Upon 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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:
No synthetic pesticides
Soil incorporation of compost
Optimizing plant density
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Stark Brother’s – Fruit trees and vines, veg. seed, (heirloom and conventional)
Not every gardener is fortunate enough to have a great piece of property without a few limiting factors. Some of us have good ground and exposure, but no water is insight while others have an excellent supply of water as well as herds of deer to deal with. At St. Joseph Street Community Garden, Columbia, MO, we have excellent soil, plenty of water, while 1/3 of our garden receives about 4 hours of good sunlight and dappled light for the remainder of the day. To be more specific, morning light doesn’t reach this part of the garden until about 10:30 am. At this point, we have good sunshine for the next 4 hours. After this burst of sunlight, we then receive dappled light for the remainder of the day. Regardless, we still have an opportunity to grow a number of veggies and herbs that are able to produce a decent crop.
Last season, we grew early red potatoes as well as russets. The reds performed well however the russets appeared not to reach their anticipated production level. We decided that the russets languished due to insufficient solar radiation. The yield and quality of the red potatoes was more than acceptable, and their taste was great.
Note: During the vegetative stage of development both varieties appeared extremely healthy, however, their production of spuds was notably different.
We actually grew basil under full sun (7 to 9 hrs) as well as in our shady part of the garden. In the Spring and early summer months basil plants seemed to do well, however, as the hot summer continued, the basil in the hotter part of the garden began to produce fewer leaves whereas the shade crop continued to produce a decent crop. Next year, we’ll plant two crops of basil in our shady area. The first, in the spring and the second, in late summer. This will ensure a plentiful supply of leaves throughout the season.
Bunching Onions / Chives / Scallions
This category of plants does extremely well in our conditions. We presently have white garlic and garlic chives, which were planted in the Fall of last year, and just recently transplanted white bunching onions accompanied by early spring plantings of red and yellow bulb onion starts. By the way, the bunching onions are looking splendid!
Digging a little deeper, we plan to periodically harvest about half of each mound (hill) of bunching onions. The part not harvested will be replanted back in its original spot. It’ll be interesting to learn how much productivity we can reap from this process. We’ll certainly let you know how it went.
Edible Pod Sugar Peas
It’s amazing how many names this particular veggie has. Years ago, I would refer to it as Chinese Edible Pod Peas. Today, names such as Sugar Pop Snow Pea and Sugar Snap Pea seem to be commonly used. Anyway, this is one of my favorite veggies to nibble while visiting the garden. Although the pods are usually picked while pods remain flat, I enjoy opening the fat pods to munch on their developing seed for a sugar rush. In our home, we use fresh pods in our salads and add them to our vegetable medleys, stir fry and soup dishes.
As far as growing veggies in our shady area, sugar peas are planted in a spot which receives the most-light. We tried a shadier spot however the plants did not do as well.
Cilantro and Parsley
Two herbs which we enjoy growing are cilantro and parsley. These plants do well in our shady area and the cilantro doesn’t seem to bolt as fast when compared to growing it in hotter, sunnier places on the property. There’s always room in the garden for cilantro and parsley since both are excellent additions (fresh or dried) to many dishes.
I must have missed this one! I always thought that carrots would grow best in sunny locations however a random planting of carrots in our shadier area of the garden proved otherwise. Okay, now you know, I don’t know everything. This week, we will sow carrots in a dedicated row to see how they continue to perform during 2022.
We will be adding a few more favorites upon the end of the 2022 season. In the meantime, we’d like to hear from you about your experience growing veggies and herbs in shady areas.
Hi! Johnny L. Dose here with another contribution to The Garden Dreamer.
Just a few words on two basic building materials needed for homemade cold frames and greenhouses: polycarbonate panels and wood.
Polycarbonate panels: (www.farmtek.com) sells the panels shown below in 4’ x 8’ sheets and larger. These panels are double walled. The double wall creates a micro greenhouse effect inside the panel, which helps to retain heat. They are also transparent, UV resistant, and will last much longer than polyethylene sheeting. Unfortunately, the cost of shipping is not free. So, you should consider including your friends or your gardening club on the order. These panels are light in weight; therefore, the increased volume of the order does not increase the freight cost by much…I think.
Wood: Since 2 x 4’s are expensive, at the moment, consider businesses that are throwing away pallets and ask if you can have them. HVAC companies, as well as places that sell riding lawn mowers, often have crates that can be re-purposed for a greenhouse or a cold frame. Clearly, you will need to find an easy way of pulling the pallets apart. For this not so easy task, you can try either an isolation tool (multi-tool) or a stepped pickle fork that can be used with an air-hammer. At least, these two options I’m going to test out once my pickle fork kit arrives next week from Amazon.
I’m planning to use a canopy frame (10’ x 20’), EZ-up, or similar to make a greenhouse using the material described above. I will use a combination of cable ties, deck screws, and duct tape to hold it all together. This approach will be easy to take apart, should a building inspector show up, i.e., this greenhouse does not count as a permanent structure to the property. The important thing is to secure whatever you do with a canopy against strong winds. So, tie it down like Lilliputian or it will take off like a big kite. The cat mocks me now as I type. What does he know?
Anyway, feel free to ask me any questions about my experiences with two basic building materials needed for homemade cold frames and greenhouses. I’ll stop now and save some material (pun intended) for my next post as well as gather some data to report back.