Questions? Write Me at

Questions? Write me at fullcirclegardener @ cableone . net.

Plant of the Week: Radishes

Radish (Raphanus sativusphoto credit
Another fall veggie garden option is the radish.  Radishes are a fall garden favorite in school or children's gardens because they mature quickly, come in a variety of shapes & colors, and all parts of the plant are eatable. It's taproot is a veggie tray or salad favorite for those who enjoy the crisp texture and peppery flavor.  It's leaves can also be included in salad greens. 

Select fall or winter radish seeds that have a short growing season and are heat tolerant.  Plant them in full sun to light shade in well drained soil 1 to 3 inches apart.  Optimal day time temperatures for radishes are in the 60F's.  If your day temperatures are consistently higher than 70F, provide them some shade.  Also keep them consistently watered as heat and uneven watering can cause them to become woody and very hot/peppery.

Are you planting radishes in your fall garden?

Happy Gardening! :)

Friend or Foe?

Honey Bee on Oregano

When it comes to gardening, whether fruits & veggies or flowers, there is always a fine line to walk when it comes to insects.  Insects are an invaluable part of flower pollination and fruit/seed production, but often times the larval stage(s) and sometimes adults can be devastating to a garden or a specific plant.

Cabbage Butterfly laying eggs on kohlrabi.

I have been reminded of this fact by the cabbage butterflies that are all over my yard and garden right now.  This white butterfly lays its eggs on the kohl family of plants (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kohlrabi) and the little green larvae (caterpillar/worm - whatever you want to call it!) that hatch will happily eat their way through your plants.  On the other hand, those same butterflies spend a lot of time flitting around my herb garden, especially the oregano, for their own meal.  If I wanted to harvest oregano seed those butterflies would be as much a friend as I feel like they are a foe in my kohls.

White-lined Sphinx Hummingbird Moth

 Another example of this dilemma was brought to my attention this weekend by an unexpected visitor.  A huge (about 2 inches in length) hummingbird looking moth landed on my eldest's shoe Saturday evening.  We quickly grabbed a camera and snapped a couple of pictures before it took off and disappeared around the corner of the house.  I then hit the internet and a few minutes of research resulted with the identification of the White-lined Sphinx Hummingbird Moth (Hyles lineata). 

I have never seen this insect before, but apparently it is found across the continental US and into Canada & Mexico.  It can have a wing span of up to about 4 inches across and is seen mostly in the dawn and dusk hours of the day around white and light colored funnel shaped flowers (like petunias).  The larvae for this large moth is equally large and can be found munching on a number of different varieties of flowers or even some garden plants like tomatoes.  Now tell me, if you found a large horned caterpillar eating up your tomato plants or prized flowers would you call this creature a friend or foe?

Hornet eating a cabbage 'worm'!
Then again on Monday another dimention of this dilemma was demonstrated to me as I watched a hornet stalking my kohls.  Over the weekend, my Dad had told me how he had watched a hornet devour a cabbage 'worm' in their garden so I kept a close eye on this carnivorous predictor.  Sure enough with in a few minutes he had collected a 1/4 - 1/2 inch worm and sat down to enjoy a wiggly meal.  Typically I am no fan of these insects, but I will happily share my garden with a cabbage worm predictor!  Eat heartily my friend for there are LOTS to be found in my kohlrabi & cabbage right now!

Fortunately, I haven't found any extremely large horned caterpillars in my tomatoes and I have no problem squishing the cabbage 'worms' I find on my kohls, or even better, letting the hornets have them, but I have gotten to spend some time thinking about the relationship between pollinators and 'pests'.

Next time you visit your garden and watch the insects that inhabit it, ask them 'Are you a friend or foe?' and see if you get the same mixed answer I am getting. :}

Happy Gardening! :)

Buttercup Squash Under Attach: A Second Chance

A couple of weeks ago I shared with you that the squash vine borers were attaching my buttercup squash again this year.  I have lost battles to squash vine borers for the last three years and this year they have taken out my zucchini plants and most of my buttercup squash.  After my previous post, I was reminded about an NDSU extension article I had linked to on The Full Circle Gardener Facebook page by a Facebook reader.  The article pointed out that squash plants root at multiple points along the stem and that one might be able to save a plant by providing multiple locations of ground contact and thus rooting points.

