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Helen Chesnut's Garden Notes: Spring has sprung but watch out for April Fool's tricks

It’s weather that fools us most often, especially in recent years when heat domes and last year’s cold, wet spring played nasty tricks on us gardeners.

Happy April Fools’ Day. This day, for centuries, has been an occasion for playing tricks, which makes me wonder about tricks that commonly emerge to dupe gardeners.

There’s the mistaken seed planting trick, as in planting pole beans that you think are bush beans — a foolish glitch indeed as the gardener is left with out-of-control vines to deal with as they splay themselves untidily all over the ground.

Then there are the squirrels, birds, neighbourhood cats and raccoons that all have their ways of flummoxing gardeners.

Probably it’s the weather that fools us most often, especially in recent years when unforeseen heat domes and last year’s long, cold, wet spring played nasty tricks on us and our gardens.

This spring? The uncertain growing conditions of recent years has spurred the ever-hopeful gardeners I know to be ultra-enthusiastic about this year. Who knows what faces us in the coming weeks, but — so far so good.

Though I had done some preliminary outdoor seedings in February, it was a mid-March session with my visiting son that launched the main spring plantings.

First, we cleared the leaf cover off a broad, three-metre long rectangle for the first row of shelling peas. We checked for tree roots and removed them in the most congested parts of the bed. Then, I marked out the line where the supporting wire for the peas would be set up, and set short stakes in three places where two-metre long green metal T posts were to be pounded into the soil.

Here’s where having assistance with muscle is a hugely welcome time and labour saver. Usually, I do the pounding myself. It involves much ascending and descending a step ladder, from which it is easiest to accomplish the pounding, in order to make sure the support posts are truly vertical and not at some wonky angle.

With my son’s help, all I had to do was move around each post to establish a correct position as he pounded. Lovely.

Once the posts were in, and before positioning the wire against them and securing it well, we harvested two wheelbarrow loads of finished compost to spread over the pea plot and mixed it lightly into the top layer of soil along with a scattering of lime and slow-release fertilizer.

This first pea row is located alongside a central path leading into the vegetable garden. Two weeks after the first seeding, I’ll make a similar pea sowing beside the first one. On the other side of the path a sturdier length of wire will soon be set up for sweet peas and, later, cucumbers and climbing zucchini.

We had two beautiful days, promise (I hope) of a fine spring. Carpets of crocuses shone in the sun under kiwi vines and a fig. A new season of growing had begun.


VHS meeting. The Victoria Horticultural Society will meet on Tuesday, April 4, from 6:30 to 9 p.m. in the Garth Homer Centre, 813 Darwin Ave. Mike Rogers will lead a workshop at 6:30 on choosing and using ornamental grasses. At 7:30, horticulturist Jeff de Jong will speak about how to make the best plant choices for multi-season beauty in “Plants that earn their keep!” Masks are required in the Garth Homer Centre. Drop-in fee for non-members $5.

Gordon Head meeting. The Gordon Head Garden Club will meet on Wednesday, April 5, from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Gordon Head Lawn Bowling Club, 4105 Lambrick Way. David Spencer from Applied Bio-nomics will speak about buying and applying beneficial insects and mites in the home garden. The meeting will include a parlour show. First time visitors are welcome at no charge.

Dahlia meeting. The Victoria Dahlia Society will meet on Thursday, April 6, at 7 p.m. in St. Michael’s Church, 4733 West Saanich Rd. Phil Newton will present the best 30 dahlias for growing and cutting. Visitors are welcome.

Invitation to Government House gardens. The Friends of Government House Gardens Society are seeking volunteers to help in the beautiful gardens, nursery, and Garry oak woodlands. The gardens have served as a great way for people new to Victoria to learn about local gardening and integrate with the community of enthusiastic volunteers who maintain and nourish the gardens on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. No experience is required. Find out more at Connect at [email protected].

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