Helen Chesnut’s Garden Notes: Catalogue a great guide for beginners

Dear Helen: A friend who has been allocated a plot in a community garden wants to grow mainly food there, with some herbs and a few pollinator-friendly flowers. I’d like to present her with a simple, straightforward guide to help get her started. Does any such manual come to mind?


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In my opinion, the very best guide, for both beginner and veteran gardeners, is the catalogue from West Coast Seeds. It provides at-a-glance charts to vegetables, herbs and flowers with recommended times for indoor and outdoor seeding, and transplanting. For each vegetable and commonly grown flower there are detailed growing and harvesting instructions and suggested solutions for common problems.

West  Coast Seeds has one of the clearest catalogue layouts I’ve seen for ease of use. For each individual listing, the variety description with seed packet price is placed immediately beneath a colour photo.

The extensive selection includes many of my longtime favourite, ultra-reliable varieties: Caraflex and Kalibos cabbages, Napoli carrot, Kelsae onion, Gladiator parsnip, Zeolights calendula. Markant is a sturdy endive for withstanding the cool, dark conditions of late fall and winter.

This year I’ll be trying Picolino, a 13-cm crisp, sweet cucumber that produces several fruits at each node on vines that adapt well to a variety of growing conditions.

Four mixtures in the Wildflower section are blends of flowers that attract and feed pollinating and other beneficial insects. The catalogue’s many articles deliver concise information on such topics as container gardening, edible flowers, fertilizers, soil science, and storing seeds.

For an uncomplicated, clear guide to selecting and growing plants suited for our region, this catalogue has it all. It’s a convenient one-stop source for seeds, information and gardening aids. This is where I buy my lightweight floating row cover material for placing over plants that need protection from insect pests.

You can order a catalogue from the website: westcoastseeds.com, or use the Store Locator on the site to find a store near you that carries the seeds. In most of those local outlets you will find free catalogues.

Dear Helen: In a recent column you wrote about a delicious “pumpkin” pie you tasted at a friend’s tea party. Your were told that the secret to its great flavour was a Kabocha squash called Black Forest, used instead of pumpkin. The person who made the pie gave you the recipe. Would you share it with your readers?


I ordinarily would have included the recipe in that column, but I felt it would be preferable to wait until I’d grown the squash and used it in the recipe.

The recipe is very similar to the one I’d used for years, except for the addition of freshly grated ginger root, lemon zest, and brandy. The sugar in the recipe is unprocessed, dehydrated can sugar juice, called “Rapadura..” Some health food stores have it, though ordinary or dark brown sugar could be substituted.

I expect to be experimenting with the recipe next winter. Meanwhile, here it is, as a “working project.”

Sandy’s “Pumpkin” Pie

2 cups Black Forest squash purée

3 eggs

3/4 cup Rapadura (I’d use less ordinary sugar)

1 Tbsp grated ginger root

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp cloves

• Grated rind of one lemon

1 cup cream or crème fraîche

2 Tbsp brandy.

Combine all ingredients and process in a blender. Pour the mixture into pie shell. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes at 350 F.


Floral art. The Mid Island Floral Art Club meets Thursday, 2 p.m. in St. Stephen’s Church Hall, 150 Village Way in Qualicum Beach. Focus for the afternoon will be on Midolino Magic. Midolino is a floral art method using natural materials to support flowers in an arrangement.

Seedy in Victoria. The James Bay Market Society presents Victoria’s Seedy Saturday on Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Victoria Conference Centre, 720 Douglas St. There will be more than 70 vendors and exhibitors, a Seedy Cafe and children’s activities. Bring home-grown seeds and gardening books to exchange. Admission is $8 (under 16 free), including presentations and workshops throughout the day. Details at jamesbaymarket.com/SeedySaturday.

Mayne Island Seedy Saturday. The Mayne Island Conservancy and Agricultural Society hosts a Seedy Saturday event on Saturday, 12 to 3 p.m., in the Agricultural Hall and Museum. There will be an exchange of saved seeds, children’s activities, speakers, and an introduction to a community Seed Library program. The day will conclude with the film: Symphony of the Soil at 7:30 p.m. Details at mayneagriculturalsociety.com.

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