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Helen Chesnut's Garden Notes: Looking back, maybe too much squash

Changes in store after a review of past season

As the spring garden season ramps up to a full romp, I’m reviewing last year’s garden with its ups and downs, and tweaking this year’s plantings accordingly.

That I remain awash in squash makes some changes obvious. I’m still busy processing and using the last of the huge Lunga di Napoli (Naples Long), an American heirloom called Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck, Black Forest kabocha, and the small, round, South African Gem squash.

I love growing the monster Naples Long. It surprises and astonishes visitors. Each squash delivers an enormous amount of sweet flesh to use — too much for me and my friends, it turns out. Another issue is lifting and handling the huge fruits that grow over 60 cm long and weigh around 16 kilos.

Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck is another fine heirloom, one with more dense-textured flesh. It is long and curved like Naples Long, but it’s a slightly better keeper and is blessedly easy to work with because the size and weight is more manageable and the thin skin is easily whisked away with a potato peeler.

I used Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck to make an easy squash dish for last month’s pot luck gathering at my house. I tossed the cubed squash in a little grapeseed oil and roasted it tender before tossing it with butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, dried cranberries and pecan halves.

I’ll be growing Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck again, along with Gem, whose little round squashes are handy for cutting in half and baking in a covered dish with the squash halves sitting in a little water. I put a pat of butter, salt and pepper, and a dribble of maple syrup in the emptied squash cavities.

For seed sources visit and consult The Canadian Seed Catalogue Index.

Last of the onions. Late last month I found myself rationing out the remaining few Kelsae sweet onions like gold dust, cutting juice-filled, paper-thin slices into simple salads. What a treat they are in winter and early spring, when sweet, juicy onion bulbs are almost impossible to find. I’ll soon be setting my Kelsae transplants into the garden, with a lightweight row cover to safeguard them against the onion fly.

The heat damaged some onion seedlings last year. This year, shade cloth is at hand to suspend over the planting as needed.

Next week. I’ll be taking a break from writing next week’s columns. Time to catch up on garden cleanup and planting. May pleasantly usable spring weather bless our gardening pursuits.


Peninsula meeting. The Peninsula Garden Club will meet on Monday, April 8, at 7 p.m. in the Mary Winspear Centre in Sidney. Michael Rogers will describe how he created a beautiful landscape using tough, drought-resistant, deer-proof ornamental grasses. Guests welcome. Drop-in fee $5.

Qualicum meeting. The Qualicum Beach Garden Club will meet on Tuesday, April 9, at 7:30 p.m. in the QB Civic Centre, 747 Jones St. Jeff de Jong will present Containers: The Wow Factor.

Floral arts. The Mid Island Floral Art Club will meet on Thursday, April 11, 2 p.m. in St. Stephen’s church hall, 150 Village Way in Qualicum Beach. There will be a demonstration of “Vignette” — elegant displays of flowers and other small things to create a pleasing picture. [email protected]. Guests $6.

View Royal show. The View Royal Garden Club is holding an annual Spring Garden Show on Saturday, April 13, 1 to 3 p.m. in Wheeley Hall, behind Esquimalt United Church, 500 Admirals Rd. Exhibits will include perennials and fruits, potted plants, herbs and decorative divisions. Admission of $5 includes refreshments.

Dahlia sale. The Victoria Dahlia Society will hold its Annual Tuber and Plant Sale including rare and exclusive varieties on Saturday, April 13, from 9:30 a.m. until sold out, in Prospect Lake Community Hall, 5358 Sparton Rd. Cash, cheque, debit and credit cards accepted. Come early for best selection.

Bonsai for children. Dinter Nursery, 2205 Phipps Rd. in Duncan, is presenting a Bonsai for Kids workshop on Sunday, April 14, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Participants will plant, wire, and learn how to care for a bonsai plant that is theirs to take home. The workshop is for children over eight years old. Children between eight and 12 must have an adult with them. Cost is $35 plus GST. Space is limited. Register in advance with payment at the nursery or at 250-748-2023.

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