I took this knowledge and covered a length of stem with soil and mulch near the one squash that was on my plant.  So far all of the plant but that small area has died.  It is obviously struggling, but I am hoping that I am able to give the fruit enough time to mature.  Whatever happens with my one remaining segment of vine & one squash, I have learned a valuable lesson about squash borers and using the squash vine's natural desire to root to my advantage. :}

Do you have a garden pest you have been able to conquer this year?  I'd love to hear how you obtained your victory.

Happy Gardening!  :)

Fall Garden Direct Seed Planting Guide

The last couple of weeks I have spent a lot of time looking into and thinking about planting a fall garden.  I have never planted a fall garden before so this is a new adventure for me.  I decided that while I could search the internet and find lots of peoples' opinions on what to plant, it is still hard to know what works for my northern climate & growing season.  This last spring I created a Seed Starting & Planting Guide for starting plants indoors and was happy with how it worked for me in preparing for my spring garden.  Since it did work so well for me, I returned to the Weekend Gardener's Grow Guide armed with the date of the average first fall frost for my area and created a spreadsheet for planting a fall garden.

Here is what I came up with.  The guide covers the 12 weeks prior to the date of the average first fall frost (contact your local county extension agent if you can't find your date).  It lists what can be direct seeded for each week and notes the first and the last week for planting each listed species.

Fall Garden Direct Seed Grow Guide

Week 12
Week 11
Week 10
Week 9
mustard greens*
mustard greens
mustard greens
mustard greens



swiss chard*

Week 8
Week 7
Week 6
Week 5
mustard greens
mustard greens
mustard greens
mustard greens
swiss chard+
swiss chard
swiss chard
swiss chard


Week 4
Week 3
Week 2
Week 1


mustard greens+



Week 0


average first 32F frost

+last chance

Good luck with your fall garden.  I hope to plant mine this weekend... I'll let you know. :)

Happy (Fall) Gardening! :)

'Funny' Cucumbers

Cucumbers that look like these are a good indication that you need to be more keep a better eye on the water needs in your garden.  Cucumbers need consistant moisture to maintain a consistant shape.  Not only that, but they become very bitter when they do not have enough water.  Check out my series on watering for ideas on watering and water conservation for the rest of the growing season.

Obviously, I need to keep a better eye on my garden!

Happy Gardening! :)

Plant of the Week: Kohlrabi

Kohlrabi (Brassica oleracea)
A fall favorite in my home is kohlrabi.  I typically plant them in the spring, but a second fall crop can be planted about 6 weeks before the first hard frost.  Kohlrabi is a descendant from the same wild relative as broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, cauliflower and kale.  It is similar in flavor to cabbage hearts or broccoli stems with a mild and slightly sweet taste.  They have a firm, crisp texture that I have seen compared to an apple. (Please do not confuse texture and taste.  They do not taste like an apple!)

Plant in full sun about 3 inches apart and 1/2 inch deep.  Keep them consistently moist for the best flavor.  A layer of mulch is helpful to retain moisture during dry weather.  Like other members of it's family, kohlrabi is plagued by insects like cabbage butterflies.  As it doesn't need pollination, it benefits from a row cover to keep insects away.  Harvest when the bulb is about 2 inches in diameter.  Larger tubers tend to be woody/fibrous so successive plantings and frequent harvests are beneficial.

Happy Gardening! :)

Strawberry Bed Renovation Plans Change

For the past couple of years I have been dreaming of creating a raised pyramid bed for the strawberries that would bring them out from underneath a tree and give me the ability to cover them easily.  It would also keep them out of the backyard stream I found them in this spring.  This summer when we dismantled our old deck, I saw opportunity in all of the lumber that is now stacked by the shed and began to plan the structure I wanted.  (I'm hoping to get started on building this weekend, but whenever it happens I'll be sure to post what I did!)

