Letters to Gardening Friends, May 17, 2009

Dear Dee and Mary Ann, and gardening friends everywhere,

As you read this letter, I’ll be enjoying the last few hours of my gardening vacation week, most likely frantically trying to return the house to order after spending most of the week outside.

It’s a good sign of progress that most of the plants sitting on my patio not yet planted are for my sister’s container garden. I managed to somehow plant everything I bought for my own garden, for the most part.

But vacations are never long enough for us to do all that we want to do, are they?

I still have a long list of things I want to do, including re-mulching the paths in the raised bed vegetable garden. I buy a mulch called “PlaySoft” which is easy to walk on and is often used for playgrounds. I can go buy a cubic yard of it, unload it a wheelbarrow full at a time, and then spread it around the garden paths in about 90 minutes or so, if I just get to it. It is the “just getting to it” part that is proving to be more difficult than you would imagine, or maybe you can imagine. I hope the mulch store has some extended spring hours so I can pick up a load after work one day this week. Then if I get another load or two on Saturday, it should be all done. It’s just a matter of doing it.

One big thing checked off my “to do” list was planting up the vegetable garden with the warm season crops. I got that done on Friday, even after we had two inches of rain on Wednesday. That's one of the advantages of raised bed gardens; they have good drainage so you can often plant the day after a rain.

When I gathered up all my seed packets and seedlings to take them out to the garden, I was a little concerned that I would not find room for everything. Mary Ann, I could just imagine you chortling at me for all the seeds I bought this spring if I told you I didn’t have room for everything!

But somehow I made it all fit into the 492 square feet of planting area I have, though it was “iffy” for the sweet corn for awhile. You need a nice “block” of sweet corn to get good pollination and ear formation and I’m planting the minimum amount to do that, one 4’ x 8’ block of it. But I’ve done that for several years, following many of the recommendations in an article in the April/May 1999 issue of the no-longer-published Kitchen Gardener (Taunton Press) magazine. (I loved that magazine, and still have all my back issues.) I don’t get bushel baskets full of sweet corn out of my little plot, but I get a few good ears and they are oh-so-sweet when you pick them out of your own garden and immediately cook them.

I do have to confess that as I looked at my pathetic little runt tomato, eggplant and pepper seedlings, I almost decided they were too small to mess with, and considered throwing them into the compost bin and buying some bigger plants at the garden center. Dee, I know you can sympathize with me. I’m not sure why they all ended up so small. I started the seeds at the same time as I always do, same lightening, same everything…

Anyway, I did throw out the eggplant seedlings and replaced those with some nice big seedlings from my local favorite place to buy plants. The little flea beetles would have found mine in about two seconds and devoured them.

I went ahead and planted the tomato and pepper seedlings. I planted the tomato plants nice and deep because roots will form along the stem underground, further strengthening the plants. They’ll grow on just fine, though I may have a later tomato harvest than I’d like. But I’m still not too happy with the pepper seedlings, so I bought a few more pepper plants yesterday, “just in case” my seedlings don’t make it. I’m giving them a week and then I’ll decide if I will keep them. In either case, I now have to find room for my new pepper plants, don’t I?! It’s all kind of crazy, because I’ll also confess that I’m not a big fan of peppers anyway. I mostly grow them to give them away to others.

Since I seem to be confessing everything today, let me also confess that I did buy one ‘Early Girl’ tomato plant which is about two feet tall and has blossoms on it already. Surely there is a spot for it out in the garden?

Elsewhere in the garden, the early spring crops are all doing very well. The ‘Snowbird’ peas are blooming like crazy and the ‘Green Arrow’ peas should start blooming any time. My lettuce is also looking and tasting wonderful. I’ll be harvesting lettuce all week long and packing big salads of it to take to work for lunch.

Speaking of work, I need to close this letter and see what I can frantically get done today before going back to work tomorrow. I’ll try to stop occasionally to enjoy the garden, which includes that little iris pictured above. It’s got variegated leaves and yes, it does smell just like grape Kool-aid®.

Flowers and veggies for all,


P.S. Here’s a picture of the vegetable garden that I took earlier this morning.
I’ll try to include a picture each week so you can see how it grows.

P.S.S. I still haven’t seen any rabbits this year, and there is no sign of them eating in my garden. It’s very odd, and a bit scary. I did, however, see a chipmunk dart across the patio yesterday and noticed that someone, probably the chipmunk, has been digging in a newly planted container. Time to get out my trap.


  1. Oh be very careful of those chipmunks. They were the bane of my existence last year. A rabbit has nothing on them.

  2. I love those words: pathetic little runt ...seedlings. Damn skippy. Now you know my pain. But wait, you bought a tomato plant with BLOSSOMS???whoa boy. I think that is overdoing it. Yes I do.

    That's the groovy little iris I finally broke down and bought..great minds...

    keep planting.

  3. I also am mystified by the responses to my seeds. Two of my pepper varieties came up well but the third, planted between the others in my starter tray lagged badly. I have them outside under milk carton hot caps but the slow ones still haven't come up. My lavender has been very slow also and I don't know why. Same position, same light, same temperature, same watering, and same kind of tray.

  4. I loved that magazine as well and refer to it often. wish I was as much of wiz at kitchen gardening at the information tries to make me be! it needs to warm up here in IA to get my little plants out!


  5. How did your tomatoes and peppers survive your unexpected frost?

  6. Lovely layout for a veggie garden! May your not rabbits stay that way! I have posted a rather big size guy on an earlier post and I saw a baby hopping around the other evening! Darn those critters... I do not have a fence ... hard to put in my garden and so costly too. May you have a bountiful crop of veggies this year!

  7. All, thanks for the very nice comments. I will be wary of those chipmunks, even while I wonder where the rabbits went. My neighbors haven't seen any either.

    We did have a light frost Monday morning, but as far as I can tell, there was just a little damage to a few peppers and some basil. I'll know for sure in a few more days, but I think the tomatoes are okay!


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