" 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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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 archive tips and advice from articles to use as a reference guide. See Clubs under the Community Menu.

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

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fennel plant

Companion Planting: Fennel

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.

Most plants do not like fennel, so plant it well away from most garden vegetables. On the flip side, fennel does not do well next to coriander and will not set seed. Fennel also does not like wormwood.

Many people do not grow fennel because it does not have a lot of culinary uses, but as an herb it is very beneficial for stomach upset and gas. It is a very effective and safe remedy for colic in babies.


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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slug damage on lettuce

Slugs in the Greenhouse.

by Circkles.com.

Is your green thumb starting to itch yet? Many of you probably already received your seeds in the mail and have started your seedlings in the house to transplant out into your greenhouse or garden. While slugs are not usually a detrimental problem in the garden, they can be a big problem in greenhouses because they thrive in moist areas and will eat just about anything. We've had them climb up tomato vines and eat the tomatoes, crawl up 3 foot high pots and eat whatever is growing in them, and even go after radish plants - which you would think they would not like.

Soft-bodied slugs are close relatives of clams, mussels and other mollusks. They move with a muscular foot covering the underside of their body that secretes mucus. Slime trails on plants are an important indicator of their presence. This coating of slime also helps protect slugs from desiccation.

Another reason it's so difficult to get rid of slugs is because they are hermaphrodites, which means they contain both male and female organs. Not only that, but they may alternate sexes at different times during their adulthood. Self fertilization is also possible, so if just one slug gets into your greenhouse, you will have an infestation in a very short time.

common garden slugThey lay clusters of about 20 to 100 pearl-shaped eggs in moist locations under containers or debris. Eggs hatch in less than 10 days at 50˚ F. Newly hatched slugs are smaller and lighter than the adults. Slugs mature in about 3 months to a year (depending upon the species). In greenhouses, slugs feed and reproduce year round. Adults may live for a year or more.
Slugs have a tooth-covered radula that works like a rasp to grate plant tissue. At night, slugs feed upon a wide range of plants including annuals, perennials, orchids, fruits and vegetables. They can completely destroy tender young seedlings. Slugs chew holes in the leaves by rasping away the surface of the plant tissue, often leaving larger veins behind. Slime trails also reduce the marketability of plants.
Slugs may also eat fungi, dead worms and dead insects in addition to plants. During the day, they hide under debris, pots, flats, boards, etc.
It is very important to identify the species of snail or slug which is causing the damage. Not all slugs are the same in their behavior and feeding habits. Some slugs live and feed underground while others don`t feed at all on green leaves preferring the mould that grows on the soil, but they can still leave nasty slime trails and transmit plant diseases. Once the pest species is known, the most appropriate control method can be set out. Some pest species are easily identifiable, such as the grey garden slug (Deroceras reticulatum) which are greyish and produce a milky slime. Look at the color of slime produced by slugs after running a finger over them several times. These are by far the most common species found in Canada and are usually controlled by baiting. However other species such as the large dark slugs are sometime difficult to identify and some expert identification may be needed. In the case of greenhouse slugs most pests fall into the latter category.

Slug Control.

Slugs avoid crossing copper barriers. They receive an electric shock when their moist bodies contact the copper. So putting copper tape or flashing around plants or any place you suspect they might be getting into the greenhouse from, such as under the door, will work well.

They also will often avoid crawling over rough, sharp surfaces like gravel or wood chips, so lining the floor or beds of your greenhouse with wood chips may help. Substances such as diatomaceous earth or coffee grounds can be used as a barrier over which slugs and snails are reluctant to move and which can cover up the smell of yummy vegetable crops. Apply it around the base of plants, however, it works best if kept dry, which is difficult in a greenhouse environment, so you may have to replace them often.

Ground dwelling organisms such centipedes and various beetles commonly feed on slugs or their eggs, and a group of predatory flies known as marsh flies make slugs and snails their food of choice. However, you cannot usually purchase these natural predators from garden suppliers, but if you see them in your greenhouse or can relocate them, they may help a great deal.

slug trails on leavesBeer traps are popular with gardeners and work very well in a greenhouse because you can keep other animals from drinking your bait and it also does not evaporate as quickly as when the traps are used outdoors. The container used for a beer trap should be a shallow dish or cup dug into the soil so the top rim is at ground level where the slugs can easily climb into it and drown. The beer should be changed every 2-3 days. Stale or flat beer works too.

A nighttime visit to handpick the offending slimy slug pests from plants can prove very effective, but you will not likely get them all.

Slugs do not like neem oil. We make a spray of 1 eyedropper full of neem oil, a couple drops of soap and fill the remaining of a small spray bottle with water and spray plants that are being chewed up by slugs. This will keep slugs away until the spray gets washed off or fades with time. In which case, just spray susceptible plants again.