As I knew that by this fall that I should have a new bed, I planned to pot the daughter plants and transplant them into the new bed and start with all fresh plants this fall.  This morning, as I wandered through my garden, a spot of bright red caught my eye in the strawberry patch and I realized that my everbearing strawberries are producing their second harvest. (Yeah!)  I combed through the patch looking for more red treats and realized that I'd never potted any daughter plants this summer.  Oops.  Well, I thought, maybe I'd be able to catch a couple yet so I took a second look through the patch and realized that there were no daughter plants this year! I don't know exactly why my strawberries didn't send out any daughters this year, but I suspect that they didn't have the energy reserves to do it.  It is time to get the patch moved!  As for this year and my plans, I guess I'll enjoy the dozen or so strawberries that we will get and purchase some new plants next spring and start fresh then. 

Sometimes even the best laid plans do not work out.  :}  Have you had to make some changes to garden, landscaping or maybe even preserving plans this summer?

Happy Gardening! :)

Preserving Garden Produce: Freezing Zucchini

Who doesn't have a few extra zucchini sitting around on their cupboard this time of year?  If you are like me and your garden zucchini crop failed to produce this year, don't despair.  If you put the word out that you are looking, someone will be more than happy to provide!  ;D  My Mom gave me several last weekend and I took a little time to chop and freeze a few packages of zucchini this week. 

My family is not a huge fan of zucchini, but I have found that if I chop it very fine, they will accept it in almost anything.  At least they don't object to what they do not find... ;)  I'm especially fond of adding it to spaghetti sauce and lasagna, but it's mild flavor makes it very versatile.

To freeze finely chopped or shredded zucchini you may blanch it or freeze it directly.  I have always frozen it directly but decided to give blanching it a try this year.

To Blanch and Freeze Finely Chopped Zucchini:

knife & cutting board
food processor
cheese cloth
shallow steam pan
measuring cup
freezer containers

1. Wash to remove any dirt and/or chemical.

2. Cut off ends and put them into the compost.  (It is not necessary to peel it.)

3. Cut into about 1 inch wide slices and quarter each slice.

4. Fill the food processor to about 1/2 full and pulse chop until the zucchini is the desired size.

5. At this point you can choose to blanch the zucchini or to bag & freeze it without blanching.

6. Place several layers of cheese cloth in a colander or steam basket so that it hangs over the edges.

7.  Spread 1 or 2 cups of chopped zucchini across the bottom of the steaming container.

8. Steam the zucchini about 2 inches above the surface of the water for 5 minutes.  Be sure to keep the steamer covered.

9. Gather the edges of the cheese cloth and immediately lift it out of the steamer and place it in an ice water bath to stop the cooking process.  (Keep the zucchini contained inside the cheese cloth.)

10. Once the zucchini is completely cooled remove it from the water and gently squeeze off some of the water.

11.  Place in a freezer bag.  Be sure to label and date the bag before you put it in the freezer.


Happy Garden Preserving!  :)

Plant of the Week: Spinach

Spinach (Spinacia oleracea) photo credit
I recently realized that I have only 6 weeks left until the average first fall frost for my area.  This has me thinking about the possibility of planting a fall garden.  Two cool season crops immediately come to mind for me when I think of a fall garden.  One is peas and the second is spinach.

I cannot think of spinach without thinking of Popeye. :)  I don't know if there was a kid of the Popeye generation who didn't at least try a can of spinach.  Who could resist when watching Popeye turn into a man of muscles and might after downing a can of spinach?!?  I think I have only had a taste from one can of spinach in my life, but I do enjoy fresh spinach in salads and even properly cooked into a lasagna or some other dish and so does my family.  I usually plant spinach in the spring with my salad greens, but this feels like a good year to try my hand at a fall planting.

Spinach prefers cool temperatures and 'short' day length or it will bolt (send up a flower stalk).  Plant spinach 4-8 weeks before the first fall frost or after the soil temp stays below 70F & air temp below 80F for a fall harvest.  If you are planting for a spring harvest soil temp should be above 32F.  If temps are above 80F you may have poor germination so don't be afraid to 'plant them thick and thin them quick'. ;)  Just be sure you do thin them because over crowding will also cause them to bolt.

Spinach feasts on nitrogen so they make a good companion to their fellow cool season lover, peas.  They prefer full sun to light shade and should be placed 1/2 inch deep and spaced approximately every 6 inches. Spinach can be started inside if you are concerned that you cannot provide good starting conditions, but they don't like being transplanted so direct seeding is the best bet. 

