About this Blog

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.

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

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

Made in the Shade

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.

Potatoes

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.

Basil, Genovese

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

Twp 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.

Carrots

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.

DIY Greenhouse and Cold Frame

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.

All the Best,

Johnny L. Dose

Top Tomato Tips

As is widely recognized, growing tomatoes is perhaps one of the most common activities in the garden patch. Due to their quick growth habit and excellent production potential, almost every gardener adds them to their list of plants to adorn their garden space. Like any other plant, there are cultural practices that need to take place during the growing season to ensure good productivity for these plants.

Which Tomato Should I Grow?

Almost every time I start thinking about which varieties, hybrids and heirlooms to cultivate. Believe me, I perhaps change my mind at least 10 times prior to arriving to a final selection. If I had the space, I’d grow more tomatoes! Truthfully, I don’t believe there’s a one “fits all” tomato to grow. For instance, in a 20-mile radius from where you live, you’ll find that many types of tomatoes are cultivated and every grower swears by their choices. At St. Joseph Street Community Garden, you’ll find varieties, hybrids and heirlooms in the mix.

Before I reveal my short list of superstars, now I sound like Motley Fool, it’s important to know the basic tomato types available. Growth habit is the diving rod here. Tomatoes are either determinate, indeterminate or dwarf. A determinate tomato can reach 4 to 5 feet in height while the indeterminate can attain a height of 6 to 9 feet. The dwarf tomato, a material which I do not cultivate, is suited for small container or pot culture. Determinate tomatoes typically have a shorter flowering and fruit production period making them more suitable for large production growers. The indeterminates have much longer flowering and fruiting cycles making them an excellent choice for the garden plot.

Indeterminate Variety

An Excellent Read for the Tomato Enthusiast

Like anything else, you can find a ton of information about tomatoes in books, catalogs, university bulletins and online. However, one of my favorite sources of information is my tomato bible (see below):

  • Title: EPIC Tomatoes (How to Select and Grow the Best Varieties of All Time)
  • Author: Craig LeHoullier
  • Publisher: Story Publishing
  • Published 2015

I couldn’t resist. Here’s a photo of the front cover.

My Tomato Bible

Pruning Tomatoes

Please read my post entitled “Pruning Tomatoes”….

Disease Control

Well, and although disease can be an issue for tomatoes, I don’t seem to have many problems with foliar diseases. I attribute this to being careful not to over fertilize plants, irrigate at the base of plants (this reduces splashing which moves spores from soil to the plant), pruning (see above) and selecting tomatoes that exhibit resistance to many of our common foliar and root diseases.

Insect Control

I’ve grown tomatoes for years and in many states across the USA. When it comes to insects, I’ve only had difficulties with Tomato Hornworm and occasionally with Western Yellowstriped Armyworm . Both larvae stages can do considerable damage to leaves and fruit. If larvae are not controlled promptly the amount of damage escalates quickly. Fortunately, we have an excellent means of organic control for both pests. I use Bacillus thuringensis, a soil borne bacteria to control these pests. Several vendors manufacture and sell this product in liquid form making it simple to apply with a hand held sprayer.

I usually apply the first dose a few weeks after flowering initiates. As long as it doesn’t rain, the treatment seems to remain effective for up to two weeks. In a given season I may apply Bacillus perhaps 4 or 5 times. Any larvae which ingest the bacteria will stop feeding, almost immediately, and their development ceases.

Oops…… I almost forgot to tell you which tomatoes work well for me. Here they are, Better Boy, Ivan (MO heirloom), Mortgage Lifter (heirloom) and Jetsetter. Warning, this list will change!

Fertilizer Application for the Novice Gardener

For the novice gardener, it’s important to understand that all garden plants have feeding requirements. Although most soils contain a reservoir of essential nutrients, the levels of one or more readily available nutrients may not be at a sufficient level to sustain optimum plant growth. The other consideration is that vegetable plants vary in their total nutrient needs. Sweet corn, for instance, requires 140 lbs. of nitrogen (N) per acre whereas radish needs between 60 to 70 lbs. N per acre. Don’t worry, on most bags of fertilizer, application rates are usually expressed in easy-to-understand units based on feeding a single plant or on a plant-row basis.

