" 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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BX series compact tractors tractor

Small Garden Tractors Compared.

by Circkles.com

Size Matters in Tractors:

It used to be that there were really only two sizes of tractor available: big ones and really big ones. Now there are compact and subcompact tractors as well as the full sized and heavy-duty industrial sizes.

Known as compact utility tractors, Kubota and Cub Cadet made this size very popular with the homesteader and small farmer / large gardener. The great thing about compact tractors is they are so versatile for a homeowner due to the many different kinds of attachments that are now available for them. So in addition to using them for plowing up fields, you can now get snowblower attachments, backhoe attachments, hay-cutting attachments, augers and more to make your compact tractor an all-in-one workhorse.

Subcompact utility tractors are in between a compact and a riding lawn mower in size. They are great for smaller applications where you do not have a great deal of room to maneuver or you simply do not need a full-sized tractor. They come in 4 wheel drive as well which makes them great for snow plowing. Do not even consider plowing snow with a tractor that is not 4 wheel drive because they tend to be too light, can't get good traction, and yes, you can still get a tractor stuck fairly easily if it is not 4 wheel drive.

Kubota's BX series covers this size of tractor and offers many accessories as well. John Deere of course has sprung into manufacturing subcompact tractors as a step up from their riding lawn mower series but they offer fewer options and accessories and again, you pay a great deal just for the name. Another popular brand coming up in the rankings is Mahindra, who is giving all other subcompact brands a run for their money by offering great specials, attachments and a good price to begin with, but you will see many tractor and lawn mower manufacturers are jumping on the compact utility tractor bandwagon with their own versions of this popular sized homestead machine.

If you are wondering why you can no longer find Cub Cadet subcompact tractors, it's because they sold their consumer division to Yanmar and Cub Cadet now only offers the large scale industrial farm equipment. This will probably prove to be a big mistake on Cub Cadet's part as the subcompact tractors are now becoming extremely popular and sales in this sector look to easily outperform industrial tractors in the very near future. The thought here is no doubt that Cub Cadet feels they can make up the difference with the fact that large scale industrial farm equipment can cost as much as a small house and they would need more sales in their lightweight line to make up the difference, but when you consider that most small farms are becoming extinct and more homeowners are turning to growing their own foods now, this could be a big mistake on Cub Cadet's part that Kubota is more than happy to take advantage of.

Compact utility tractors are between the subcompacts and the common traditional sized tractors most people are familiar with. Kubota made this size famous and is now also capitalizing on the smaller replica subcompacts that they never used to offer until the last few years. Kubota's L-series would be considered compact in comparison to industrial machines even though when the L-series first came out, it was just considered a "cute, little tractor" for those hobby farms and farmers who weren't considered really serious farmers. The L-series quickly grew to be the most popular tractors in America for the very reason that they were smaller and more convenient and a person didn't have to sell the farm to be able to afford a good tractor that did everything.

Tractor Prices.

You will pay $10,000 - $14,000 for a good used compact or subcompact utility tractor. If you are lucky, you may find a used Kubota for around $6-8.000 and we would recommend snatching it up quickly if you do because they don't stick around long. Shop around the used sites if you are only going to be using a tractor once or twice a year and buying one new is just not going to pay for itself. Most tractor dealers take in used equipment and if you tell them what you are looking for, can sometimes tell you where to find one or will let you know when they get something similar in. Brand new, compacts can run anywhere from $20,000 to $35,000 depending on horsepower and whether you need 4 wheel drive or not.

Mahindra and New Holland are good machines for a couple thousand dollars less than the other popular brands and they will offer some good sales incentives if you follow their websites. John Deere has always thought they are somehow special and usually charge more than anybody else even for their riding lawn mowers, but when it comes to compact tractors, there are much better brands than Deere, with more accessories and sales incentives. If you are hung up on the John Deere name and green symbolic color, than you will pay more for something that is not any better; you will be paying more just for the name. Heck, even brands like Coleman are getting into the compact tractor game because they see the increasing popularity of this size, and you will see brands traditionally full-sized in the past now offering compacts such as Masy Ferguson and AGCO.

subcompact tractorWhat To Look For Before Buying a Compact Tractor.

When shopping for compact tractors, you will find they are all very comparable in price and functions regardless of brand, so what you choose can boil down to who is having a sale at the moment you are ready to buy, servicing and availability of parts and brand loyalty - if you have one, and horsepower. The horsepower you consider for your tractor will depend on what you intend to do with it. The Kubota B series subcompacts ranges anywhere from 9 HP to 30 Hp for their B7800. Kubota compact L-series range from 15 Hp to 59 HP.

What this means is you will not only see price differences between brands of small utility tractors, but horsepower differences per dollar as well. So when you get ready to buy, price per horsepower, servicing availability and whether your desired accessories or attachments are availability for the model you are looking at will be your biggest considerations. Go for features and power you need first in say the top 3 brands, then shop around for the best price.

Let's Talk Tractor Servicing and Parts:

One tractor mechanic had this advice to give us:

"Mahindra has been making tractors longer than Kubota - it's NOT a new company. Mahindra has made tractors since the mid-1940s. Kubota started as a metal pipe company and made it's first four wheel tractor around 1960. Mahindra also made Willys Jeeps for the military circa WWII. Seems the Mahindra tractors got better noticed after they entered into a joint-venture with International Harvester and Volta in 1963 that resulted in tractors like the B-275, B-414, B-424, etc being sold in the USA and Canada.