When do you typically plant spinach in your garden?  In the spring, the fall or both?

Happy (Spring or Fall) Gardening! :)

Buttercup Squash Under Attach... Again

This is the third year that I have tried to grow buttercup squash.  Every year I have lost all of my plants to squash vine borers.  Squash borers are the larva of a moth that lays its eggs at the base of squash plants.  After the eggs hatch, the larva borrow into the stem of the plant and commence to eating from the inside out.  Given enough time, they will kill the plants.  My understanding is that the only treatment is prevention, so this year I covered the plants with a tunnel frame and bird netting in the hopes that it might also keep out the parent moths.  Unfortunately, I lifted off the tunnel to weed and didn't get it back on.

I noticed the tell-tail signs of the squash vine borers last week and one nice sized squash on my plants.  I had hoped that I'd get enough time before the borers killed the plants for that one squash to completely ripen, but I don't think I'm going to.  I noticed yesterday that the leaves of all of the squash are wilting and I'd say by the end of the week that the plants will be completely dead. :(

I plan to try squash one more year and use a light weight row cover to see if I can keep out the insects, but if I fail again next year I will be done planting squash... :(

For more information on squash vine borers, check out this National Gardening Association post and this post from the NDSU extension .

I hope you are getting happier news from your garden this week.

Happy Gardening! :)

Preserving Garden Produce: Refrigerator Pickles

When the garden is in full swing and the abundance fills your kitchen and refrigerator, it is time to start preserving some of it for use after the abundance is gone.  This week I came home to an abundance of large cucumbers.  My family loves fresh cucumbers and I know that we could eat them up, but I also know that more cucumbers will come and so I'm going to take a few and make refrigerator pickles.

Refrigerator pickles are sometimes also referred to as 6 month pickles because they will keep in your refrigerator for about 6 months.  They are the very easiest pickle to make.  If you enjoy a sweet pickle, then this is worth trying out! :)

Refrigerator Pickles

8 c sliced unpeeled cucumbers
4 peeled & coined carrots
4 peppers; cored & sliced  ( I used 2 bell & 2 medium heat peppers for a little spicy kick)
1 c sliced onion
1 c vinegar
1/8 c salt
2 c sugar
1 tsp celery seed (or celery salt)

Prepare all of the veggies as directed and put into a half gallon glass container.  Mix remaining ingredients in a microwave safe bowl and heat until the sugar dissolves.  Pour the warm liquid over the veggies and place in the refrigerator.  Let sit for at least 24 hours before you serve the pickles.


Happy Gardening & Preserving! :)

A Garden 'Welcome Home'

August 8, 2011
Two weeks of being away from home and I am completely amazed at how much everything has grown!  I'm so glad to see it has handled my absence and lack of tending so well! :D

 I have tomato plants that are about 6 foot tall & cherry tomatoes that are starting to turn red.

 The jack-o-lantern pumpkin looks like it would like to take over the whole garden!  I clipped off a couple of growing points this morning and will let it put energy into what is already there.  The pumpkins and squash seem to have problem setting fruit this year.  I don't know if it is the result of the accidental integration of herbicide in my soil or if it is just the way things are this season.  Is anyone else having problems with zucchini, squash or pumpkins setting fruit this year?

A quick search of my cucumbers resulted in a harvest of mammoth size cucumbers that will be turned into refrigerator pickles.  I'll post my favorite recipe later this week.

I also saw that I have kohlrabi that are ready for harvest as well.  I collected one that we enjoyed for lunch today and will harvest one or two a day for the next couple of weeks.  In my opinion, kohlrabi are best fresh from the garden or they loose that juicy crunch I like so well.

It is sooooo good to be home AND find the a small garden harvest waiting for me! :)

What are you harvesting this week?

Happy Gardening! :)

No Plant of the Week again this week...

My friends, thank you for your patience as I will not be posting a "Plant of the Week" again this week.  My great aunt, that I have been sitting with, passed away Monday night and I have not been able to think about blogging this week. :'(  I hope to be back on schedule next week.

I hope your gardens are all growing well & look forward to seeing mine again sometime soon. :}

Happy Gardening. :)