The most important elements which are considered critical for good plant development and productivity are recognized as macronutrients as N, P, K, Ca, Mg and S and micronutrients (trace elements) such as B, Mo, Fe, Zn, Cu and Mn. The main difference between these categories is in the amounts taken up and utilized by garden plants. Macronutrients are taken up in larger quantities than are micronutrients. However, and regardless of their category, each element plays a critical role in the plant’s health and development.

There are only a few key items one needs to know in order to properly use fertilizer. These are: 1. Know how much fertilizer a particular vegetable needs, 2. Know which nutrients are abundant and which are lacking in your garden, and 3. When should fertilizer applications be made. As I mentioned in an earlier post, pH and Soil Amendments, having a soil test performed is an excellent way to gain insight into the nutrient levels and pH of your garden soil. Additionally, most soil test results will also include fertilizer recommendations of up to three crops.

Regarding the nutrient needs of 100 fruit and vegetable plants, is a considerable amount of data and is not feasible to display in this post. However, I will share a reference that should more than satisfy your needs. This comprehensive document covers various vegetable crops and addresses fertilizer rates for both macro- and micronutrients.

What’s in a Bag of Fertilizer?

The first item which needs to be learned is how to interpret what’s in a bag of fertilizer. As many of you perhaps already know, all fertilizer products follow the same designation system regarding the quantity of key nutrients found inside a bag. This is true for both conventional and organic based fertilizer. To help explain this in a bit more detail, I’ve provided an image of a fertilizer bag containing soluble/available forms of nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P) and potassium (K). Since this formulation was created specifically for tomato plants, it also contains 2% Ca, however, it isn’t listed on the front panel. Without an adequate supply of available calcium, the tomato crop will likely succumb to a physiological disorder called, blossom-end rot.

The 4-3-3 designation tells us that this bag contains 4, 3 and 3% of plant available N, P and K. In this instance, this bag weighs in at 5 lb. of total fertilizer (elements plus inert material). So, in the case of nitrogen, 5 lb. of fertilizer multiplied by .04 (4 %) = .2 lb of nitrogen. If you were required to apply 1.0 lb. of nitrogen to a 20 ft. row of okra, you would need to acquire 5-bags (25 lbs.) of fertilizer and spread the entire contents in said row. However, should your soil test results indicate that your soil already contains healthy levels of available P and K, then you’d be better off to search for fertilizer with a greater portion of N and less P and K (e.g., 20-2-2).

How Do I Apply Fertilizer?

There are three basic ways to apply fertilizer in the home garden; 1. Broadcast granules, 2. Incorporate granules and/or 3. Foliar feed. In most cases, I prefer soil incorporation of all required nutrients with the exception of broadcasting in certain scenarios. I am not fan of foliar feeding.

Broadcasting Granular Fertilizer

There are certain occasions when broadcasting fertilizer is called for. For instance, you may have an area in the garden which will be dedicated to establishing a certain crop that has nutrient requirements unlike the rest of the garden. So, let’s say it’s a potato crop, and the soil test recommends a preplant application of 5 lbs. of 10/10/10 in a 1,000 sq. ft. area. Weigh out 5lbs. of fertilizer and apply a uniform amount over the 1,000 sq ft area. Once completed, I highly recommend a light raking so that the fertilizer is somewhat incorporated in the soil.

Some gardeners may elect to broadcast fertilizer to row crops as well. For instance, in a row of beans, you might apply fertilizer on top of the soil (in the furrow) next to your plant row. However, I can’t say I agree with this method as you are bound to lose valuable nutrients to runoff and evaporation. The other scenario that calls for broadcasting fertilizer, without the opportunity of incorporation, is for beds of strawberries, asparagus, etc. For obvious reasons, you are now forced to broadcast fertilizer over the tops of plants.

Incorporating Granular Fertilizer

This is by far the most accurate means of delivering the intended quantity of fertilizer to your plants. For beans, corn, okra, eggplant, beets, etc., this is the preferred method (IMHO). Prior to applying fertilizer, I use my hoe to make a small trench in the soil approximately 1 to 2 inches deep and about 2 to 3 inches away from the base of all plants. Your digging should not disrupt the roots! Evenly apply the fertilizer in the trench and cover the fertilizer with soil immediately thereafter.

Foliar Feeding with Fertilizer

Although I am not a huge advocate of foliar feeding, it does have a few redemptive qualities. In some instances, a foliar feed for the specific use of delivering micronutrients (Boron, Manganese, etc.) to a plant can prove beneficial. This would certainly be the case if your soil test had called for the application of these elements, yet you didn’t apply them preplant. Additionally, some gardeners use foliar solutions of Calcium to spray on tomatoes to prevent the incidence of blossom end rot.

