Many years I heard someone joke that Vancouver had only two seasons: “Wet” and “Roadwork”. I might suggest revising the two seasons to be “Wet” and “Parched” because this summer was the driest that I can remember. We had almost four months with very little rain, and it was the worst fire season ever. The plants and trees and animals suffered.
Although I didn’t make time to blog about the garden, I did spend lots of time there. So, here is the wrap up of this growing season.
This was a very tough year for the bees. In the spring we learned that our bee guy Bryn lost many of his hives over the winter. He worked hard at building up the strength of the existing hives and we were very happy to be able to host one in our garden. Unfortunately, at the first hive check-in, Bryn wasn’t able to find evidence of a queen (no larvae in the cells). He tried a number of different things including replacing the queen and switching in some frames from other hives and by the end of the summer the hive was surviving, but not thriving. Although our hive didn’t produce enough honey to survive the upcoming winter, we were happy to learn that most of Bryn’s other hives did very well, so our bees (and us) will be benefiting from the excess honey from other hives.
(2) Things that did thrive: raspberries, favas, green beans, kale, fennel, endive, sunflowers and tomatoes.
No secret, the raspberries are my favourites. This summer was a fabulous one for the berries and we are currently enjoying our third (small) harvest this year. I didn’t bother to make raspberry vodka, but instead froze the berries for fresh ice-cream during the winter.
Despite a frustratingly late spring that saw me replanting everything after it rotted or was eaten, our summer harvests were abundant and satisfying. We enjoyed food from our garden almost every day this summer. The kale and fennel only really seemed to take off when it became cooler, so we are looking forward to much more of those. Side note: this year the kale never became infested with aphids, so hopefully we can enjoy more of the mature plants into the winter.
The Man gets the green thumb award: not only did we enjoy an enormous crop of tomatoes, but we are still enjoying his sunflowers. The ones in the back garden grew to over seven feet tall, and the dried seed heads are feeding the birds.
(3) Lessons learned.
Don’t bother planting favas in the fall; wait until spring. When you plant the favas in the fall, they grow, they freeze, then rot. Then you plant them again in the spring. I’ve done this three years in a row. Late this summer I instead planted a cover crop in the designated bed and will dig it under and put the favas there in March.
Plant the zucchinis in direct sunlight. Despite last year’s big zucchini success, this year I managed to produce only four. I’m sure my zucchini-hating family was delighted. The zucchinis and cucumbers were were shaded out by the bean teepee, which is why I think that they didn’t do well.
Buy the expensive garlic. In the fall of 2016 I cheaped out and bought garlic at one of the garden centres. I only ended up with about 10 heads at the end of the season, and the cloves were tiny and hard to peel. This year I ordered two types of garlic from West Coast Seeds which I will plant late October.
(4) Fun new project: shaping boxwoods
Five or six years ago I had to replace the lavender plants at the front of the garden with small boxwoods. This year they reached the size that I wanted, so I trimmed them into tidy round balls, which took me about a week and a half as I could only manage to do about three or four per day. It’s surprisingly easy to trim healthy boxwoods, and I experimented with two shaping methods: the flattop method and the beachball method.
a) The flattop method. Look at the boxwood and decide what size you want it to be. Trim the top of the boxwood down to a flat plane, to the final height you want your hedge. Trim the other four sides into a square-ish box. This gives you four vertical corners where the planes meet. Trim the top and bottom of the vertical edge under (cut off the corners of the box) and then round off any other greenery so that the bush becomes a round ball.
b) the beachball method. (this is easier) Look at the boxwood and imagine it as a beachball, with six equal sections starting from the middle top. Trim each section from the top to the bottom of the plant.
Ha – I make it sound easy, and it is. It just takes time. This fall and spring we need to tame some of our out of control front garden as well as some of the other hedges. It took a good six years to get our salal to grow, and now it won’t stop and is crowding out everything in the front. The main project for next summer will be to try to cultivate the front garden.
That’s it for today. Thanks for reading and enjoy the fall!