Helen Chesnut’s Garden Notes: Fall, winter veggie plot worth the effort

In the middle of a busy summer gardening season, I don’t always find the time to plant every vegetable I’d like to enjoy consuming in the fall and winter. This year, however, I managed to plant a mixed bed of edibles that has already begun yielding tasty items.

At mid-July, July 14 to be precise, I found space in a vegetable plot wide enough for a rectangular bed 120 cm wide. That width accommodates most lightweight floating row covers. The vegetables I planned to seed there needed a cover as a barrier against insect pests.

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After digging a little coconut fibre (for moisture retention) and compost into the plot, I began the planting by seeding a small block of carrots — later than the optimum July 1 timing for carrots, but still worth a try, I thought. The row cover would accelerate growth somewhat and the weather was not hot enough to cook the plants beneath the cover.

Next to the carrots I seeded bok choy, and then made small seedings each of two winter radishes — the dark pink-fleshed Watermelon, also called “Red Meat” by some seed companies, and a daikon radish called Alpine, from Johnny’s Selected Seeds. The catalogue describes this radish as a half-long daikon, sweeter than the more commonly grown long Japanese types.

Everything germinated well, and I uncovered the bed to weed in the second week of August. Each planting appeared to be flourishing. The radishes had strong, healthy leaves. The bok choy planting had germinated thickly and was fairly crowded.

By Aug. 24, six weeks after seeding, I began thinning the bok choy plants. Their crunchy, succulent stems were already eminently useable.

With that first thinning I created an easy salad by adding to the washed and cut bok choy a few halved cherry tomatoes, sprigs of parsley, and some of the juicy, thick-leaved, slightly lemon-flavoured golden purslane that faithfully self-sows in my vegetable plots. The blend of different textures and flavours made for a tasty salad, full of nutrition.

 

Hummingbird sage. On one of my spring rambles through a garden centre near my home, I was surprised to see a small collection of rather unusual salvias. One of them was a sage I’ve been wanting for some time, ever since noticing a listing for it in the catalogue from Richters, a Canadian source for an astonishing number of herbs. They sell seeds, plants, and herbal products.

I promptly gathered up three of the long desired plants of hummingbird sage (Salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Blue’). Also known as anise-scented sage, the metre-tall plants bear brilliant deep blue and black flowers on long spikes through the summer and early fall.

I planted the salvias in an old metal wash tub placed at a sunny back corner of the house beside the path into the back garden. If I’m passing by the spot early in the morning, I can often stand and watch a hummingbird darting from bloom to bloom.

I’m hoping to winter the plants in the tub, moved to protect it from rain, and transplant them into the open garden in the spring.

GARDEN EVENTS

Peninsula meeting. The Peninsula Garden Club meets Monday, 7 p.m., in the Mary Winspear Centre in Sidney. Connie Young-Davis will present The World of Dahlias: Growing and Care. Non-member drop-in fee $5.

Floral arts. The Victoria Floral Artists Guild meets Tuesday, 7 to 9 p.m. in the Garth Homer Centre, 813 Darwin Ave. The evening’s program will feature a presentation by Cory Hewko, who specializes in large florals. Guest fee of $5 can be applied to membership. victoriafloralartists.ca.

Qualicum meeting. The Qualicum Beach Garden Club meets Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. in the QB Civic Centre, 747 Jones St. Kristin Crouch will present Vegetable Growing 101. Kristin is a certified master gardener who practises organic and sustainable principles. Doors open at 7. Guests $3.

Learning about plants. The Horticulture Centre of the Pacific, 505 Quayle Rd. in Saanich, is offering the next session of Plant Identification and Culture on Saturday, Sept. 14, 1 to 4 p.m. This is an ongoing, monthly course that can be joined at any time. In each session Diane Pierce introduces 25 new plants. Cost to HCP members per session, $35, others, $45. Cost for 12 sessions: members $350, others $450. Register: 250-479-6162.

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