Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

Helen Chesnut: Warm weather, rain has gardens engulfed in weeds

Faced with a vegetable garden full of weeds? Do as Helen Chesnut does: Concentrate first on the plantings that you most rely on.

Weeds, weeds weeds! The advent of warm weather combined with intermittent rainfall has gardens engulfed in weeds. It’s been difficult to keep up with weed growth in the vegetable plots but, bit by bit, they can be cleared. I concentrate first on the vegetable plantings that I most rely on — peas, carrots , onions and tomatoes among them — in keeping their plots weeded for the most abundant production of food possible.

Weeds aside, this is a season of fresh bounty, a time to revel in the splendid flowery and edible outcomes of our spring endeavours. I’ve already had my first delectable servings of mini-broccoli (Aspabroc) and cauliflower from the garden, and tasted the first sweet, sun-warmed strawberries.

Flowers have appeared on some of the potato plants, promising a few small tubers to gently nudge out of the soil under the outer edges of their foliage canopies. Plump lettuces are lined up ready for harvesting. Curly garlic scapes, minced, will add zest to salads.

Stop and stare. Every slow stroll into the garden at this season of promising abundance brings new delights worthy of pausing to admire. On my way to the garden shed recently I noticed, in a small bed beside the shed, a birchleaf spirea called Glow Girl full of neat, tightly packed nosegays of white flowers. Both foliage and flowers are beautiful.

Adding to the interest of the scene were tiny, bright blue flowers of Omphalodes nitida (shining navelwort) in amongst the white spirea flower clusters.

A short space away, a seed-grown peony (Paeonia veitchii Woodwardii) was blooming. The flowers on my plant are a light, coral-tinged pink with yellow centre - different from the plain cerise pink or deep pink blossoms of most descriptions and photos I’ve seen. Fraser’s Thimble Farms on Salt Spring Island describes this peony’s blooms as “pink to magenta atop highly cut foliage..”

Apple bagging. As soon as apples formed on my trees, and after they’d been thinned, I began an entirely new (for me) garden adventure — apple bagging, a fruit protection measure practised for years in Asia.

I’d long resisted the idea of purchasing fruit protection bags and placing them on small apples. It seemed far too time-consuming and labour-intensive. But last summer’s apples had a fair amount of apple maggot damage — brown tunnelling through the fruit. It was time to try out this fruit protection measure.

After finding no local source for bags of the type I wanted, I discovered many online listings for green organza fruit protection bags in close to the recommended size of 22 by 18 cm. They were surprisingly inexpensive. Late in the winter I placed an order.

It has been a delight to find out how quickly and easily the silky bags slip over the apples. A handy ribbon drawstring secures the bag instantly. I’ve been taking breaks from office work to stroll out and bag a batch of the tiny fruits. It’s quite relaxing.

The bags are feather-light but durable. They will remain reusable for years.


Nanaimo tour. Altrusa International of Nanaimo is hosting its annual garden tour on Sunday, June 23, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Funds from the self-guided tour go mainly to support students in need of financial assistance but Altrusa also supports women, children and literacy through other projects. There are six gardens, including a tiny pollinator garden full of native plants, a food production garden where forest food ecology methods are employed, a shady oasis, a sunny flower garden, a small perennial garden and a large garden laid out for events such as weddings. Artists and musicians will be in some gardens. Tickets are $25 and available at most Nanaimo nurseries and through Janie’s-Got-a-Bus.

Orchid Society auction. The Victoria Orchid Society will hold its annual public orchid auction on Monday, June 24, in the Braefoot Park Centre, 1359 McKenzie Avenue. Over 100 beautiful orchids, grown by society members, will be auctioned off. Doors open at 7 p.m. Auction starts at 7:30.

VHS meeting. The Victoria Horticultural Society will meet on Tuesday, July 2, from 7:15 to 9 p.m. in the Garth Homer Centre, 813 Darwin Ave. A panel of VHS members with expertise in growing ornamental plants, fruits and vegetables will each make a brief presentation, followed by a Q and A. Non-member drop-in fee $5. More information at

[email protected]