Category: Seasonal chores

” Produce to Preserve “

” Produce to Preserve “

Whether our produce is a native plant, from our own gardens, a local farmers market, a farmer’s co-operative basket program (weekly baskets that include a mix of vegetables, fruits and herbs according to the season) whose objective is to grow fresh and delicious organic vegetables or from careful “Slow food” choices ( Slow Food – Nova Scotia was founded in 1989 to counteract fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the world around us), we have opportunities to eat and preserve local food that is fresh and picked at the peak of its season.

Jayne Campbell, our club president, a retired High School Administrator, who describes herself as a “Gentleman Farmer’s” wife and a food lover (especially home/locally grown), along with several club members treated Chester Garden Club Members to a “feast for the eyes and palate” presentation, Monday, September 18th .

The theme was ” Produce to Preserve – Enjoying the bounty of our gardens year round while growing and buying local”.


Traditional recipes, old cookbooks such as the “Dutch Oven”, “Out of old Nova Scotia Kitchen” and many others were on display.

We all have wonderful memories of the worn pages of the hand written recipes and the taste of family favorites that have been passed down through the generations with titles such as “Gram’s Pickles”, “Mom’s Pies”, “Aunt Millie’s Raisin Bread” .



Thanks to Jayne, Esther, Nancy, Myra, Dave, Sheila S. & Jane W., many went home to reminisce and search out some of their old “comfort food” recipes.


Maybe there will be more samples to enjoy …

Delightful June Meeting

Delightful June Meeting

image1June 19th was a special meeting at the Chester Garden Club. We were able to honour one of our long time dedicated members, Herb Fraser with “Outstanding Member of The Year”. He was very surprised but pleased with the award. Well deserved for all of the work he has done preparing and taking care of so many important gardens in the village.


Following the presentation, Nancy Guest wowed us with her display of window boxes and gardening for seniors. She had three displays. One window box for the shade, another for the full sun. Her selection of plants were delightful. They varied in texture and lots of colour. Her wooden ladder garden or porch display was a combination of flowering pots, ornamental bird houses and potted greens.







Lunches are always a delight and usually incorporate a little arranging
each month. Thank you Myra for these additions to the table.

Thanks to Jocelyn and Jayne for the pictures and content for this post.

Clean Up Brings Rewards

Clean Up Brings Rewards

On April 24th, a dedicated group of Chester Garden Club Members worked to ensure summer rewards from the Parade Square Garden.

Following the morning efforts, lunch was shared at Heather’s. Thanks to Pam D. we have these pictures that tell their own story.

Happy Spring, everyone.

Summer Reflections

Summer Reflections

We all struggled with a very dry summer, many of us saving and recycling water, mulching to conserve moisture in our gardens & setting up water dishes for the birds and other wildlife that were also feeling the stress. We wondered if our wells & rivers would be replenished, and if our gardens would survive.

click on any picture for slide show

In spite of the drought, our gardens, both flower and vegetable produced. Yes, some failures were experienced, some blooms seemed late and some seemed to flower and produce fruit/seed very quickly.

For the last few weeks we have had weather that has been more like late summer. Our gardens have continued to produce. Some plants became confused producing late bloom. Pollinators still roamed the garden, snakes still found warm spots to sun bathe, insects & birds were in their  nitches  and salamanders continued to be visible when areas common to them were uncovered.

Now we must admit it really is fall. We have had beautiful rainbows following welcome rains,  the trees have their fall color, we have had a killing frost and a few snow flakes have been seen. Many gardener’s have been preparing for winter. Some gardener’s fastidiously tidy and mulch in the fall, easing springtime preparation. Others are selective doing fall cleanup, leaving some plant material as cover for wintering critters & seed heads that are a welcome food source for fall and winter birds.

Soon we will be all armchair gardening, planning optimistically for another season. I wonder what challenges await us in the upcoming year ?

Pilgrims’ Progress in Northern Spain

Pilgrims’ Progress in Northern Spain

Syd D. discusses details of his trip with Sylvia M.
Syd D. discusses details of his trip with Sylvia M.

