Helen Chesnut’s Garden Notes: The joy of early-summer harvest is real

An old gospel song came rollicking to mind as I gathered in some of the garden’s late June bounty:

“Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,

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We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.”

The hymn is based on a psalm promising that those who sow in tears shall reap with joy. Though gardeners, I hope, seldom plant in tears, the joy in the harvesting is real.

That day, the bounty was considerable, and enormously satisfying. There was a bowl of strawberries, and another filled with pea pods for shelling. Two fat globe artichokes promised a special treat for dinner. Savouring the fleshy artichoke leaf bases, dipped in lemon butter, is as close as ever I get to bacchanalian style eating.

For a salad I cut bronzed miniature romaine lettuces, frilly-leaved and broad-leaved endive, garlic scapes and snow peas. And for the soul and senses, I brought roses and sweet peas into the house.

July. If the weather predictions I’ve researched are correct, temperatures in early July will not be extreme, but there is little promise of rain.

What rainfall has occurred in the past few months has been spotty. An area not far from me was blessed with a substantial rain around two weeks ago. That same day, the rain where I live barely dampened the road. According to records I’ve kept, there’s been almost no rain since mid-April.

Consider giving watering priority to shallow-rooted, drought-sensitive, new and treasured plantings, and keep in mind that a light mulching helps to conserve soil moisture.

Even the most drought tolerant plants need thorough, regular watering during their first year in a garden to enable growth of the strong root systems that will see the plants through dry periods in future years.

As June-bearing strawberries wind down their season of production, it’s time to thin and tidy the planting. I usually remove some of the oldest plants and train runners in suitable directions. For solid runner rooting, minimum stress on the plants and a fine crop next June, keep strawberries regularly watered. These are shallow-rooted plants with little tolerance for dry conditions.

During the summer, rhododendrons will be forming buds for next spring’s flowers. As shrubs go, these are fairly shallow-rooted and need a consistently moist soil to promote a satisfactory flowerbud set.

I’ve been giving special attention to my two double rows of peas growing on wire fencing and to the lettuces along the bases of the vines. Regular watering will keep the lettuces in plump growing condition and help to keep the peas producing for as long as possible.

Consistent, ample soil moisture is the key to avoiding blossom end rot in tomatoes and powdery mildew in mildew-prone plants like garden phlox.

Guard your treasures. The seed-grown, difficult to replace daphnes in my garden are strong, resilient plants, but I don’t push it. They get a thorough watering every seven to 10 days.

I’ve begun trundling around a long-bladed trowel or narrow-bladed shovel with me in the garden, to make spot-checks on the depth of soil moisture. This helps me direct watering to where it is most needed.



Floral art. Victoria Floral Artists Guild meets Tuesday, 7 to 9 p.m., in the Garth Homer Centre, 813 Darwin Ave. Tonight features Floral Frescos Workshop. Guest fee of $5 can be applied to membership. victoriafloralartists.ca.


Qualicum meeting. Qualicum Beach Garden Club meets Tuesday, 7:30 p.m., in the QB Civic Centre, 747 Jones St. Doors at 7. Amy Robson, co-owner of Nature’s Choice Design, will present on xeriscaping your landscape to reduce watering requirements. Guests $3.


Nanaimo meeting. The Nanaimo Horticultural Society meets Wednesday, 7 p.m., in First Unitarian Fellowship Hall, 595 Townsite Rd. There will be a judged parlour show and Malcolm Ho-yu will give a presentation on peonies. Information at 250-758-6783.


Water garden tour. For the Love of Africa Society is hosting its 13 Annual Water Garden Tour on Saturday, July 13, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Stroll through 10 outstanding local gardens with water features such as fountains, waterfalls, ponds and streams, and meet garden designers. Some of the sites will have musicians and artists. Desserts will be served at one location. Tickets at $25 are available at GardenWorks, Dig This, Dinters in Duncan, Elk Lake Garden Centre and several more outlets, which are listed at watergardentour.ca. Proceeds support the society’s projects in Tanzania (fortheloveofafrica.ca).

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