Letters to Gardening Friends, March 8, 2009

I’ve always loved books with exchanges of letters, like Two Gardeners: Katharine S. White and Elizabeth Lawrence--A Friendship in Letters and 84, Charing Cross Road, an exchange of letters between the writer Helene Hanff and a British bookseller, Frank Doel. When I found out that Dee from Red Dirt Ramblings and Mary Ann from Idaho Gardener shared a similar interest, we decided to exchange letters about our different vegetable gardens, 1,000’s of miles apart, across three different hardiness zones. We hope you enjoy these letters as we occasionally post them on our blogs, starting today.

Dear Dee and Mary Ann,

Greetings from my garden. Today is a bit overcast and we might get some rain. But yesterday we had the most delightful day in central Indiana. It was overcast, sometimes sunny, slightly breezy, with a high temperature of 76 F. It was as if Someone decided that we were due a beautiful spring day on a Saturday for all the hardship of winter we've just endured, and then flipped a switch to make it so.

I spent most of the afternoon pruning the grapevine back and cutting down all that “winter interest”. Did I tell you I got a new chipper to review? I had a chance to put it through its paces with all those trimmings… more on that later.

Here in my Zone 5 garden, now that the Spring switch has been flipped, there’s a lot to do. I need to inventory all my seed starting supplies later today and then go get what I need to start the tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and all that inside. I try to do that by the 15th of March each year, give or take a few days depending on when the weekends are. Mostly I need Jiffy pots and seed starting mix. I'll reuse the trays I’ve been using for as long as they last.

I’m also on the watch for pansies and violas to show up for sale. There’s a place not too far from me where a young gardener has her own nursery and greenhouse and I like to buy from her as often as I can. She won’t be the cheapest place, but she grows everything with love and care, or buys from other independent growers like her, so they’ll be some of the best. I think I’ll call her later this week and see if she has some ready and then have her hold back a few mixed color flats for me. I might be planting them by next weekend!

I love pansies and violas and had a weak moment while putting in my “oops I forgot to order these” vegetable seed order last week and bought some seeds for some heirloom pansies. It’s far too late to start these here for spring. I knew that when I ordered the seeds, but I could not be stopped. I think I’ll hold them back and try to grow them for fall.

Fall? Let’s not talk about that while it is still very early spring!

There is a billboard near my route home telling people to make sure to have a designated driver for St. Patrick’s Day. Whenever I see it I think, “What? St. Patrick’s Day is a drinking holiday? I thought it was a pea planting holiday?” Well, at least for me it will be a pea planting holiday along with a lettuce, spinach, and onion planting holiday, as long as the soil temperature is above 45 F. If we have more days like yesterday, I'm sure it will be.

Which reminds me, I also need to get some onion sets this week. So much to do now with Spring’s arrival! I can hardly see or think straight when I think about all I need to do, all I want to do, in my garden this year. I have to remind myself to slow down and admire the Crocuses and Irises now blooming.

I hope you all are enjoying the weather in your Zone 7a (Dee) and Zone 6 (Mary Ann) gardens. I’m sure you are further along with your Spring flowers and have your peas already planted, or maybe not? I hope to hear soon, it gives me an idea of what I have to look forward to.

Flowers to all,
Carol, May Dreams Gardens

P.S. I’ve enclosed a picture of Iris danfordiae which started blooming in my garden on the 6th. It’s hardy from Zone 5 – 9, are either of you growing it?


  1. What a lovely idea, both to correspond with each other and to share your thoughts with the rest of us. I am very jealous of your weekend weather as I listen the snow plow go by! Rain all weekend suddenly started freezing about 3 p.m. today and then turned to snow. It was rather amazing to watch the big evergreens start to ice up when it was still raining on the driveway. Must have been the difference in the air temps at that higher elevation! (Oh, my word verification is "chive": such a lovely early treat from the garden!)

