Letters to Gardening Friends, May 10, 2009

Dear Dee and Mary Ann,

Greetings from my garden! I can hardly believe this is the tenth letter we’ve posted to one another to share about our vegetable gardens, thousands of miles apart and in different hardiness zones. So far the only vegetables I’ve had much to write about here in my zone 5b garden are the early spring vegetables… lettuce, radishes, onions, spinach, peas, etc.

But that’s about to change, now that it is May and now that it is probable, based on the long-term forecast, that we’ve seen our last frost! The lowest temperature in the forecast is 45 F for early Monday morning and then the lows are forecasted to be in the 50’s for the next ten days which means…

It’s time to plant the rest of the vegetable garden!

In past years, I’ve waited until closer to Memorial Day to plant because in 2002 I got frosted out on May 19th after planting everything, but I won’t let that stop me this year. I’m going for it. In fact, I might even be out planting in my garden this evening as you read this letter.

Dee, you mentioned you bought a few tomato plants because the ones in the garden centers look better than those you started from seed. I know how you feel now having visited a few garden centers on Friday where they were selling beautiful tomato seedlings that looked so much better than mine. My tomato seedlings are rather sad and pathetic this year, but I’ve been hardening them off in the shade outside, weather permitting, anyway, and plan to plant them and see what happens

My back up plan is if the tomatoes don’t seem to be taking off by Memorial Day, I’ll get some “store bought” plants to replace them.

Mary Ann, thank you for agreeing to “take me on” in a tomato growing contest. Dee, I hope you’ll join in the fun, too. In fact, everyone is welcome and encouraged to join in.

As you know, in the past I’ve set the rules and been the judge, and generally come up with a contest once I see what I’ve got in my garden that could win that contest. I see no reason to change that this year so there won’t be an announcement about the contest until I see what my tomatoes are like. Just grow tomatoes as best you can until then.

Remember last year’s world’s ugliest tomato contest and the WUT? Well, don’t try to grow an ugly tomato this year because that won’t be the contest. I also don’t like to repeat the same tomato growing contests from year to year for obvious reasons. It will be something totally different, like maybe WUHW. (I’ll let you and other readers just imagine what that means).

How do you all plant your tomatoes? I stake my tomatoes, of course, though I am trying one determinate, bush type tomato this year. I’m going to let it sprawl as I don’t have any tomato cages and having previously stated my disdain for those cages, I don’t want to get caught with one in my garden.

I used to try to drive those six foot tomato stakes into the ground standing on my tippy toes and could never get them in very deep. Now to make it easy to set my tomato stakes deep enough into the ground so that the tomato plants don’t pull them over, I cut pieces of PVC pipe into two foot lengths, and I pound those about a foot into the ground and drop the stake into the pipe.

Then when I plant the tomato plants, I plant them nice and deep because roots will form along the stem underground, further strengthening the plant.

This year, I’m growing fifteen varieties of tomatoes, as long as my pathetic seedlings snap out of their funk and make a “grow of it”.

In alphabetical order, here’s the 2009 Tomato Line Up at May Dreams Gardens

Aunt Anna
Black Cherry
Cherokee Purple
German John
Gold Nugget
Illini Star
Kentucky Beefsteak
Pink Oxheart
Red Currant
San Marzano
Super Beefsteak

I already wrote a lot about the tomato varieties I chose for this year, earlier this winter when they were just pictures in a catalog, so I won’t go into the details here.

In fact, I could go on and on about tomatoes in this letter, but it really is time to close it up and head out to the garden for the last daylight hours on a beautiful day here at May Dreams Gardens.

Flowers and veggies to all,



We had a wonderful Mother’s Day get together at my sister’s earlier today. I gave my mom two books signed by Susan Wittig Albert because she’s read and enjoyed all the China Bayles mysteries. The books were An Unthymely Death and Other Garden Mysteries: A Treasury of Stories, Herbal Lore, Recipes and Crafts and China Bayles’ Book of Days. Susan signed both of them when I went to hear her speak a few weeks ago at The Mystery Company in Carmel, Indiana.

I also took my mom a copy of the June/July issue of Horticulture magazine so she could read the piece I wrote on ‘Cue Ball’ squash, my favorite squash to grow in the garden. She was happy to see my name in print, as was I.


The picture above is the first Clematis bloom in the garden, ‘Pink Fantasy’, which I planted on a whim last fall. It’s not quite open, but I’m sure it will be fully open, along with many other blooms, in time for Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day coming up this Friday the 15th.

But I don’t want to think about the end of the week just yet, as I am on vacation all week, to spend every day in the garden. I hope the days are long with plenty of sunshine throughout the week, so that I can get everything done that I want to get done in my garden. And now, no more postscripts, I’m heading out to the garden!


  1. WHATTTTTTT? You are going to make up the rules as we go along? For the tomato contest? Huh? How'd that happen? sheeeeeesh.

    Meanwhile, that's a pretty good idea about the pvc pipe/then the stake. But I can't stand the idea of a white pvc pipe in my garden.

    Glad you id'd the clematis.OH MY, that's beautiful. I hope I can find one here in Boise.

    And finally, congrats on being a published author, and Horticulture Magazine to boot! Way to go, Hoe!


  2. I'm so tickled for you about the article in HORTICULTURE. I need to find someone I can show it to so I can brag that you're my friend!

  3. I'm so glad to read that someone else's little seedlings are... ahem... not thriving as well as the "store bought varities." I have been concerned about mine, but intend to keep going forward with them.

    We have a potential frost warning in our area though... no major planting by me until after May 15th. grrrr... I just went out an covered things actually because my corn has taken a jump start and alreadt came up. Plus my strawberries are BLOOMING. Crazy plants.

    Happy Tomatoes!!

  4. Carol, your tomato contests remind me of playing Monopoly with my brother - as the one who made the rules he usually won!

    The two varieties growing in my garden that appear on your list, 'San Marzano' and 'Persimmon', are still sitting there doing nothing. Hope you have better luck - they're both supposed to be great-tasting.

    Your day with family and lovely gifts for your mom sound perfect.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  5. Well, Carol, I knew you'd try to make the tomato growing contest in your favor, but making up the rules as we do it, that's b-a-a-a-d. LOL. I don't have my letter finished. It was Mother's Day, and I had a lot of mothers to visit.

    Love your Clematis. I wrote about them for Examiner last week. I'm so excited about your article in Horticulture. Congrats, my friend. I'll try to finish 'er start, my letter today. I have an article due this week, so we'll see what I come up with.~~Dee

  6. The tomato contest sounds fun, whatever the rules are at least we get to eat them. I thought I could get mine planted but we also are expecting a frost. I went to a "big box" store w/ a friend this weekend and couldn't resist a tomato called Mr. Stripey. I'm a sucker for colorful and bizarre looking tomatoes. I love your clematis!

  7. You're so modest to save your mention of your article in Horticulture for your postscript. A big congrats on that, Carol! I just read it over the weekend, and when I saw your name I turned excitedly to my kids, who were handy, to say, "I know her!"

  8. The best way to support your tomato plants is with The Tomato Stake.

    Easier to use than metal cages or upside down planters, stronger than bamboo and won't rot like wood stakes. The built-in twist-tie supports make tying your tomato plants easy!


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