Thank you for taking time to look this over and I surely hope that you will share your comments and experiences with us.

What’s a pH?

Soil pH influences plant growth and can make our break a garden.  My intention is to highlight what I believe is of the greatest practical importance to the home gardener.

The pH of your garden’s soil is a numerical value which indicates its potential hydrogen ion concentration.  For garden soils, the typical range in values might be between pH 5.0 (more acidic) to 8.5 (more basic).  As you’ll recall, a pH 7 is neutral and this is typically the value for drinking water.

The soil’s pH is something every gardener should know before planting a garden.  The reason being that many soil nutrients (e.g., nitrogen, phosphorous, magnesium, etc.) are more readily available to plants in the range of pH 5.8 – pH 7.5.  In other words, if your soil’s pH is below 5.5 or higher than 7.8, the availability of plant nutrients decreases. Hence, nutrients become less soluble and/or bound to the soil media. Of course, this is a generalization since each nutrient behaves somewhat differently in relation to pH.

If you are about to establish a garden in new (unknown) ground, it will behoove you to have a soil test conducted before you do anything else.  You can typically do this via a county extension agent, a local (private) environmental laboratory or a university soil testing laboratory.  Fortunately, for Boone County (MO) gardeners, we have access to two laboratories who provide excellent testing services. I’ve listed these below.

The first reference is for a private lab located in Fayette, MO. This is a pleasant drive from Columbia and their company name is Inovatia Laboratories, LLC.

Inovatia Laboratories, LLC

The second reference is for the Soil and Plant Testing Laboratory located on the University of Missouri’s Columbia campus.

  • 1100 University Avenue
  • Mumford Hall – Room 23
  • Columbia, MO 65211
  • Phone: 573-882-0623
  • Fax: 573-884-4288

In summary, by knowing your soil’s pH and its nutrient profile, you’ll be able to successfully amend your soil so that it’ll be more suitable for the growth of fruit and vegetables. For more information, please visit my post on pH and Amendments.

Thanks!

Eliminating Street Pollution

I propose that it is within ‘our reach‘ to eliminate street pollution in the next 10 to 20 years. Street Pollution is simply the trash we all see when we walk about our planet. For those who require a reason why this is an important topic, continue reading. Street Pollution is all the trash one sees in our streets, parks, freeways and alleys. Left unchecked, and following rain and wind events, street pollution typically ends up in waterways, sewers, creeks, rivers and ultimately, our oceans. Once it enters large bodies of water it is dubbed, “marine litter”.

Boys playing in a body of water full of litter

Street and Marine Pollution is getting worse not better. I’m writing this post while vacationing in the Keys of Florida where I am saddened by the quantity of cans, bottles and paper tossed about. When we visited bird, turtle and dolphin rescue and rehabilitation centers, it was impressed upon us that humans are the casual-agent behind most of these creature’s mishaps. Unfortunately, most injuries/illnesses were due to marine life consuming garbage, being hooked then released back into nature without first removing hooks, becoming entangled in plastic wraps, ties, etc., and/or being run over by power boats.

Learning this encouraged me to think about what could be done to eliminate street pollution. Surely, the answer isn’t to wait on more government mandates or more laws to be put into place. The answer lies in the hands (literally) of everyone on our planet. We must be more diligent to not litter and be willing to pick up trash when we see it.

OK, so maybe you have already stopped reading this post since it may seem just a tidbit idealistic. Well, we are the Garden Dreamers, and idealism is our forte. So, without haste, I’ll continue.

Should 1 million people, throughout the world, agree to pick up only 1 piece of trash every day for one year, this equals 365 million pieces of litter. If we extend this to ten years, the total number reaches 3.65 billion pieces of garbage which would end up in the garbage can and ultimately, in the land fill. I know what you’re thinking, garbage should be recycled, not placed in a land fill. Well, keep reading because I have made a provision for recycling, repurposing and reusing.

Now, for the important piece, how am I going to amass 1 million people to take on this very important task? It’s easy, we’ll rely on social media and word of mouth. Just think about it for a moment, when Anglo-Saxons first stepped foot on what is now called the USA, how do you think the native Indians in the NW area of their continent knew about this? Heck, it certainly wasn’t due to the Pony Express!! So, it was obviously by word of mouth.

