Helen Chesnut’s Garden Notes: Wait for ‘June drop’ to thin apple clusters

Dear Helen: My two apple trees are loaded with fruit. Should I thin the clusters?

D.B.

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Wait until the tree sheds inferior and excess fruit naturally in what is called the “June drop.” Once the tree has done its own thinning, follow up by first removing all damaged and deformed apples. Then, thin the clusters to leave just one or two apples in each one. Where there are several clusters along one branch, leave just one apple to a cluster.

Thinning gives larger fruit, which means less work in picking and using the apples, and it prevents the tree from becoming so depleted that it will produce little in the following year.

After cleaning up all fallen and thinned apples, apply a fresh, nourishing mulch layer under and around the trees.

Dear Helen: My father has recently retired and has taken up gardening. On Sunday I’d like to give him some sort of garden-related gift that will add to the pleasure of his new preoccupation. Any ideas would be appreciated.

L.D.

Find out whether there is a particular aspect of gardening that is occupying him initially. There are so many different ways to garden. Some people are drawn most strongly to growing food, or herbs, or roses, perennials, cut flowers and so on. Others are attracted to the process of creating a harmonious landscape.

Determining your father’s current gardening passion will lead you to the most suitable gift possible. Once that is clear, perhaps a book on the topic of his interest, accompanied by an appropriate plant, would be perfect.

There are excellent books available on gardening in small spaces and in containers, on roses, perennials, and just about any other topic you can think of. For an up-to-date book on food gardening in our area, Linda Gilkeson’s Backyard Bounty is superb. Linda teaches Master Gardener courses locally.

If your father is an ecologically aware person, concerned with environmental issues, he may be drawn to incorporating native plants into his garden. An ideal book in this case would be the newly published Gardening with Native Plants of the Pacific Northwest, by Arthur Kruckeberg and Linda Chalker-Scott. The book gives a comprehensive directory of our native plants, by category (trees, shrubs, perennials and so on) that are eminently garden-worthy.

People starting out gardening may be lacking an essential tool. Depending on what sort of gardening he’s embarked on, your father may need a good pair of secateurs or a long-handled digging shovel. Short-handled digging tools are murder on the back.

For his immediate pleasure on Sunday, consider a hanging basket or patio tub filled with flowers placed at his favourite summer sitting-out spot. A gift certificate from a local garden centre, or a card pledging help with one of his projects are further options.

GARDEN EVENTS

Nanaimo meeting. The Nanaimo Horticultural Society will meet this evening from 7 to 9 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.

Summer show. The View Royal Garden Club is hosting its annual Summer Garden Show on Saturday, 1 to 3 p.m. in Wheeley Hall, 500 Admirals Rd. (behind Esquimalt United Church). Exhibits will include in-season flowers and vegetables as well as indoor plants and design categories. Admission of $5 includes refreshments and door prize tickets. There will be a sale of plants and garden items. Non-members are welcome to exhibit. For information, call 250-658-9495 or go to viewroyalgardenclub.wordpress.com and click on Summer Show.

Denman tour. This year’s Denman Island Home and Garden Tour of 12 properties will offer a close-up look at the creativity and skill that Denman residents pour into their home environments on Saturday and Sunday, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. This major fundraising tour 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 popular attraction on the tour 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. More information at denmanisland.hgt@gmail.com

Government House plant sales. Government House, 1401 Rockland Ave. in Victoria, will hold plant sales every Tuesday and Thursday, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., until June 27, at the Plant Nursery opposite the Tea Room.

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