About this Blog

After gardening for many years, we have decided to share ideas and cultural practices related to backyard vegetable gardening.  As well, we are interested in hearing what others are doing in their garden plots so that we may continue to try different ways to garden.

The Garden Dreamer is about two gardeners sharing their garden experiences with others.  If we can help even one person, then this blog will have achieved much.   Truthfully, we are dreamers on many levels however the best dreams are usually related to being in the garden and sharing with others.

Our goal is to work with folks who enjoy the garden as much as we do.  The scope of our blog will include topics about vegetable gardening, soil health, composting and many other garden related topics.

We still have a lot to learn……..

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The Garden Dreamer

“Gardening adds years to your life and life to your years”

Author – unknown

Should you be interested in being contacted about new posts please provide your email in the box above. Your email will not be shared with anyone nor provided to any organization (public or private).

Contact us directly should this be of interest to you.

The Garden Alchemist, email: thegardenalchemist@thegardendreamer.com

Johnny L. Dose, email: JohnnyLDose@thegardendreamer.com

Let Us Hear From You!

Can you feel it? I’m talking about the fast approaching 2023 garden season. The Garden Dreamer would love to hear from you on any garden related project which you’ll be working on this year. All entries of merit will be posted on The Garden Dreamer with full credit given to the author.

Entries can be submitted to:


Companion Planting

We have seen some interesting results from last season’s (2022) initial effort to incorporate companion planting as a means to control insect pests. However, before we get started, let’s agree on a definition for companion planting.

Companion planting at SJSCG – 2022

Companion planting is when two plants are grown near each other for the benefit of one or both plants. Well, and as I have mentioned before, we don’t always report on cutting edge technology. Yup, companion planting methods have been around for a long time and there is a wealth of information to review on Papa Internet. Regardless, and new or not, the Garden Dreamer feels that contributing more data on this topic is meaningful. As well, we are committed to report on all organic methods that protect your garden.

The following is a taste of what St. Joseph Street Community Garden has witnessed thus far. As we do with all our posts, we will revisit our comments and findings on companion planting in order to maintain this topic as an “ever living post”.

Asparagus and Cabbage

During the 2022 season, we dabbled with companion planting and saw good results when cultivating cabbage, basil, marigolds and parsley alongside our new asparagus bed.  First year crown growth was lush and free of insects. Although the cabbage showed minimal evidence of feeding by cabbage loopers no sprays were used. As well, the growth of basil, marigolds and parsley were more productive and insect free as compared to their brothers planted in other areas of the garden.  We will certainly repeat this in 2023.

Bush Beans

More to come real soon….

Controlling Squash Bug and Squash Vine Borer

Every gardener wants to grow a successful crop of zucchini and both yellow straight neck and yellow crooked neck squash. Why not? These are very delicious veggies and each produce a bounty of squash when insects are not an obstacle. Yet, these aforementioned squash plants, along with many others, are an easy target for both squash bugs (SB) and squash vine borers (SVB). These two insects can disrupt plant productivity and will typically kill squash plants if not controlled. This post will discuss a few preventative measures that can help with avoiding much of the plant damage caused by SVB and SB.

The first matter to discuss is the distinction between SB and SVB. These guys are not the same insect. The SB lays groups of reddish-brown colored eggs on the undersides of leaves while the SVB typically lays only a few brown colored eggs near the base of the plants main stem. When a SB egg hatches it unleashes a tiny nymph which promptly begins feeding on external plant tissue. Unfortunately, and because their are 15 to 30 eggs in each lay this means you’ll have 15 to 30 nymphs feeding on your plant. In contrast, and upon hatching of the 1 or 2 SVB eggs, a larva emerges from each egg and burrow into the interior of a main stem. If left unchecked, both insects can cause serious damage and can render the squash plant unproductive in a very short amount of time.

During the 2022 season, I evaluated the use of a physical control method to block the adult SVB moth from laying her egg on the plant’s main stem. This involved making a collar out of aluminum foil then placing it around the main stem. It should begin at about 1/4” below where the top soil and main stem meet. Continue covering the main stem until plant growth permits you from doing so. Revisit plants frequently to repeat the procedure. By the way, there are several U-tube sessions on this method should you require more insight.