Kubota makes some great engines and some great tractors. They are also pricey. Mahindra also makes some very good equipment and some have great parts support. I'd pay attention to price - and - the design of the particular tractor you're interested in. Some of the Mahindra tractors are based on time-tested platforms and parts availability will not be a problem. Some others are totally new designs - and with them, who knows? I'll tell you this. I've worked on some 1960s and 1970s Kubotas and parts are just about impossible to find. On the other hand, I have several 1960s IH-Mahindra tractors and I can still get just about anything - aftermarket or . . . direct from Case/IH."

Since there seems to be much confusion and question regarding Mahindra, and we see many people debating between Mahindra and Kubota over and over, here are a few facts that may help those of you having a hard time deciding. We would add to what the tractor mechanic above said that Mahindra is also an offshoot of International Harvester, so their construction, reputation, and standing, are solid although rumored to be a newbee on the block, their roots are deep in tractor manufacturing. Mahindra Tractors is an international farm equipment manufacturer of Mahindra & Mahindra.  In 2010, Mahindra became the largest selling tractor in the world. Mahindra's largest consumer base is in India, China, North America and a growing base in Australia. The company is the largest manufacturer in India and has the capacity to build 150,000 tractors a year.  In 1963, M&M formed a joint venture with International Harvester to manufacture tractors carrying the Mahindra nameplate for the Indian market. M&M developed its first tractor, the B-275. Mahindra Tractors sold about 85,000 units annually making it one of the largest tractor producers in the world

We highly recommend doing your homework on the brand you are interested in and find out what getting parts and service for it will be like. To most homesteaders, waiting weeks for parts is not usually a big deal, but if you are using your compact tractor for income purposes, time is money and Mother Nature will not always wait for your parts either.
The only truly American made compacts are John Deere, but in the long run you will pay more for their parts and service than most foreign-made farm equipment. Look for the number of dealers in your area. Kubota is widely recognized and dealers are pretty abundant. Even though Mahindra has been around longer than Kubota, you may find them a bit more of a challenge to track down parts and service for. This will hopefully change in the very near future as tractor dealers realize compact tractors are becoming hugely popular these days, and if Mahindra wants to compete with Kubota, as it looks like they do, then they will have to address the issue of becoming more popular and available.


goldenseal plant

Growing Goldenseal.

by Circkles.com.

Goldenseal is a potent herb that is a bit finicky about its growing conditions. Used medicinally to treat sinus and upper respiratory infections, it can work better than garlic for stubborn infections, however, it must be used with caution. See our herb club for more information on how to use this herb.

Goldenseal is in the buttercup family; its other names are yellow root, jaundice root, eye root and poor man's ginseng. Goldenseal contains the active compound berberine, which studies indicate is the substance that might be the source of its acclaimed benefits. According to one study, berberine is an anti-diabetic agent, though it’s not understood why. A 2014 study concluded that berberine might also help lower cholesterol. Berberine also seems promising as a treatment for gastrointestinal problems and digestive issues. 
Goldenseal also seems to be effective against the bacterium E. coli, which can cause urinary tract infections and digestive problems leading to diarrhea. Goldenseal’s anti-bacterial qualities might be the reason behind its reputation as a topical treatment for various skin ailments and infections as well. 

Goldenseal is also used as a digestive tonic, mouthwash, eye wash and disinfectant for minor scrapes and cuts. Contrary to common rumors, taking goldenseal won't block drug tests from detecting illegal substances, according to the UMMC.

For growing goldenseal, think about the same conditions as for ginseng. Goldenseal likes semi-shade or the mottled shade it would find in the understory of a forest. The large trees would provide the dappled shade goldenseal loves and the humus and loose soil it thrives in. Goldenseal can only successfully be started from root cuttings, and very few seed/plant suppliers carry it. A few we have used in the past are Johnny's seeds and Horizon Herbs. Both have websites you can order goldenseal roots from directl with Horizon Herbs being much less expensive than Johnny's.

goldenseal rootTo start a bed for growing goldenseal, till up an area so the soil is loose, work in plenty of dried leaves and compost: about a 50/50 mix of organic matter to soil. Plant your goldenseal crowns (similar looking to asparagus crowns) about a foot apart. Goldenseal is a small plant that does not get much taller than 6-8 inches, but you want to give it plenty of room to send out roots because it is the root that is used herbally. Mulch it well so the roots never dry out.

Goldenseal will be perennial if you mulch it well over the winter in colder climates. It will also do well in a shady corner of a greenhouse as it likes a bit more humidity. Just watch for spider mites and powdery mildew on this plant, other than that, goldenseal does not have many problems with pests.

Dig up and divide the roots in the fall to use medicinally and replant some of the root stock to keep the plants going. Goldenseal is one of the worst-tasting bitter herbs you will ever experience, but it is quickly becoming an endangered species and outlawed by the FDA in supplements because some people have misused it and had unfavorable reactions.

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March 2016
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