Helen Chesnut’s Garden Notes: How to keep garden happy over the long, hot summer

Gardening friends have been expressing concern as they ponder the summer ahead and the prediction that it will be long, hot, and dry. How will I keep the garden watered, they wonder.

Even with limited or rigorously regulated water for the garden, it can be done. Long, slow waterings that deliver moisture deep into plants’ root zones don’t have to be frequent.

article continues below

Root systems, within the capabilities of each type of planting, grow to reach moisture. As upper soil levels dry, roots descend to deeper levels that long, slow waterings have kept moist. The deepest possible root systems will support strong, resilient plants.

Brief waterings, even if they are frequent, will restrict moisture to the soil’s upper layers and that’s where the roots will be — restricted and shallow, with little drought-resistance.

To check how deeply moisture has penetrated into the soil, wait for at least an hour after watering and then plunge a shovel into the ground and lever it forward to check the moisture-level depth.

Consider the soil. A key factor in maintaining adequate moisture in garden plots is the quality of the soil. Spongy, humus-rich soils are most efficient at taking in and retaining moisture. They also drain efficiently of any excess moisture. To help my plots be as water-thrifty as possible, I plump the soil with moisture-retaining materials such as compost and coconut fibre (coir).

Coconut fibre is a rapidly renewable soil amendment that increases the humus content of soils and is highly moisture-retentive. Most coir has a close to neutral pH. I use bagged, hydrated myCoco Coconut Coir. I like the way it fluffs the soil.

Coir acts also as a buffering agent against temperature extremes. This makes it a useful component in soil mixes for both summer and winter container plantings.

Mulch. Mulching is an additional tool for conserving soil moisture. This month or early in July, I weed plantings, cultivate lightly around the plants and between rows, water deeply, and add a mulch layer of compost or some similar nourishing amendment. Around plants such as tomatoes and squash, chopped straw over the mulch deflects some of the hot summer sun as it helps to further retain moisture in the soil.


Floral art. The Victoria Floral Artists Guild is presenting the highlight of its calendar year on Tuesday, 7 to 9 p.m., in the Garth Homer Centre, 813 Darwin Ave., with award winning Vancouver floral designer Brenna Quan, who will present the art of exploring materials and found objects in Explore, Experiment, Express. Non-member guest fee for this evening is $20. victoriafloralartists.ca.


Qualicum meeting. The Qualicum Beach Garden Club will meet on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in the Q.B. Civic Centre, 747 Jones St. Jamey Lauinger of Valley Succulents will give a presentation on growing cacti and succulents. There will be a selection of plants for sale. Doors open at 7. Guest and visitor fee is $3.

Nanaimo meeting. The Nanaimo Horticultural Society will meet on Wednesday from 7 to 9 p.m. in First Unitarian Fellowship Hall, 595 Townsite Rd. Dorothee Kieser will discuss Winter Vegetables: when to plant and how to care for. A parlour show will feature a judged display of flowers and floral arrangements.

Introduction to plants. The Horticulture Centre of the Pacific, 505 Quayle Rd. in Saanich, is offering the next session in the Plant Identification and Culture series on Saturday, June 15, 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, with descriptions, preferred growing conditions, landscape uses and maintenance. Cost to HCP members per session is $35, others $45. Cost for 12 sessions: members $350, others $450. To register call 250-479-6162. hcp.ca.

Denman tour. The Denman Island Home and Garden Tour of 12 properties offers a rare, close-up look at the creativity and skill that Denman residents pour into their home environments on Saturday and Sunday, June 15 and 16, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. This fundraiser for the Denman Conservancy Association includes an organic vineyard, a homestead and market garden, an island-style chocolate factory, and four new properties, among them an exuberant cottage garden and an orchard with a pollinator garden. A highlight is the home and garden of Des Kennedy and his partner Sandy. Tickets at $20 are available at denman-conservancy.org. The site also lists retail outlets with tickets. Details at denmanisland.hgt@gmail.com.

Read Related Topics

© Copyright Times Colonist

Most Popular


    The Times Colonist is looking for newspaper carriers to work in the Reader Sales and Service Department.

Find out what's happening in your community.