At St. Joseph Street Community Garden, the results were somewhat effective however the moth stage of SVB is pretty sneaky and was capable of laying an egg or two close to the aluminum on about 30% of the plants.

Should you witness an eventual attack by SVB larvae you still have an opportunity to stop them in their tracks. To do so, some gardeners advocate spaying Bacillus thuringensis (Bt) inside the area where the larvae is located or cutting the stem longitudinally to extract the larva that’s doing the damage. I know, this seems like a lot of work! Honestly, I simply did not have time to do either.

As for SB, I spent time at checking plants for egg masses and simply removed their eggs by hand with the assistance of double-sided tape. Quite frankly, the eggs don’t stand a chance. In addition to manual removal I sprayed neem oil and a insecticidal soap, about once a week, to discourage egg laying. However, It’s highly likely that you’ll have missed a few egg masses so once you see leaf wilting and leaf discoloration (yellowing), immediately remove affected leaves and take them out of the garden. Overall, control of SB worked pretty well and I believe that we obtained good control. These control measures will be repeated in 2023.

Honestly, and after talking with a lot of good gardeners, some have stopped trying to grow squash. But because I believe in growing squash, I will continue working on SB and SVB control methods. The additional strategy will rely on planting a greater number of squash plants and employ succession planting in order to have squash during the entire growing season. There are a few other things I’ll try but I’ve decided to not talk about these tactics until the end of the 2023 season.

Most important, if you have good organic control strategies against SB and SVB, please share same with The Garden Dreamer.

A Simple DIY Cold Frame

During the 2022 season we completed the final touches to our One-Story Greenhouse.  Because it took longer to finish than anticipated, we won’t be able to talk about starting Fall seedlings for the garden 🙁.  An additional feature under consideration is a solar heater.  We’ll see.

To compliment the greenhouse we are building three cold frames which should be ready by spring 2023. These will allow us to harden-off seedlings produced in the greenhouse. The cf can also be used to extend the fall season for spinach, lettuce, kale, etc.  There’s nothing better than fresh greens when little else is going on in the garden!

The design of the cold frame (cf) is simple and made of plywood and topped off with an old window purchased at Habitat for Humanity.  Cement pavers serve as the cf’s foundation to preserve the integrity of the plywood, reduce weed growth, and act as collectors of radiant energy.

The plywood’s exterior surface is painted with two coats of water soluble exterior black paint to help preserve the wood and perhaps absorb a little heat.  The windows are sanded, glazed and painted with two coats of latex exterior white paint (both sides) and attached to the cf with two door hinges.  The interior plywood walls are also painted with two coats of latex exterior white paint to preserve the wood structure and reflect light within the cold frame.

If you’ve never used a cold frame please be aware that they can turn into ovens when the sunlight pours through the glass.  Let’s just say that I’ve burned up a few plants over the years.  Even with temps in the 50F’s, a closed up cold frame can fry your plants! Simply prop open the window, in the morning, and all should be well.  You may want to place a thermometer in the cf so that you can monitor its internal temp.

Although we’ve elected to publish this post prematurely, we promise to provide updates, measurements, pics, etc.

Missouri versus the Azores

During a recent trip to the Azores, I learned that San Jorge Island grows the same lineup of summer vegetables as are grown in Central Missouri. Their most common garden veggies are potatoes (red, russet and sweet), tomatoes, cucumbers, yellow and zucchini squash, white and red onions, garlic, bush beans (4 or 5 types), herbs (rosemary, oregano and dill) and peppers.

Before I go any further, allow me to mention that the Azores are a chain of nine islands and are ruled by Portugal. These islands are about 800 miles off the coast of Portugal.

I guess I expected some exotic veggies to show up on display, but this didn’t happen. I, of course, wanted to speak with local growers however this opportunity didn’t present itself.

Oh well, there’s a list of reasons to visit the Azores which, of course, don’t relate to veggie production. It’s a great place to see, enjoy the ocean, meet another culture, be surrounded by friendly people and delight in their culinary fare.

Remember, take time to enjoy life as there are a lot of interesting and good people to meet.

Battling red spider mites and flea beetles in eggplant

As most gardeners already know, each type of garden plant is affected by specific and/or common insect pests. In the case of eggplant, this veggie is extremely susceptible to foliar damage by the red spider mite (RSM). If left untreated, this pest can devastate the plant’s entire leaf canopy. However, if damage is light, this plant seems to tolerate RSM damage as the plant matures.