  2. Our Zone (7 I think? lol) is screaming spring. 80 today, Carol...

    I'm itchin' to get diggin. Still too early, though.

  3. Charming letter, Carol. No, I haven't started my peas yet. I am a week late, and if it gets too hot, too fast, I'm in trouble. I don't grow Iris danfordiae either. Perhaps you can bring me a start of it to Spring Fling? I'm looking forward to our weekly letters.~~Dee

  4. Yes, your letters are very different! I hope spring really has arrived for you Carol. Seems a bit early ...

    I might put in some pansies around the tulips in pots but they are so fussy and short-lived here.

  5. Oh, I have garden envy, as you know, with all of you having springlike conditions. I love peeking in on your letter to gardening friends; one day you'll have a 'Dear Friend And Gardener' book of your own, no doubt!

  6. I just love this exchanging letters idea. Thanks for sharing with all of us. Thanks also for reminding me I need to get some kind of pots to start seeds in.

  7. Hi Carol, I love this idea! I will read the letters of the others too, and be all caught up on your happenings. The young nursery owner is lucky to have you as a customer, hope she has many more, for that is exactly what is needed everywhere to keep gardening local.

  8. Carol, This is a terrific idea and I love eaves dropping on the three of you! I shall forever think of St Pat's day as a Pea Planting holiday! gail

  9. Dear Carol,
    We got in a bit of gardening this weekend too. Planted two kinds of lettuce and two kinds of spinach. One garden spot worked perfectly for these. The rest is still wet. Also we planted two Abraham Lincoln lilacs and a red oak. Saw a few crocus---so glad spring is in the air.

  10. Love your letter, Carol! Here in Z-7, we are having lovely weather and I am planning on pea planting on March 17, which is usually when I do it.

    I correspond with my cousin in southern Australia, and we write about our gardens a lot --a little strange sometimes, when she is tucking her garden in for the (very mild) winter just as I am exulting in springtime.

  11. What a great idea--especially as you live in slightly different zones, so things will be proceeding differently in your three gardens.

  12. All, thanks for the very sweet and supportive comments. I encourage all to find a blogger or two that you might like to try this with, and give it a try. It's a fun way to post an update on your garden and more.

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  13. Great way to connect! I must admit I partly started my blog with Country Mouse because I never knew what went on up in her garden (we are 40 miles apart). We've both really enjoyed the exchange -- as will you (and all of us through you).

  14. Yes, I'm gonna enjoy all this letter writing.

  15. Epistolary, that's the word you want. Impresses people at dinner parties.

  16. i just cracked up reading this. SO MUCH TO DO, don't know where to start!

    it was a year ago when i started my garden blog, and my garden, for that matter, and also, a year ago that i found your blog. last year i was just itchin' to get into the garden, and it seemed to take forever for that last frost date to pass. this year i thought, "i'm not in such a big hurry." i honestly thought that it was much later this year, that i got the gardening bug. then i looked back, and saw that i started seeds one year ago, to the day! and, i am much bolder this year! 3 warm days in a row, and i'm out there sowing seeds, knowing that a freeze is on it's way! but, it is a bit warmer down here in bloomington, so i won't worry too much that i put my peas in before you did!

  17. Hi Carol,

    Thanks for sharing your letter with us.

    I am in zone 5b, but it sounds like you are ahead of me in getting your beds ready for spring. We are finally getting some warmer weather, and I am planning on working on my flower beds and plant more lettuce and such today. My husband will be cooking on the grill, so I won't be in the kitchen much. I hope my peas will forgive me for planting them today instead of waiting for St. Patrick's Day.

    I am so excited!

  18. I love the letter idea and thoroughly enjoyed "Two Gardeners". It was fun reading about your 'doings' and garden thoughts. Perhaps we should drink green lemonade for St. Patty's Day. I'm not at all partial to green beer. I think pea planting is a much more fun activity :) I hope your soil is the right temperature for the activity! Ours is still frozen an inch down.


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