climates and they will be fairly hardy down to zone 2. They do tend to get aphids like most roses, so treat any aphid infestation as you would any other rose. A good natural aphid control is to spray with neem oil, however, birds will usually keep your bushes aphid free.

Rugosa Rose Colors:

Rugosa roses are mostly available in only pink or white blossom colors. They are best started from plants which you can buy in large quantities for hedges from a garden supplier who will usually sell starter plants in 6 packs, or by the dozen, for a pretty good price since this rose is not considered a prized ornamental species.

Plant your starters in a prepared bed with compost tilled in about 6 inches deep. While rugosas will survive well in dry climates and poor soils, they will flourish with the right amount of nitrogen rich soil, compost and moisture. As with any rose, they do not like their roots soggy and perform best with good drainage, full sun, regular waterings and a nitrogen feeding once or twice a season.

Harvesting the Hips.

In the fall, after the hips turn red, cut them off the bushes and grind them up with a coffee grinder. Make sure to grind up the hips while they are still soft, because once they dry out completely they get hard as a rock and you will have a difficult time trying to grind them up then.

Once ground, then you can air dry the hips, and once dried thoroughly, you can store them in a jar with a lid for many months. Make sure the grounds are completely dry or they will get moldy in an enclosed jar. You can also freeze them for up to 3 months but they lose some of their medicinal qualities and are best preserved dried.

Use a teaspoon of ground rose hips added to tea to add extra flavor and vitamin C. Also make a strong tea from the hips and a little simmering water. Let steep for 30 minutes. Keep it in a jar with a lid in the refrigerator, and at night after you wash your face, splash some of the rosewater on your face and leave it on overnight. You will notice your skin tone up and dark spots will lighten due to the potent antioxidant and collagen qualities of rose hips. You won't find a better over-the-counter toner or skin tonic on the market.

Spring Valley Roses online has the best variety of rugosas, with a beautiful Therese Bugnet variety, but they are very expensive at $20 for one bareroot plant because you are paying for the fancier blossoms. You can buy a cheap bunch of 6 bareroot plants from Gurney's. If all you are wanting in a rugosa are the hips, then the variety does not matter for they will all be prolific hip producers with the largest hips you have every seen. Raintree Nursery has the best deal as of this writing at $5.50 for 5 or more plants. You can find all of these rugosa suppliers online. Every once in a while, you can find rugosas at your local garden center, Lowe's or Home Depot; but don't count on it as a sure thing, we have only seen them once or twice over the last 10 years.

Even though they are not considered one of the more beautiful roses to look at, they smell better than most highly-glorified ornamental roses, and as you are walking along your rugosa hedge in the morning with the waft of their scent in the air, you will not mind that they may not be as pretty or valued as some.


dandelion field

Dandelions Taste Like Chocolate? Why Didn't You Say So?

by Circkles.com.

You may already see their yellow heads popping up in your yard. Many people curse the dandelion, but that is because they do not know of the many values of this little gem.

Besides being one of the honeybees' favorite flowers, which is reason alone not to poison dandelions, this so-called weed, when properly roasted and depending on your soil can taste just like chocolate; and who wouldn't want free chocolate?

Dandelion root is well known for being one of the best herbal tonics for cleansing the kidneys, helping the liver and stomach because it is a bitter, and offering trace minerals not found in many plants due to their very long tap root. Seriously, dandelions should be revered for what they have to offer us and not poisoned with weed killers. Speaking of which, make absolutely certain the dandelions you are using the roots of have never been sprayed with weed killer.

Dandelion and Chicory root were once used during The Great Depression as a coffee substitute because coffee was so hard to come by at that time. Don't expect it to taste like coffee though or you might be disappointed. Dandelion greens are becoming a staple in the produce section of many health food stores as of late. The greens are used in salads and are best picked in early spring when they are still small and before they get too bitter. Greens are good for a source of vitamin C and for the same reasons the roots are good: as a kidney and liver tonic. They can be eaten fresh or steamed.

Roasting the Roots:

Fall is usually the best time to dig up roots, however, you may have a hard time seeing the dandies in your lawn once the plants dies back and the flower heads are gone in the fall. So basically, you can dig up the roots any time. Dig deep in order to get as much of the tap root as you can for your efforts. The biggest rosettes of a dandelion will have the biggest roots. Small, young plants may have such small roots they aren't worth your effort to dig them up, cut them up, grind them and roast them; so look for the biggest dandelion plants you can find.

dandelion choppedOnce you have the roots, wash them well by soaking them in a sink full of water to loosen up the dirt, then scrub them with a brush to get them as clean as possible. Dry them slightly on a rack for about 24 hours then grind them up with a coffee grinder. It is much easier to grind the roots before they completely dry out and get too hard.

Sprinkle the ground dandelion root evenly onto a dry cookie sheet. Bake in an oven at about 350º for 30-40 minutes while flipping the grounds or stir them up every 15 minutes or so to roast all sides as evenly as possible. When they start to smell up your whole house, and just before they look like they are going to burn or turn black, they are roasted enough. The darker the roast the more bitter they can be, and getting just the right roast can take a few attempts. You want the roast to be dark brown, almost black, but not quite.

You may already notice that while roasting your dandelion root they smell like chocolate, but when you brew them you will notice a slight hint of a chocolate taste to them. The roasted roots taste quite a bit better than the often bitter greens, and you can keep a jar of roasted dandelion root for a hot drink on a cold day for the entire winter before they lose any flavor. For an extra bonus, roast some chicory root if you have it growing in your area and mix the two together for a very nutritious hot drink similar to coffee, and for a good coffee substitute without the caffeine or other bad side effects of coffee.

To Brew:

Once you have your roots ground and roasted, store them in a glass jar with a lid in a dry cupboard. When you want to enjoy their nutritious goodness, add about 1 level tsp of ground root to a tea strainer, poor a cup of boiling water over the grounds and let it steep like tea for about 2-3 minutes. Add a little honey or vanilla and creamer if you like. You may soon find you actually prefer this delicious alternative more than coffee, and it won't give you the same buzz, high blood pressure, hardened arteries or caffeine withdrawal headache.

Next time you are pulling weeds, don't throw those dandelions in the trash or compost; eat or brew them. You will soon find you may appreciate this once dreaded "weed" and will start actually looking forward to finding it in the spring. I personally enjoy seeing their blasts of yellow all over my lawn, and it is strictly forbidden to spray them with weed killer in my house. I try not to mow down the dandelion blossoms for as long as possible to save them for my bees and for myself as one of Mother Nature's freebies to enjoy. Once they are mostly done blossoming, my family makes a day of digging them up, drying them, roasting them and then later we get to enjoy them in the dead of winter on a cold, blustery day.

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April 2016
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