The other piece of the puzzle that needs to be addressed deals with achieving milestones by the 1 million strong task force. This is the motivational piece. I mean, what is the point of picking up trash if your labors go unnoticed. Don’t worry, I promise that your efforts will not go unnoticed. I have established thresholds and a recognition system, and yes, it includes a ball cap. The thresholds are 500, 2,500, 10,000, 25,000 and 100,000 pieces of litter per individual. Each threshold will be commemorated by adorning your greenish, bluish or brownish colored ball cap with a different colored shirt button. By the way, each person will need to acquire their own ball cap and buttons (I hope this isn’t a deal breaker). And yes, we’ll have a logo (forthcoming) which I hope you’ll transfer onto your new cap. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s go back to the buttons.

Once you’ve acquired your ball cap, and fashioned the logo, for all to see, you can begin the process of picking up and properly discarding litter in a waste receptacle. Of course, you’ll need to count the number of pieces gathered on each outing. When you’ve picked up and properly discarded 500 pieces of litter, you have earned the privilege to sew a brown colored button onto your hat. Additionally, your title is then Street Cadet. The following table shows the progression of colored buttons, titles and pieces of litter retrieved and disposed of. Here’s a perk to keep you engaged. You’ll most likely find some buttons along the way thus making your efforts more than worthwhile.

Table 1. Schedule of title and color of button awarded relative to the number of litter items removed from nature (OK, or the street, back alley, etc.) and placed in a trash receptacle.

Number Litter Items

Title

Color Button

500
Street Cadet
Brownish
2,500
Street Trooper
Redish
10,000
Street Captain
Greenish
50,000
Street Ecologist
Bluish
100,000
Street Environmentalist
Yellowish

Do you remember when I said that there is a provision for those who desire to recycle, repurpose and/or reuse a litter item? Well, here it is. For every piece of mislaid trash, that is either recycled, repurposed and/or reused, these items count as three (3) pieces of litter. For example, if you gather 5 pieces of wood to build a planter and then attach 2 pieces of litter (neat objects) to it, the total count of retrieved litter is 21. Please, do not runout the door to begin looking for street trash, or on second thought.

Many of you are probably wondering, how in the world is anyone going to keep track of all this data? Well, the raw data will stay in the hands of the litter gatherer. This is called, dodging a bullet. However, when an individual reaches a threshold (see table) they should email their accomplishment to thegardenalchemist@thegardendreamer.com. Of course, please include your first name or nick name along with the location where the majority of the debris was gathered. Don’t worry, your e-mail will not be used, sold or traded for any purpose. If this isn’t good enough, then contact me via this post and let me know the news.

As goofy as this all sounds, it’s for real. And, if we don’t start doing something more to eliminate street pollution, we will certainly place our planet in a ‘world’ of hurt. See what I did there? Also, this is a program based on the honesty of the players. Nobody is getting paid or getting their name in the paper, it’s just the right thing to do. So, get your hat ready and begin to pick up litter, and, don’t forget to announce this initiative to your circle of friends.

Not the end….

Succession Planting

Probably, one of the most common occurrences in the garden is the lack of practicing succession planting (IMHO). Succession planting (SP) is the periodic replanting of a particular veggie in order to have a continual harvest throughout the growing season. Sounds great, right?

K

Of, course, not every garden plot can support this activity and not every gardener has enough time to pull off SP. However, knowing about succession planting and considering how it may apply to your situation, could enhance how you grow certain of your favorite crops.

One of the veggies that I have a lot of success with are bush beans. As a general rule, I’ll plant bush beans every 15 – 20 days following each previous planting. In central MO, 5 to 7 plantings are possible.

If you love fresh basil, like I do, I recommend SP in order to have a fresh and high-quality supply of leaves all season long. Unlike bush beans, you will most likely need 2 to 3 plants for your early spring crop and a similar second planting in mid to late summer to insure a good crop through the Fall months.

Two additional favorites for SP are green onions (aka, scallions or spring onions) and radish. Both are easy to cultivate and don’t require a lot of garden space to satisfy the appetite of for 1 to 3 individuals. Radish can be resown every two weeks whereas bunching onions may do best with sowings every three to 4 weeks.

