Helen Chesnut's Garden Notes: Veggie plots come together like a jigsaw puzzle

A week (mostly) away from office work allowed me to make only the tiniest dent in the number of garden projects at hand. Still, being able to spend hours in the garden every day was a treat. As well, I actually managed to empty and defrost the freezer — and found the lost figs!

In the muddle that the freezer contents had become, I could not find the packages of figs when I wanted to add chopped pieces to sweeten green salads with tart greens like endive and radicchio.

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I now have a complete inventory of the garden fruits and vegetables remaining in the freezer. A sketched “map” tells me where to find packets of last year’s peas, the plums, blueberries, figs, and so on.

The “holiday” week began on Easter Sunday, my birthday this year. A friend brought a takeout lunch for us both and though the day was chilly, we enjoyed the meal outdoors in comfort, seated well apart in a protected spot in the sunniest part of the garden. Spring bulb flowers, including sheets of grape hyacinth and white Anemone blanda, surrounded us.

The jigsaw garden. I concentrated my energies that week on the four vegetable plots located at the sunny, uppermost part of the back garden, which is on a slight incline upward toward the back fence.

Seeding had already begun late last month in the lower left hand plot, with peas sown on both sides of a four-metre length of wire fencing located alongside the central path through the vegetable garden, dividing it in half.

The first seedings in April, during my birthday week, were ones I usually make in March — broad beans and calendula. I seeded calendula along the curved edge of the pea plot, with two varieties of broad beans behind the calendula.

Next, I moved to the plot behind, in the upper left corner, and set up a four-metre length of sturdy, 1.5-metre high wire next to the long, upper edge. Against a portion of its length I transplanted sweet peas, with lettuce and endive transplants alongside the sweet peas. While I was there, I planted a few short rows of potatoes along the far, short side edge of the plot.

Later, in the warmth of May, I’ll grow cucumbers, climbing zucchini and a few of the tomato vines along the other side of the sweet pea fencing.

The lower right plot now houses bok choy and the second double row of peas, which will grow on wire directly across the centre path from the March pea seeding. Separating the two plantings by around two weeks rather than seeding them at the same time makes harvesting and processing the peas less onerous and more pleasurable.

A Peaches and Cream honeysuckle trained on wire fencing edges the opposite long side of the same, lower right plot. Snow peas are seeded at both ends of the wire.

The last main project was preparing the soil and seeding a closely spaced “block” planting of carrots and beets. The length of the area, at the long, top edge of the upper right plot, allowed space also for most of the onion transplants. In the same plot, close to the opposite long edge, more wire fencing will support most of the indeterminate (staking) tomatoes.

As I moved from place to place, it struck me how assembling plantings in the vegetable plots, filling in the spaces as you go along, was like putting a jigsaw puzzle together. Like starting out the puzzle by piecing together the edges, I start mapping out vegetable plots by determining the positions for major plantings — two double rows of peas, the tomatoes, the bed of carrots and beets, another for leeks and onions. More edibles gradually fill in the plots as the leafy jigsaw pieces take their places.

Government House plant sales. The Friends of Government House Gardens Society have begun sales of perennial plants at the nursery, across from the tea room at Government House, 1401 Rockland Ave. in Victoria. From April 20 to Aug. 19, the nursery will be open on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Proceeds are used to further enhance the gardens.

Master gardeners information service. Because Victoria Master Gardeners are unable to hold face-to-face clinics at this time, they are answering gardening questions by email at info@msvmga.org. For information about the organization and more about the helpline, visit victoriamastergardeners.org.

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