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Helen Chesnut's Garden Notes: Weary with drought but fall raspberries are a bonus

“Raspberry breaks” became a feature of gardening sessions with friends as we stopped work to feast on the berries

The second crop on my Fall Gold raspberries is usually ruined by wet late summer and early autumn weather causing the berries to turn mouldy. Not this year. Sunny weather produced a long season of sweet, luscious berries.

“Raspberry breaks” became a feature of gardening sessions with friends as we stopped work to feast on the berries. Visitors have been invited to pick and taste as well.

The raspberry canes occupy a corner of the food garden bordered by the back fence and a row of compost enclosures. I’ve extended the raspberry canes along one plot edge and emptied part of the plot of unwanted plants to make way for a new prune plum tree in the spring.

Fatigue by drought. Every gardener I’ve spoken with in recent weeks has become utterly weary with keeping the garden watered. Some have given up attempts to continue usual watering routines.

No gardener in our climate expects to still be watering in October. Autumn rains begin in September and ramp up in October. This year has not conformed to the pattern as summer-like days have continued, sunny, warm, and dry.

I heard a meteorologist, early in the month, say that our region has experienced the worst 90-day drought on record. Where I live, I’ve recorded a scant three mm of rain since July 18.

The ground is dry. Pity the forests. Let us hope that when the rains come, they will arrive gradually, to allow the dusty ground and, with some soils, hardened surfaces, to slowly absorb the moisture.

Though we are all weary of trying to keep our gardens adequately watered, at least make the effort to provide enough moisture to protect the “bones” of the landscape — the trees and shrubs that we have nurtured. Young plants that are in the process of becoming established in the garden will also need moisture to survive.

I’m continuing my summer watering routine, but with longer intervals between the waterings as temperatures cool somewhat. And I’m taking a narrow-bladed shovel around the garden to test for the driest areas.

Looking to wet weather ahead, hopefully before too long, my mind is on soil care and mulches as I scrounge among neighbours for fallen maple leaves to mulch and protect plots as they are emptied. I hope to expand the mulching this fall to around trees and shrubs.

In the spring, as I pushed aside the layer of leaves and chopped straw on the vegetable plots, I could hardly believe the beautiful condition of the soil. A leafy cover over empty plots reduces compaction and erosion in winter rains. In my plots, it also promoted an abundance of worms.

New flowers. Because poor weather conditions delayed the usual spring transplanting, many of my seed-grown flowers were late to be set out into the garden. Among the last to be transplanted were two that are new to the home garden market this year. One is an award-winning variety.

Gummy Bear sunflower won a European Fleuroselect Gold Medal for 2022 because of its big, lemon yellow double flowers and the abundant, lush foliage. My seed source was Johnny’s Selected Seeds.

Apricotta cosmos, from William Dam Seeds, has produced beautiful apricot-tinged pink flowers that have changed hues through the season. Currently, the petals are more conspicuously tinged in apricot-bronze than in August. Irregular flower petal edges and ferny foliage add to the appeal.

I planted these two flowers together in a corner of a vegetable plot, where they added colour and grace to the food garden.


Rose meeting. The Mid Island Rose Society will meet on Monday from 1 to 3 p.m. in the North Nanaimo Library Meeting Room on Hammond Bay Rd.

Qualicum meeting. The Qualicum Beach Garden Club will meet on Monday at 7:30 p.m. in The QB Civic Centre, 747 Jones St. Bernie Dinter of Dinter Nursery in Duncan will speak about Garden Colour For All Seasons.

Government House plant sales. The Friends of Government House Gardens Society have perennial plants for sale at the nursery, across from the tea room at Government House, 1401 Rockland Ave. in Victoria, on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Members receive a 25 per cent discount on plant purchases. Membership cost is $20. Plant sales end on Oct. 20.

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