Here in Central Missouri, where I’ve been gardening for some 23 years, I unfortunately have not witnessed a ‘light’ RSM infestation in this crop. Hence, to successfully grow a crop of eggplant, it is necessary to purchase seedlings that are free of mite damage or grow your own nursey stock. Once the weather conditions are favorable, we transplant eggplant seedlings into the garden and immediately cover the crop with a permeable white cloche. The cloche allows entry of water, sunlight and air but excludes most insects. Once the plants begin producing fruit, we remove the cloche since the plants are then beginning to reach the top of the cloche. By that time, eggplant seems to either develop a greater tolerance to, or avoidance of, this particular pest.

Eggplant under cloche

Of course, we don’t assume that the battle is over, so we continue to monitor all plants for presence pf RSM. Even during the time spent under the protection of the cloche, we will monitor all plants. If a breech was to occur in the cloche, for whatever reason, this will certainly provide entry of RSM.

In the case of eggplant, I recommend an insecticidal soap (foliar spray) to keep populations of RSM at bay. I’ve employed neem oil in the past however it doesn’t seem to be as effective in controlling RSM as does an insecticidal soap. Because eggplant also can suffer from flea beetle and whitefly insect pressure, it may be useful to tank mix these two insecticides, or perhaps use singly in alternate spray applications.

Also, keep in mind that the eggplant leaves are heavily pubescent thus providing a great place for all aforementioned insects to reside. Unfortunately, these pests seem to enjoy hanging out on the underneath side of the leaf. So, be sure to apply insecticide to both sides of each leaf for greater control.

The Regenerative Garden

I believe that, even in the smallest section of your property, it’s possible to grow healthy and productive vegetables. The basic ingredients needed for success are a well-drained and nutrient rich soil, a location that receives at least 4 to 6 hours of sunlight, a soil pH of 6.0 to 7.2 and a willingness to garden all season. This is where Regenerative Gardening (RG) comes in.

Dense planting of lettuce, collards, kale and beets

Remember, your garden’s soil is a living, thriving media containing thousands of different natural organisms working in harmony to sustain an almost perfect environment to grow vegetables. The other highlight, soil is a renewable resource. This means that no matter what your soil’s starting point is, you can make it better and keep it that way!

A new asparagus bed surrounded by lettuce, cauliflower and cabbage

RG is a combination of cultural practices that are implemented simultaneously, throughout the growing season, in order to maintain a highly productive soil. I consider the following as essential elements in establishing a Regenerative Garden:

  • Permaculture
  • No synthetic pesticides
  • Succession planting
  • Crop rotation
  • Soil incorporation of compost
  • Optimizing plant density
  • Companion planting
  • Cover crops

Our blog already includes information on most of these topics and eventually, we will cover them all. As you already know, there is a wealth of information available from an array of sources on each topic. So, if you want to dig deeper, it should be simple to do.

The point of this post is to introduce Regenerative Gardening (RG) from a multi-cultural practice’s perspective. As a general rule, I attempt to incorporate as many of the cultural practices mentioned above, for any given vegetable planted at St. Joseph Street Community Garden. My objective is to manage our garden plot as an ever-changing plant growth environment which supports high levels of quality production.

Last, but not least, please be sure to take a soil test on year 1 of your garden’s establishment and every three to four years thereafter. It is important to monitor any shifts in soil available nutrients and soil pH. If you are adding compost on a regular basis, be aware that the quantities of available nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium, from this source, may not be at the levels required by many vegetables (e.g., sweet corn, potatoes, etc.). There are several brands of granular organic fertilizers that can easily provide the balance.

Today, I’m headed to the garden to plant some squash seed, pull weeds, water a few areas and turn the compost. Not totally exciting, but that’s regenerative gardening for you.

Perseverance Pays

If your seed didn’t pop through the ground, as anticipated, or if your transplants didn’t survive the transition from pot to soil, don’t give up! In many cases, the best thing to do is replant. Get past the frustration and the feeling of failure and try, try again.

I’ve been gardening for a long time, and there hasn’t been a season without some type of mishap in the garden. There are many reasons why these failures happen and perhaps too lengthy to address in a single post. Hence, I won’t bore you to death.