Other crops that lend themselves to SP are lettuce, spinach and bok choy (aka, pak choi). These favorites can also be planted each 2 to 3 weeks throughout the summer. However, if you are in a hot climate, with a lot of sun light exposure, these plants may begin to bolt rapidly. Some modern hybrids have been developed to tolerate such climate conditions and are less apt to bolt. Unfortunately, my experience has been hit and miss with these newer plant materials, so I’m unable to make a recommendation for their use.

Obviously, there are several additional species which can be considered for SP, however, our objective is to get you excited about utilizing succession planting for some of your favorite veggies while determining what works best in your garden’s location. If you enjoyed this post, or not, please give us your feedback (see below).

Seed Primer

SEED QUALITY

Seed quality at planting time pertains to a seed’s ability to germinate, develop a normal root and shoot and emerge through the seed bed without deleterious effects to the developing seedling. Here’s the bottom line, planting high quality seed will typically result in good stand establishment in your garden plot.

While you are in the process of purchasing planting seed, make sure that seed was harvested and processed in the season immediately preceding the season you are planning for. Also, check the packet for the seed’s anticipated germination rate. The germination information allows for the gardener to estimate the seeding rate. However, when seed germination is reported as <75%, it’s an indication that overall quality and vigor of the seed has dropped. In other words, 75% of the seed may germinate (by definition) but will the seed have enough food reserves to permit the seedling to emerge through the seedbed? If you are saving your own seed from last season, be sure to perform a seed germination test before planting.

SEED GERMINATION and SEEDLING EMERGENCE

There are basically two sequential events that take place once seed are placed in a moist seedbed. The first event is seed hydration. When the exterior surface of the seed comes in contact with soil moisture, water is attracted to the seed surface as well as to other water molecules. In a sense, the seed becomes encapsulated in a water like shell. After being fully hydrated (approx. 1 – 3 days) the seed will begin to absorb soil moisture into the seed’s interior. The seed then begins to swell, food reserves found within the endosperm (food storage tissue) become available to the developing seedling and many physiological processes (metabolic activity) are activated. Shortly thereafter, rapid development and elongation of the seedling’s shoot and root occur. In the garden, we typically experience germination and emergence taking between 4 to 14 days depending on the type seed and plant species.

To clarify an important point, please allow me to elaborate. The seed’s endosperm and embryonic plant are formed within the ovary (female flower) following pollination and fertilization of the female flower. Pretty cool, huh?

MONOCOTS and DICOTS

In the plant kingdom, there are two basic plant types in regard to how seed food reserves are stored, the number of embryonic leaves present, seedling emergence and the eventual root system. Of course, this post will address each type in reference to typical garden vegetables. Just so you know, there an estimated 60,000 species of monocots!!

Examples of Monocots (monocotyledons) are rye, wheat and corn. The seed of these type plants store food reserves within the seed’s endosperm and cotyledon. During the emergence phase, the coleoptile (diagram) moves straight upward and penetrates the soil above. Soon afterward, the epicotyl (diagram) emerges from the coleoptile and gives rise to the plants first true leaves. Meanwhile, the root (radicle) begins to grow downward giving rise to a fibrous root system.

Examples of Dicots (dicotyledons) are bean, soybean and spinach. A dicot seed typically stores food reserves within the cotyledons. During the emergence phase, the stem (hypocotyl) is seen coming up through the seed bed in an arched position. It is preparing to lift the attached cotyledons and upper stem (diagram) through the seed bed. Although the cotyledons are short-lived, they will also produce photosynthate. The root grows downward giving rise to a branched and tap root system.

SEED STORAGE

Should you have the desire to save seed from one year to the next, know that it is easily accomplished. Most vegetable seed will retain good vitality when stored under dry (low humidity) and moderate temperature (60F – 70F) conditions. I store my seed at home in a kitchen cupboard. Since my home is kept between 65F to 73F, all year longw, seed saving is doable. Even so, I don’t attempt to save seed once it has reached two years past it harvest or purchase date.

One last point, seed are alive! Even in a seed’s so-called dry state, they continue to respire at very low rates. Poor storage conditions will hasten respiration leading to a decline in the seed’s overall quality.