A combination of things usually works best. We have found that using copper around plants and doors in conjunction with hand picking and beer traps at least keeps the slugs to a bearable number.

Photos from top: 1.) slug-damaged lettuce. 2.) common gray or tan slug 3.) slug trails on leaves are a sure sign.

juneberry branch

When Blueberries Won't Grow, Try Juneberries.

by Circkles.com

If you live in the Southwest, you know growing blueberries is not an option here. Our soils and water are far too alkaline for acid-loving blueberries. You can try growing them in pots where you can make a special soil mix for them, but they will still die if you water them with the alkaline tap water in this area. We went so far as to growing them in pots with the acid soil they like and only watering them with rainwater that is not as alkaline as the ground water in these parts, but they still failed to really thrive here in Colorado, probably because the air is also just too hot and dry for them here.

Juneberries to the rescue. Juneberries will tolerate drought conditions, just about any soil except soggy, and can make an attractive accent bush or small tree in residential areas. You may also be interested in an article we wrote a couple years ago for using Honeyberries as a good blueberry alternative.

It took some searching, but we were finally able to purchase Juneberry bushes from Rainbow Nursery in Oregon and have them shipped to our Colorado location. It took them about 3 years to really get established and start to show any large signs of growth, but as long as they aren't dying, don't give up on them, they are pretty hardy and don't have many pests except birds, so if you get them going, you will have an excellent alternative to blueberries and they will shoot off runners so you can keep transplanting them for more bushes.

juneberries up closeAn early season fruit crop that is also self-pollinating and has frost hardy blossoms, Juneberries are also known as serviceberries in the East and Saskatoon berry in Canada. Mature fruit is ready for harvest 45 to 60 days after the very early bloom; they ripen in mid-June to early July in most parts of New York State and this medium-sized shrub tolerates a wide range of soil pH conditions (4.8 – 8.0) and soil textures (coarse sand to silty clay).

When blueberries are just too difficult to grow in your region, the Juneberry makes a perfect alternative, not just by care standards but also nutritionally. A typical Juneberry is 18 percent sugar, and about 80 percent water. Juneberries have a lower moisture content than blueberries, so they have relatively higher amounts of calcium, natural fiber, proteins, carbohydrates and lipids in them.
Juneberries are an excellent source of iron – each serving provides about 23% RDA for iron (almost twice as much iron as blueberries). They contain high levels of phenolic compounds, particularly anthocyanins, and, they provide healthy amounts of potassium, magnesium and phosphorous.
Juneberries have about as much vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6, folate, vitamin A and vitamin E as blueberries, and also trace amounts of biotin.

If you want to get Juneberries in the ground, start by developing your rows well in advance of ordering or delivery. Rows should be spaced 10 – 12 feet apart, planning for about 4 feet between bushes. The first crop will be ready three years after planting, and bushes will yield 4 – 6 pounds of berries annually.

If you live in the city, Juneberries may be just the answer to your lack of growing space. Instead of having to plant 6-8 blueberry bushes, you can plant one Juneberry bush and get the same or higher yields from it. It will also make a very attractive little decorative bush when it blossoms in the spring. One variety of Juneberry will turn bright red in the fall adding color to your yard late in the year as well.

The flavor of Juneberries is very similar to blueberries. The berries tend to be much bigger, with the same mild flavor and just a bit more dry. So, you can use Juneberries for anything you would use blueberries for: jams, jelly, smoothies, pies, dehydrated, freezing etc. Juneberries are excellent with raspberries in a tart or pie such as our recipe below.

berry tart recipeJuneberry Raspberry Cream Tart:


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup honey
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup grapeseed oil or olive oil
2 egg yolks


1 - 8 oz pkg cream cheese at room temperature
6 Tbsp honey
2 egg whites

2 cups fresh or frozen Juneberries
2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries, strawberries or blackberries.
1/4 cup honey
1/2 tsp cinnamon

In large bowl, mix flour, 1/2 cup honey and salt. Beat in butter with electric mixer on medium speed until mixture looks like small peas. In small bowl, beat egg yolks and slowly beat egg mixture into butter mixture. Turn off mixer as soon as dough comes together. Roll into a ball, put in a bowl covered with a plate and refrigerate 1 hour.

Meanwhile, make the filling. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gradually drizzle 3 Tbsp of the honey into the whites while mixing. In a separate bowl, beat the cream cheese with 3 Tbsp honey until smooth. Slowly beat the whites into the cream cheese just until well mixed.

Heat oven to 375°F. On lightly floured work surface, roll dough into circle big enough to fit in 9-inch tart pan. Place in ungreased pan. Bake about 20 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Cool completely.

Spread the cream cheese mixture into the cooled crust, top with mixed berries and drizzle 1/4 cup honey over the berries.

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February 2016
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