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Warm weather helps extend growing season

What the spring and early summer lamentably lacked in sunshine and warmth, this month has surely made up. Everyone I spoke with through September voiced delight in the glorious warmth and blue skies.

What the spring and early summer lamentably lacked in sunshine and warmth, this month has surely made up. Everyone I spoke with through September voiced delight in the glorious warmth and blue skies. It seemed as though it would go on forever and the tomatoes were ripening at last.

Friends visiting from South Africa felt supremely blessed with the weather on their tour of the Island and coastal mainland. We enjoyed lunch out on the patio, and relaxed in the afternoon sunshine in a newly cleared plot transformed into a sitting area with a wood shavings floor.

A friend indeed. It's been a summer of cherished visitors. Late last month, a generous friend visited for a day of gardening and an overnight stay. She was interested to see the last of the figs in my food dryer because a fig tree at her new home was bearing a fine crop.

I persuaded her that a dryer is a sensible investment for food gardeners. It is not necessary to purchase an expensive one, and drying is a fairly quick and easy way to convert fruits and some vegetables into tasty snacks. I find dried tomato slices superbly flavourful and useful in all kinds of dishes. Beth is keen on wholesome snacks for the grandchildren.

Together, we delved into the kind of tedious tasks that company can make enjoyable, like cutting kiwi prunings for composting. I offered my friend a choice of secateurs, and she went for a pair of PowerGear Fiskars pruners I'd been sent to try. They have a rolling handle and they cut like a charm with little stress - wonderful for people like me who do massive amounts of pruning. More information about these pruners is available at

We cleaned the ground under the kiwis, and cleared a nearby back corner of plants. That's another fiddly and unproductive area dealt with. It soon will be transformed into a composting site as I gradually shift the three adjacent composting alcoves over to the corner.

We had lunch on the sunny patio. It was a simple affair with carrot, cucumber and zucchini sticks, and a carrot, garlic and cumin dip. There were cheeses and cherry tomatoes, crisp breads and rice crackers, and fruit-filled squares.

We were gathering a few vegetables for Beth to take home in the morning when she picked up an oddly shaped one and said, "Look at the little penis on this carrot."

These things happen. We've all produced such things. Suggestive vegetables always remind me of a British television comedy episode about a village barrister who had volunteered to collect "rude vegetables" for a display at the village summer garden festival.

The carrot reminded me also of a photograph a reader on Gabriola Island sent of a similarly rude tomato. Something good for a giggle, she said. She had thought of sending it to a newspaper but suspected that it probably would not be printed.


VHS meeting. The Victoria Horticultural Society meets Tuesday at 7: 30 p.m. in the Garth Homer Centre, 813 Darwin Ave. Barrie Agar, head gardener at Hatley Park National Historic Site, will share the highlights and history of the gardens and describe the challenges of operating a heritage property.

A pre-meeting workshop at 6: 30 will feature Tom Leahy demonstrating the harvesting, cleaning and storing of Blue Orchard Mason Bees. All are welcome.

Botany in the garden. The Division of Continuing Studies at the University of Victoria is offering Botany in the Garden, a course designed to explain the role that various branches of plant biology play in determining the propagation, growth and development of plants in our gardens. Topics include seed germination; responses to light, temperature, water and fertilizer; susceptibility and resistance of plants to diseases and insects; control of growth and flowering, and the development of new varieties. The course, taught by David Ballantyne, will comprise six Saturday sessions (Oct. 13 to Nov. 17), from 10 a.m. to noon.

Cost is $90 plus HST. To register, call 250-472-4747 or visit

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