The most important point is, don’t give up. I recently attended a lecture by a local botanical garden expert and one of his remarks has stuck with me. He stated that much of their success results from a lot of plant failures. Yep, even the experts make mistakes! So, without perseverance, their gardens would never have evolved to their present state.

By the way, and not too long ago, I lost a 25’ row of snow peas, a handful of red loose-leaf lettuce plants and a few crowns of asparagus. To correct these mishaps, I replaced the snow peas with a 25′ row of pole beans and transplanted a few lettuce plants and asparagus crowns to resolve the aforementioned poor stands. Today, all is well, and all three areas are looking great.

I do not claim being the most patient person, but I do encourage folks not to give up in the garden due to a few failures. Also, don’t be afraid to try new approaches to gardening. You just never know when an idea of yours will pay off. Of course, we’ll want to learn of all discoveries and new methods.

Have a great time growing veggies and thanks for reading our posts.

The Mini-Greenhouse

As many gardeners already know, there are a myriad of cold frame and mini greenhouse designs available online. Recently, our co-author (John L. Dose) wrote a piece on a similar topic, DIY Greenhouse and Cold Frame. My spin on this theme will examine my recent experience with a decent mini-greenhouse purchased on-line from Quictent.

Mini Greenhouse by Quictent

The overall design of this structure is pretty good, however, a few improvements are in order. Once the panels are zippered shut, there is no possibility of cross ventilation. In the early spring, in Zone 6, this can prove fatal to young seedlings. The enclosed structure does an excellent job of staying warm but can get pretty hot on a 50 – 60 F degree day with good sunlight. If the grower isn’t close by to vent the front panels, he or she runs the risk of damaging young seedlings. To remedy this I’m going to insert two side vents. The other concern deals with securing the structure to the ground. Tent spikes are not provided to achieve this end. Thus, a trip to a local vendor needs to be done before setting sail (literally).

Overall, I do recommend this particular growing structure as it goes up easy and is easily packed away between uses. It also serves to harden off seedlings when transitioning plants from the greenhouse to the field. In a manner of speaking, the mini-greenhouse (MG) design serves a similar function as a cold frame. Next season, 2023, we plan to build 3 cold frames (CF) and perhaps place the MG on top of a raised bed. this will allow us to evaluate which system does the best job.

Top Choice Vendors

When it comes to buying seed or plants you should seek out reputable companies that can boast of excellent service. John and I would like to share our top 10 picks. Since John lives on the Atlantic coast and I’m in central Missouri, our list will vary somewhat.

Also, and for those who are of a suspicious nature, The Garden Dreamer does not receive any benefit, whatsoever, from our list of vendors. We are only interested in helping others secure good quality products.

Midwest Vendors

  • Stark Brother’s – Fruit trees and vines, veg. seed, (heirloom and conventional)
  • 20947 US-54
  • Louisiana, MO 63353
  • Telephone 800-325-4180
  • http://www.starkbros.com
  • Gurney’s Seed & Nursery Co. – Fruit trees and vines, veg. seed, (heirloom and conventional)
  • P.O. Box 4178
  • Greendale, IN 47025
  • http://www.gurneys.com
  • Superior Garden Center – Fruit trees, veg. seed and seedlings (heirloom and conventional) and landscaping plants and services
  • 2450 Trails West
  • Columbia, MO 65202
  • Telephone 573-442-9499
  • Morgan County Seeds Fruit trees, veg. seed (packets and bulk), greenhouses and gardening supplies
  • 18761 Kelsay Road
  • Barnett, MO 65011-3009
  • Telephone 573-378-2655
  • http://www.morgancountyseeds.com
  • Email: errolahlers@reagan.com
  • Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co. – Large selection of heirloom vegetable, herb and flower planting seed
  • 2278 Baker Creek Road
  • Mansfield, MO 65704
  • http://www.rareseeds.com
  • Seed Savers Exchange – Large selection of heirloom vegetable, herb and flower planting seed
  • 3094 Noth Winn Road
  • Decorah, Iowa 52101
  • Telephone 563-382-5990
  • http://www.seedsavers.org

Atlantic Coast Vendors

  • Johnny’s Selected Seeds- Large selection of heirloom vegetable, herb and flower planting seed
  • 955 Benton Avenue
  • Winslow, ME 04901
  • http://www.johnnyseeds.com