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.

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.

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.


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

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.

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?


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).

Grow Lights

Hi! Johnny L. Dose here with another contribution to The Garden Dreamer.
Just a few words on artificial lighting. We all have plants that we would like to keep over the
winter. You may have some investment in perennials. On the other hand, you might like to get a jump on seedlings and transplants to have ready for the spring, instead of buying them from the garden center. For this goal, you will need artificial lighting (fuh-duh). There are a lot of options out there, and LED is a term to become familiar with [LED = Light Emitting Diode = energy efficient].
So, I’m going to advance the ball on two products this winter that I think will do the job.
Btw: I’m not paid to plug any particular brand. These two units are just where I have come to on this topic. You don’t have to adopt my choices to have success.

1: Bloomspect 2000W LED Glow Light, Full Spectrum LED plant growing lamps for indoor plants Veg and Flower Hydroponics. This unit has two independent on/off switches that allow you to choose between blue light (short waves) and red light (long waves). Short waves (blue light) are good for vegetative growth. Long waves (red light) are good for inducing flowering.

This unit, I think, gives you some range on what you can grow. 2000W for an hour is 2 KWH. At $0.16/ KWH, that’s 26 cents an hour to grow something. Sixteen (16) hours per day is $4.16/day and for 45 days is $187.20 in lighting cost alone. The cost could be less than that, if only using one spectrum at a time, or if you go with the 1000W model. The cost could be more than that depending on the cost of electricity in your area. Or free, if you install solar panels. I digress.

2: Craftersmark LED full spectrum grow light with tripod stand, timer, auto on/off and 9 dimmable levels. This unit has four lamps on a stand, which I think will be good for the
garage or spare room where you can group all your potted plants together around the tripod. The box says 40W, which I assume to mean 10W per head. It’s not a lot of power. Heads can be used individually. The light puts a pink glow everywhere, which might be annoying to some. I did go to Amazon to get these units, where you will find more detail.

There are many more products out there to try depending on your goals and space. You certainly can get smaller, simpler, tabletop units to start seeds. You can also integrate some lighting in your cold frame or greenhouse. In the 70’s and 80’s, my dad would just use florescent glow bulbs in his shop lights. He was a big fan of geraniums. I don’t know the power requirements off-hand of these lamps. I also don’t know if the special grow bulbs are easy to find. I will investigate this option and report back.

I will also be starting some basil and spinach seeds this weekend. I think these plants will grow well now. They’re easy to start. Well, the basil is. They should pay for themselves with satisfaction and bragging rights with your in-laws/ friends/ neighbors, but not the cat. He’s seen it all before.

Anyway, feel free to ask me any questions about my experiences with grow lights. I’ll stop now and save some material for my next post as well as gather some data to report back.

All the Best,
Johnny L. Dose

Getting Carried Away…..

Getting carried away at planting time may result in disaster. Plant only what you believe is manageable and enjoy your time in the garden.

Each season is an opportunity to learn how to best manage your garden while expanding your garden’s footprint at a comfortable pace.

The Garden Dreamer

Flowers are Always a Good Idea

Although our main objective is to grow and harvest a bounty of quality produce, we always take time to plant annual and perennial flowers. I believe that a splash of color serves as an excellent complement to the rest of the garden. Other benefits include providing a source of nectar and pollen for bees, companion planting, insect deterrent and bringing a freshly cut bouquet to a loved one.

A Splash of Garden Color

A brilliant display of color is always a welcome addition to any garden plot. I recently noticed that a neighbor would spend a few minutes observing the flower bed located at the front of our community garden. Of course, I walked over to introduce myself and to gauge his interest in becoming a Garden Member. Simply put, he told me that he stops by frequently to admire the garden and especially the flowers. Before he left, he expressed interest in becoming a fellow garden member.

I think that some gardeners, although they like flowers, they don’t want to give up garden space to non-edibles. This obviously makes sense, but I would add that there is always space for a few marigolds. Also, a nice splash of color can be introduced as a rotational crop.

As for attracting beneficial insects, which prey on several type of aphid species, it is a good choice to introduce the likes of alyssum, zinnia and calendula. These are annual flowers which can be sown by seed or plant starts. To prolong the productivity of zinnia and calendula, practice dead heading. Once flowering commences, remain vigilant about removing spent (dead) flowers. As for alyssum, they don’t require dead heading. As well, this annual will reseed itself in most growing areas in the U.S.

Plant Crowding

There are hundreds of scientific articles on the effects of plant population on yield for every crop plant you can imagine. The investigator is interested to learn where maximum yield is obtained at a specific number of equally spaced plants per acre. Keep in mind, however, that the ideal plant population for corn will be different than for soybean.

For the gardener, we are also concerned with maximizing yield and strive to give each plant an opportunity to produce a bountiful crop of high-quality fruit. Unfortunately, and especially for the novice gardener, there is a tendency to over-seed which inadvertently allows young seedlings to crowd one another.

Seedlings that are crowded by neighboring plants have to compete for sunlight, soil nutrients and soil moisture. As well, their roots become entangled thus complicating the task of thinning. If the thinning process doesn’t take place promptly, you run the risk of damaging young roots while pulling plants from the ground. The early stages of plant development are critical to future plant development and fruit production, hence, giving each plant an opportunity to thrive, soon after emerging from the soil, is important.

