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Helen Chesnut's Garden Notes: Bush bean thrives despite late planting

The weather patterns we know so well may no longer exist, and constant adaptation will become the new “norm”

A late bush bean seeding has delivered an unusual treat: fresh, young beans in October.

In my experience, bush bean sowings made after mid-July have never had time to produce a proper crop, but when a short strip of soil became available in August, I decided to experiment with a late sowing. From that Aug. 6 seeding, I began picking tender young beans in the first week of this month.

The bean I chose for the trial seeding is Calima, a filet bean from William Dam Seeds. “Filet” beans are the gourmet types among bush beans. They are known for their pencil-thin pods, their tenderness, and a rich bean lavour that is fresh and sweet. William Dam Seeds describes Calima as the “Best filet bush bean in our trials, with impressive yields of18-cm long, dark green pods.” I am impressed also with the strong growth on healthy, compact bushes that hold the pods upright.

In all the years I’ve been gardening, a bush bean planting made later than July had no chance of producing useable pods before cold, wet weather shut the heat-loving plants down. Now, the weather patterns we know so well may no longer exist, and constant adaptation away from our usual timetables will become the new “norm.”

Regrettable timing. Another planting’s timing was not so fortunate.

Following my normal routine that has worked well in past years, I prepared a patch of soil and planted garlic cloves in late September. Temperatures had begun to cool a little, and though there had been almost no rain I expected the usual autumn rainfall to begin at any time. I don’t think anyone anticipated drought and summer-like temperatures to last through mid-October.

As the warm, sunny weather continued, I began to feel increasingly uneasy about the garlic planting. I kept it well watered, but could not do much about the hot afternoon sun beating down on the space.

No point in fretting now. I’ll keep watering as needed, and make a note to wait until cool, moist weather has settled in before planting the garlic next fall.

Garden cuddles. In my desire to grow as much edible produce as is reasonably possible in every available space suited for growing food, in the spring I used a tall semi-circle of sturdy wire fencing to support two climbing zucchini vines, two cucamelon vines and a few runner bean vines, interspersed with Grandpa Ott’s morning glory.

Through the summer, I scanned the plantings to pick a few cucamelons to snack on. Also called mouse melons, these winsome little fruits look like miniature (grape-sized) watermelons and taste like slightly lemony cucumbers, with a pleasant crunch.

Around mid-September, on one of these snack-hunting expeditions, I noticed one of the wee fruits lying cradled in the centre of a large climbing zucchini leaf, like a tasty morsel served up on an outsized, green platter. Once in a while, the garden offers up sweet visual gifts like this.


Fall into Gardening Conference. The Mount Arrowsmith Rhododendron Society, Nanaimo Rhododendron Society and Vancouver Island Master Gardeners Association are presenting a day of education and enjoyment with gardening experts on Sunday, Oct. 23, from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in the Qualicum Beach Civic Centre, 747 Jones St. in Qualicum. Topics to be addressed include Gardening for Bees and Gardening the Garry Oak Ecosystem. Des Kennedy’s Weather or Not delves into the triumphs and travails of the weather-beaten gardener. Tickets are $30 at the door. Details at or Coffee, tea and treats will be provided. Bring your own bag lunch.

Apple identification. Dinter Nursery, 2205 Phipps Rd. in Duncan, is offering an apple identification event on Sunday, Oct. 23, between 12 and 5 p.m. If you have an apple tree in your garden and don’t know what variety it is, bring some of the apples in, following the guidelines for successful identification found at

View Royal meeting. The View Royal Garden Club will meet on Wednesday, October 26, 7:30 p.m. in Wheeley Hall behind Esquimalt United Church, 500 Admirals Rd. Entrance is off Lyall Street. Liz Dick of Special Effects Flowers will speak about growing flowers that are different from most found in garden centres. Her website ( tells how she got started. A judged mini show will feature exhibits from members gardens. Everyone welcome. Non-member drop-in fee $5.

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