5 Gardening Tips and a Tour of My Dad’s Garden


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5 Gardening Tips

I’ve been in Missouri since last Thursday so I don’t have a garden update from my garden, but I thought I’d share pictures from my dad’s gorgeous garden! He grew up on a farm in Southeastern Missouri and has been gardening forever. His garden is always gorgeous until the dry, dusty Missouri days get it – and sadly that seems to be happening to him a lot as it seems to rain everywhere but over his garden.

I’m always amazed at my dad’s garden. It’s huge. I thought my garden was big until I started walking around my dad’s garden. His is really, really big. When my dad’s garden gets the proper rain, it’s a fun space to tour. It’s weed free. The plants are healthy and pretty. My dad knows how to garden and he has produced a ton of fun over the years. ! I asked him to share his top 5 gardening tips, and here they are!

Top 5 Gardening Tips from a longtime Missouri Gardener

1. Have your soil tested and follow the recommendations from that test. This is actually something that I need to do as I have never had my soil tested. County extension agencies will test soil for a minimal fee. In Iowa, samples can be submitted to Iowa State University for an $8 fee.

2. Follow the planting directions located on the seed packet. Timing and depth are important and they are generally noted on the back of the seed packet. Following the seed guidelines will insure that your plants have the best chance of sprouting and survival.

3. Keep the weeds out. It’s not enough to rototill between the rows… it’s most important to keep the weeds out from around the plants. And that involves hand weeding. See my tips for weeding for more hints on this fun garden task.

4. Watch for insects. Bugs can be both good and bad and so it’s important to be vigilant to find them. Getting rid of the bad bugs with the least invasive method possible helps the good bugs stay alive. Good bugs, like lady bugs, bumble bees, and daddy long-legs, help keep the bad bugs at bay. Bugs {and birds, too} can be really helpful so learn the difference and encourage good bugs in your garden and watch often for bad bugs.

5. The best fertilizer is a gardener’s shadow. Every time you go to the garden, you see stuff that needs to be done – weeds that need to be pulled or bugs that need to be squashed. The more often you make it out to your garden, the better your garden will do!

And now, come along with me on a tour of my dad’s garden!

missouri vegetable garden

This is my dad’s garden. It’s about 70 feet wide by 100 feet long – which means it’s about 7000 square feet of garden space!! For many years, it was not fenced. But last year, my dad had enough. He had been losing his corn to raccoons, his beans to deer, and then the squirrels moved in and started eating everything too. He finally decided enough was enough and build, and electrified a tall fence around the perimeter of his main garden area. The fence is 5 feet tall with another foot of barbless barbed wire on top of the woven wire. He hung strips of cloth on the barbless wire to keep the deer from trying to jump over it. It’s doing the trick. The critters are staying out.

overflow garden

He also has an overflow garden space outside the fence for crops like broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, and onions – crops the critters usually leave alone. There’s roughly another 500 square feet of garden space here.

summer squash

He grows summer squash – zucchini and yellow squash…


Zucchini… isn’t that pretty! I love zucchini.

green beans & purple hull peas

Green beans and purple hull peas…



sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes…



sweet corn

Sweet Corn…


Potatoes…his potatoes really need water.


And okra!

Missouri garden

He grows a lot more than this, but this gives you some idea of what goes on in my dad’s garden. Not only is his garden gorgeous, but he’s the first person I call when I’m having trouble in my own garden. Being able to bounce ideas off someone and get good tips and advice is invaluable. I hope you have a gardening mentor you can turn to when you need help!

And that’s what’s growing in my dad’s garden. How’s your garden growing?

About Michelle Marine

Michelle Marine is the author of How to Raise Chickens for Meat, a long-time green-living enthusiast, and rural Iowa mom of four. She empowers families to grow and eat seasonal, local foods; to reduce their ecological footprint; and to come together through impactful travel.

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  1. I wonder if you could help me with a couple garden problems I’m having. My tomato plants have some kind of critter (I assume) making tiny little holes in all the leaves. About the size of the tip of a pencil. And the “branches” are slowly dying from the bottom up.
    And I’ve also had a weird yellowish mold looking stuff growing on my yellow squash plants, and some of their leaves are dying.:/

  2. I need to do a tour of my garden! It’s not as big and beautiful as this but it’s our pride and joy. Next to our kids of course!

  3. I think having your soil tested is very good advice. This is the first year we have done it. It really helps to know how and what you need to do to the soil to give your vegetables what they need. Hopefully that translates to more vegetables for the table! Thanks for the tips.