Let us know what your comments or questions you may have for The Garden Dreamer…

Perennials are a Must

During my later years as a gardener, I’ve come to enjoy cultivating perennials. Perhaps my perennial list is not extensive, however, I believe you’ll enjoy adding one or two of these to your garden. Keep in mind, that your planting zone or hardiness zone may call for a somewhat different all-star lineup of select perennials based on the severity of your area’s winter temps. These days, my gardening activities take place in Central Missouri (Hardiness Zone 6) so what I can get away with as a perennial may not work for gardeners in Zones 2, 3, 4, or 5 (Zone 1 is near the Canadian border).

Please keep in mind that the following is general information on each perennial. For more detailed guidance on seed rates, fertility, etc., it will be necessary to consult with local publications and/or garden books. Our goal is simply to point you in the direction of what is possible.

Asparagus

One commonly grown perennial, which can tolerate most U.S. hardiness zones (Zones 2 – 8), is asparagus. This is an excellent veggie to grow as the benefits of cooking freshly harvested spears for dinner will amaze you. Establishing a bed of asparagus may seem daunting but well worth the effort. You can purchase seed or elect to plant rootstocks (aka, crowns). Your rate of success will likely be higher by establishing your bed with crowns.

One thing to consider is, Asparagus takes a couple of years to establish before it can be harvested. However, once it’s established, it remains productive for sime 15 – 20 years. With such a long commitment, make sure to do your homework and select the best variety for your location.

Chives

This is perhaps the easiest plant to grow in your garden or in pots. As well, and unless you have big plans for using this herb, a few bunches tucked away in your garden is all you need. From my experience, chives typically last for 8 to 10 years.

You can seed chives or divide an existing clump to get your own plants started without difficulty. If a neighbor has some chives, which you really like, then ask if you can divide a few clumps for your garden. This ensures that you’ll end up with what they have! I like to also start chives from seed if I’m interested in making sure of the purity of my new crop. For example, we grow both green chives and garlic chives in our garden. The green chives were started from seed and the garlic chives were dug from an existing bed. Both are doing well and provide us with an excellent garnish.

Rhubarb

Before I get started, I need to inform the reader that my only reason for growing rhubarb is because I love rhubarb and rhubarb/strawberry pie. As far as growing rhubarb, it is perhaps the easiest to propagate by using rootstalks from an existing plant. Every few years, during late winter, you can dig up plants and select the healthiest rootstalks for planting in a new location. You can certainly try to grow rhubarb from seed however not everyone is successful.

Rhubarb is super easy to cultivate so success is pretty certain. However, please keep in mind that the foliage of one plant may take up 4′ to 6′ across. Usually, a family of three will have 2 to 3 plants in their garden.

CAUTION: When you harvest rhubarb only use the stalks for cooking. The leaves are poisonous and should not be consumed.

Rhubarb

Jerusalem Artichoke

Here’s one I haven’t grown yet. Many say that this veggie can be cooked like a potato so I’m anxious to validate this. Because our community garden (St. Joseph Street Community Garden) has a mission to feed others, I’m always interested in producing a bountiful harvest from the majority of our veggies. It seems that the Jerusalem Artichoke (JA) may fit this bill. However, don’t get me wrong, there’s always room for early red potatoes. The JA is related to the sunflower however its bounty comes from underground tubers. The tubers can be eaten raw or cooked.

To secure tubers, check with friends to request that they save a few tubers from their next harvest. Of course, you can always search the internet for a reputable source. Once you’ve established JA in your garden you can select some choice tubers from your harvest to plant next spring. Of course, if you leave any tubers in the ground, they will likely grow (duh, JA is a perennial) and provide you with another great harvest in the following season.

Jerusalem Artichoke

Berries and Fruit

Fall is also an opportunity to establish a new bed of strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, etc. At St. Joseph Street Community Garden, we are establishing two separate beds of strawberries (summer and everbearing types). This past Fall, we planted a 15 ft. row of an erect-thornless-everbearing blackberry. They are doing fine and will be a great addition to our garden! On the fruit side of things, we planted two peach trees and plan to plant two apple and two pear trees in Spring 2022. All are dwarf varieties. However, and because our community garden is relatively small, the tress will be planted around the perimeter of our vegetable beds.

Although perennials will typically occupy the same spot in your garden for 3 to many years, it is always wise to rotate them when the time comes. With strawberries, we plan to maintain each bed in the same spot for 5 years. in year 4, we will plant a new bed of strawberries with purchased plants from a reputable nursery.

I hope this post was useful and has encouraged you to add a few perennials to your garden. Should you have any comments or questions, please contact me at:

thegardenalchemist@thegardendreamer.com