My approach to seeding most vegetables is to plant a number of seed equal to the final number of plants desired in the garden. To be clear, if the final recommended number of bush bean plants is 4 plant per foot of row, I’ll plant 8 – 10 seed per foot of row. Of course, this assumes good quality seed with a germination rate of at least 80%. This approach requires minimal thinning without disturbing the roots of neighboring plants. Remember, the objective is to establish an optimum and vigorous plant stand which is typically a precursor to good yield results.

There is a lot more which can be said about this topic however I feel that this can wait for another day.


One of the greatest soil amendments is homemade compost. The benefits of adding recently decomposed organic matter to garden soil are improved soil tilth (structure), water holding capacity, microbial activity and it supplies macro and micronutrients to your garden plants.  My home compost pile began with primarily 60% carbon (straw, stalks and dry leaves) mixed in with 40% nitrogen (grass clippings, food scraps and fresh plant material from the garden).  I selected this system since a temperature of 140 F is quickly attained.  During the season, I attempt to maintain the aforementioned ratio of plant materials while also adding food scraps to the mix.  The food scraps decompose promptly and are consumed by earthworms in a matter of 1 to 2 weeks.  I will occasionally add a small amount of nitrogen fertilizer to stimulate microbial activity.  Last, I monitor the moisture of the compost pile to ensure that microbes remain healthy and active.

Now that I am a Garden Leader at St. Joseph Street Community Garden (Columbia, MO) my vegetable gardening and composting efforts are done there.  Due to the size of the garden and number of gardeners involved, we’ve established a 4-bin compost system to allow for a higher volume of material to go through the decomposition process.  The size of each compost bin is 3.0 ft tall and 4 ft. long and wide.  I no longer have access to fresh cut grass, so I use fresh plant material from the garden and surrounding area.  I continue to use dry leaves and straw for a carbon source.  The sides of the bins are welded wire to ensure that the piles have sufficient aeration, and we typically turn the piles 2 to 3 times per season.

4-Bin Compost System

Manure in the Mix

We are presently looking into securing animal waste to add into our compost system. In our area it is possible to secure horse manure, for free, if one is fortunate enough to have a truck. The cause for such high interest in utilizing farm animal* waste is due to the high content of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium (N, P and K) in their excrement. Data from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Extension, indicates that animals excrete approximately 70 – 80% of the N, 60 – 85% of the P and 80 – 90% of the K found in their feed. Of course, the type feed and animal will have a bearing on the levels just mentioned.

Bin#4 – Ready to Use Compost

At our community garden, we plan to stockpile a small quantity of horse manure near to our 4-bin system. This will allow us to add a few shovelfuls of manure to complement our original mix of materials, as needed. The addition of composted manure to the garden plot contributes to the soil’s nutrient supply and will improve soil structure. However, I don’t rely on the manure’s content of N, P and K to satisfy the total nutrient demand by my crops. This is especially true for eggplant, sweet corn, beans and tomatoes.

*Caution there is a claim that warns against using pig manure. Apparently, certain pathogens and parasites are not destroyed during the composting process.

Weed Control

Weeds are a menace but they don’t need to be a deal breaker.

Perhaps one of the biggest reasons why novice gardeners abandon their fledgling garden plot is attributed to a lack of weed control. Sure, I get it, pulling and chopping weeds isn’t the glamorous part of growing any crop. However, there are cultural practices that one can implement to eliminate a large portion of your weed population. Keep in mind however, and all gardeners will tell you the same, that weeds are here to stay (just ask Monsanto).

One of my simplest solutions to get weeds under control is to cover them with 4 mil thick black plastic. This process basically cooks the top layer of soil, during the warmer months, and kills not only growing weeds but can also kill weed seed and soil pathogens. No, you won’t kill earth worms as they will go deeper into the soil profile to escape the heat. The above photo is an example of what my garden area looked like after having covered an 8′ x 15′ area for some 6 weeks in July. We added some compost and planted immediately with good success.

This procedure is especially handy when you’ve perhaps taken on too much garden area to manage efficiently. While you are working in other areas of the garden you can place a tarp or sheet of plastic in the area designated for latter planting. When the time comes, it’ll be free of weeds and ready for your handiwork. By the way, I don’t cover my garden soil during the winter months as we use a cover crop system or cover an area in straw.

The other tip to controlling weeds is to make it a frequent activity. It’s good exercise and it definitely makes your garden plot shine when your neighbor comes by to check it out. The more weed pulling and chopping you do, the easier it becomes. Especially important is to not let the weeds set and drop seed as this just perpetuates the problem.

Another strategy is to ensure that your vegetable plants are growing in fertile soil. This encourages good growth allowing the crop to better compete for available nutrients, water and sunlight. This doesn’t imply that this method eradicates weeds, but it will certainly suppress them.

There’s a lot more which can be said on weed control, but for now, this will do! On second thought, to have good control of your garden’s weeds, it isn’t necessary to employ synthetic herbicides. Let cold steel be your friend.