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Helen Chesnut's Garden Notes: Time to plant fall, winter vegetables depends on the garden

Seeding broccoli, winter cabbage and over-wintering cauliflower indoors mid-June to late June works well in most situations.

Dear Helen: What is the best time to plant vegetables for winter harvesting? I’m especially interested in finding out about the best timing for fall and winter lettuces.


The exact timings will depend on a garden’s individual conditions. My garden tends to be “late” in the sense that plants take longer to develop and mature in my partly shaded plots than in spaces that are fully open to all-day sun. For this reason, I need to plant earlier than commonly recommended timings.

Popular for winter and early spring harvesting are purple sprouting broccoli, winter cabbage and over-wintering cauliflower. Seeding these indoors mid-June to late June works well in most situations. Transplants can be found in most garden centres in August.

Carrots and beets for young roots to harvest in winter and early spring can be seeded in late June or the first week in July.

In early August, seed fall and winter lettuce, corn salad and arugula. I aim for an outdoor sowing of cold-hardy lettuces around Aug. 10, the planting arranged to be easily covered with plastic tunnelling during extreme winter weather. I thin the rows well to allow each lettuce to develop freely into a pleasingly useable clump or head.

Lettuce packets indicate a variety’s suitability for cold weather cultivation. Sometimes the variety name delivers a cold-hardy message, as in Winter Density and Rouge d’hiver. Fall and winter lettuce transplants are commonly available in late summer.

Dear Helen : My rhubarb plants need to be divided and replanted. The stalks are short and thin, and the clumps are quite crowded. I consulted a website that advised cutting up each clump and replanting pieces. Is it too late to do this?


This is not a good time for digging up and renovating rhubarb clumps. Prime times for this project are before growth begins, in March, or in October, as the plants begin the dying down process.

Dig up each clump and select the youngest sections, from around the outside of a clump, to replant in sites with soil that has been generously replenished with a nourishing compost.

Dear Helen: The weather this spring has been so different from last year, when I busied myself in May arranging moisture retaining, soil cooling mulches around plants and between rows. So far the weather has been very moderate, with no severe heat. Should I go ahead and mulch anyway, or wait until high temperatures are predicted?


Mulching too early in the spring can slow down the soil-warming process, but by now soils are well warmed and even on sunny days that are not hot, moisture will be evaporating from our garden soils.

I would go ahead and begin mulching lightly, with small or chopped leaves, or loose tufts of straw. Make sure that, before mulching, the soil is thoroughly dampened. The reduced evaporation from mulching will help to limit the need for watering, a crucial issue these days as water conservation is of such importance.


Bonsai pruning. Dinter Nursery, 2205 Phipps Rd. in Duncan, is presenting a deciduous bonsai summer pruning demonstration by its resident bonsai expert on Saturday, June 22, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Topics to be covered: tools and supplies, choosing branches to cut, achieving goals for your tree including beech, oak and Japanese maple. Bring your specimens and questions. This is a free, drop-in event, outdoors in a shaded area. No registration required.

Nanaimo tour. Altrusa International of Nanaimo is holding their annual garden tour on Sunday, June 23, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.. Funds from the 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 at $25 are 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.

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