Helen Chesnut's Garden Notes: More to catalogue than just seeds

Scrutinizing the new year’s seed and garden catalogues is a major January preoccupation, as many home gardeners check out old reliable varieties and note new and interesting listings.

For home gardeners in our region, an indispensable catalogue is the Gardening Guide from West Coast Seeds. The 2019 edition is significantly expanded with the addition of new varieties, gardening aids and articles.

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The page layout is the most helpfully convenient of all the catalogues I use. Each variety description is situated directly beneath a generously sized colour photo of the variety. This setup eliminates scrambling around a page to match a description with a photo located away from it.

Useful too are the at-a-glance charts to the recommended seeding and transplanting times for individual vegetables, herbs and flowers. For container and small-space gardens, varieties suitable for growing in planters are marked with a symbol of a plant in a pot.

A detailed index includes a list of helpful articles — on fertilizers, soil types, saving seeds and more. Wondering what flowers are edible? The catalogue devotes a full page to listing them, with tips for their use. Concerned about threatened bee populations? Another page illustrates the life cycle of bumble bees and gives tips on nurturing them in a garden.

For each major type of vegetable, flower and herb there are detailed growing directions as well as added useful information. With the carrot listings is a photo of a carrot showing damage from rust fly larvae feeding. With the tomatoes is an illustration of sucker pruning. The squash listings include a sketched guide to identifying male and female flowers.

Catalogues are available from the website and at stores carrying the seeds. Find a local store with the site’s store locator. A few highlights from the 2019 West Coast Seeds Gardening Guide:

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Tom Thumb is a miniature heirloom butterhead lettuce that is easy to tuck into spaces in the garden. Here, the lettuce is growing at the base of pea vines. - Helen Chesnut

• Lettuces. Six pages of lettuces, grouped by type, include three lettuce blends. New is Eazy Leaf, a mix suitable for containers that offers “a very long harvest window.” Two delectable space-saving miniatures are Tom thumb (butterhead) and Little Gem (romaine). If you like garden-fresh off-season lettuce, look for the “Fall and Winter Harvest” symbol.

• Mescluns. Twelve listings of these mixed greens include a winter and a spicy blend. All are good for containers.

• Kelsae from this source is consistently the best bulb onion in my garden.

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For a sprouting broccoli that produces small, tasty florets over several weeks, try Aspabroc. - Helen Chesnut

• Aspabroc produces masses of baby broccoli florets for around a month.

• Kale. Two pages with 17 varieties and two blends (summer and winter) include Dwarf Green Curled and Kale Storm, both recommended for containers.

• Basil. Piccolino is a tidy, compact Greek basil of the type I like to grow in windowbox planters for a uniform, fragrant, useful little “hedge” on patio shelving.

• Cupcakes. No, not actual cupcakes, but four new listings of “Cupcake” zinnias in lemon, orange, red and a colour blend. These zinnias form a crested centre of ruffled petals in the style of Scabiosa (pincushion) flowers. The Cupcakes are highly recommended for cutting.

• Calendula. For something different, try Zeolights, a double flower in pink and orange.

Calling all clubs

Many thanks to all the garden-related organizations that sent along information on their meetings and special events in 2018.

Again this year, I invite gardening groups throughout Vancouver Island and on the Gulf Islands to send along details of 2019 activities and programs for inclusion in the Events portion of columns.

If your group has finalized plans for a flower show, plant sale, meetings or other events, please send details to hchesnut@bcsupernet.com. Note there is no “t” in the middle of Chesnut.

To be sure of reserving space in a column for your event, send the information well ahead of its date. To allow for computer issues and other assorted life glitches, I submit columns to the paper about 10 days ahead of publication dates, more if I need a little time off.

Include a description of the meeting or other event with the location, time, cost of admission (if any) and points of interest. Please do provide both the day of the week and the date. It’s easy enough to type in a wrong number, and a check between day and date allows me to pick up conflicts that sometimes occur between them.

A phone number as well as the email address is helpful. If the group has a website, include that, too. Please place the information in the body of the email rather than in attachments.

I look forward to hearing from you.

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