HELEN LANG: The garden kept calling my name

Suddenly it’s summer. This may be early June but it feels more like the end of July or the beginning of August. It is hot, baby, hot!

Suddenly it’s summer. This may be early June but it feels more like the end of July or the beginning of August. It is hot, baby, hot!

When I think of global warming, I dream of how hot it must be in Hell and have to rush in to have a cool shower. I really prefer cold to heat. You can always add a jacket and a blanket to warm yourself but there is only so much you can take off before someone calls the police.

My precious plants on the balcony are making heavy weather of this sudden heat and spend a lot of time trying to make themselves as small as possible to decrease their desire for more water. Water I can provide, but shade is beyond my abilities. I need a couple of trees between the plants and the fierce sunshine.

Maybe a beach umbrella would help. The first summer storm, however, would carry it off to someone else’s garden.

When I lived on Melissa Street in Sidney I had planted trees, including a wide-spreading Hawthorne which sheltered the houseplants. They loved it, but put on so much new growth I was afraid we were going to have to build an addition to the house to accommodate them. My darling husband Jim didn’t say much, but I could tell by the set of his mouth and his stoney silences, that I was dreaming. We had already added 10 feet to the south end of the living room, including a fireplace. I suppose you could just keep on adding more until you came to the allowable space limit. This, before we ran out of both money and patience. But we were happy there and I had a lot of space to put in a big vegetable garden.

We both enjoyed its generous production. Jim was not a gardener, which was great for me. I could do as I pleased without a lot of unwelcome advice from the peanut gallery.

Having lived for nine years in Prince George where gardening  was almost impossible, gardening here was Heaven and I tried to grow everything we fancied. Canteloupe one year (not a success) to asparagus (modestly successful) plus potatoes, carrots, peas, squash, corn, several varieties of beans, Hazelnuts, apples, peaches, Greengages and green grapes. I was overhelmed with everything that would grow and spent hours outside gardening when I probably should have been doing other things. But the garden kept calling my name and I kept on answering.

One year I tried to raise chickens to provide both eggs and meat. This wasn’t a great success either. Although Jim made a pen, these birds were fliers and continued to show up in the neighbour’s yard, where they were unwelcome in spite of providing good fertilizer for his plants. Unfortunately, they often ate his vegetable seeds, leaving him angry that a row of corn always ended up with yawning holes. I felt it was a fair exchange — very few seeds in exchange for good, top grade animal manure. But he never saw it my way. In the end, he won.

They made really delicious chicken-noodle soup.

 

Helen Lang has been the Peninsula News Review’s garden columnist for more than 30 years.

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