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Helen Chesnut: What to do with delayed growing season? Relax and adapt

Like many home gardeners observing how delayed the growing season has been this spring, I’ve been online almost daily, checking for indicators of summery weather on the horizon to advance growth and deliver the promise of vine-ripened tomatoes

Like many home gardeners observing how delayed the growing season has been this spring, I’ve been online almost daily, checking for indicators of summery weather on the horizon to advance growth and deliver the promise of vine-ripened tomatoes and fully matured, storable winter squash.

Alas, though summer begins officially on Tuesday, there’s been no suggestion that cosy, sun-drenched conditions are imminent. A June 5 Times Colonist article noted: “Environment Canada suggests Vancouver Island might linger in a cooler pattern for June and even into July, because sea surface temperatures during a La Nina year are much cooler.”

What to do? Relax and adapt. Catch up on delayed planting and dealing with rampant, rain-happy weeds as best we can, and look forward to the most resplendent and productive autumn garden ever.

Drop-in lettuce. I’ve been following the development of a bronze-tinged butterhead lettuce that appeared at a vegetable plot edge earlier in the spring. Its formation has been slow, like the lettuces I transplanted when the weather became reasonable and the soil had dried out a little.

I searched through my repertoire of lettuce photos and scoured catalogues that I use to identify the volunteer lettuce as I also tried to recall what variety I’d left to form and shed seeds in the same area last year.

I’ve grown many “red” butterhead varieties, but after checking through many images and massaging my memory, I realized the lettuce was Gulley’s Favorite from Seed Savers Exchange, a fine source of heirloom seeds. This lettuce is named for the Gulley family of Oklahoma, who began growing it around 1890. It’s a beautiful, fine-flavoured lettuce.

For those of us who eagerly anticipate those first, fully plump spring lettuces harvested from the open garden, it’s been a long wait. Even my Tom Thumb miniature butterheads, growing this spring beside a row of broad bean plants, has been slow to fill out.

In my garden, Tom Thumb, another heritage lettuce, has always been the speediest variety to become fully plump and ready to use.

Other lettuces, and frilly endive plants, seem to be making almost imperceptible progress toward their usual exuberant proportions. Still, they are hanging on, hopefully to burst into their full potential at some point.

Replacements. I’ve heard numerous tales of gardeners setting plants into the open garden at their usual time, but while the weather remained cold this spring, only to lose them. A friend reported only one of her squash plants survived.

It’s too late to seed winter squash plants, but local garden centres will likely have substantial transplants, for this and other plants that perished.

There’s time to seed more zucchini seeds for replacements. Seed sprouting and regular over-wintering broccoli now, and for fall and winter use seed carrots and beets at the end of this month.

Dad-pampering. Over the years, I’ve been approached by more than a few hard-working fathers with complaints that usually go something like this: “That blasted column of yours! My wife keeps sticking it in my face and prodding me on to one of your precious projects.”

It’s true that good old Dad is usually the one enlisted for heavy-duty work in the family garden — the heavy digging, hauling pavers for a patio extension, trundling compost about the garden.

Consider a restful day and a bit of pampering for Father tomorrow. How about a lounge chair set on the patio or in a pleasant spot in the garden, pots of flowers nearby, cups of tea or other preferred beverages, a new book by his favourite author? Throw in a foot rub and his most relished dinner, and the day could well furnish a delicious respite from his hard labours.

GARDEN EVENTS

Pollinator plant event. To celebrate Pollinator Week, June 21 to 27, the Horticulture Centre of the Pacific, 505 Quayle Rd. in Saanich, is hosting activities for children and families and a Pollinators for the Planet plant sale on Sat. June 25, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The sale will feature pollinator friendly plants rich in pollen and nectar. From 12:30 to 1:15 p.m. Lori Weidenhammer, author of Victory Gardens for Bees, will present “Let’s Get Buzzy: Identifying, Supporting and Celebrating the Native Bees of British Columbia.” The presentation is free, but space is limited. Register ahead at hcp.ca/events or call 250 479 6162.. Masks are required for this indoor event.

hchesnut@bcsupernet.com