You may not have heard about El Camino de Santiago de Compostela, but Syd & Sandy D. know about it firsthand. Syd’s delightful presentation October 26th took us into the world of fantastic architecture and landscapes spread across the 800 km. of this pilgrimage in northern Spain. For two weeks last spring, they alternately bused and walked with pilgrims who were likewise intent on trekking to the shrine of the Apostle James in Santiago where tradition has it that his remains are buried. Quipped Syd about their using a van from time to time, unlike more orthodox pilgrims, “I hope it doesn’t diminish your opinion of us!” as the crowd of at least 60 people erupted in laughter. From picture to picture of crowded buildings on crowded streets, Syd, a prominent Halifax architect himself, extolled the virtues of fabulously designed housing unencumbered by Canadian municipal zoning constraints. “You could almost touch the neighbors across the street from you,” he said. “It was wonderful.” Ah, the romance of such names as Barcelona, Pamplona, Puente la Reina and La Rioja as well as churches with filigreed cement columns, ornate stained glass and gilded altars. Matched with Syd’s laid-back conversational dialogue, the fast-moving presentation kept his audience captivated throughout the hour. And the interest continued with conversations for another 45 minutes as members and visitors enjoyed delicious refreshments and even some Spanish wine donated by guess who.

More Activities

Club members donned garden gear Monday, November 2nd, to clean up the Cove Garden for the winter season.  President Heather M. expressed her thanks to “Herb F., Sheila S. and the CGC gang for working so diligently” to make it look very special.  Thanks also goes to Sylvia M. and Jane C. for taking the following pictures.

Time to Tidy Containers

Time to Tidy Containers

clip art flower potWell, with the frost now clipping the container plants, it’s probably time to tidy them up for winter. As many of us have observed, Sheila KM displays her award-winning containers to optimum effect. Let’s listen in as she describes her experiences dabbling in this unique gardening specialty.

“I started using pots to provide a barrier to keep people from inadvertently stepping off our patio. However, I may have also been influenced by my mother who always had pots on the doorsteps and lining the driveway, and I always enjoyed them.

“When we moved to Chester, I started planting in pots because I didn’t know anything about gardening. However, I could stick plants in pots and watch them grow. When I went to the nursery, the many beautiful plants were hard to resist.  I discovered that you don’t have to worry quite so much about bugs with pots. As well, I like putting different combinations of plants together and seeing what works colour-wise and condition-wise.   I can step onto my deck in the morning in summer and check my plants, pick off dead flowers, and just generally admire them.

“Potted plants can be fed more easily as you have to water them almost daily. I do feed with diluted fertilizer with every watering. That could be a down side, but I keep trying to devise a way to self-water for hot days or when I am not here. I am very fortunate to have kind friends to water when I am away.

“For a number of years, I’ve had between 50 and 60 containers, between hanging baskets, window boxes and pots [Can any of us beat that?]. I didn’t have quite so many this year, but, there is always next year!

“At the end of the season, I compost the container plants with their soil. When that compost is ready, I put it on my garden beds. In this way, I use fresh soil for the pots every year, and it is recycled to build up the soil in the beds, which do seem to expand just about every year.

“As for tips, I talk to fellow gardeners, read books and magazines, take pictures and just do it. I try to make notes about what works or not, but I could do better with that.”

Sheila finishes off with this comment, “As I am writing this, I realize again how much I enjoy my plants, gardening and the people I have met through it.” I know that our readers can easily reflect those sentiments as well. We continue to learn so much from each other. Yeah, garden clubs, right?

P.S. Before Sheila got down to business cleaning out her containers, she took the following pictures of her glorious late bloomers (mid-October). Enjoy.

This Autumn, Chester Gardeners Are Thinking Spring

This Autumn, Chester Gardeners Are Thinking Spring

The soft days of Indian Summer mean that we have not yet had a hard frost in Chester and the new beds of annuals in the Cove Garden, which were awash with colour all summer, were still blooming in the second week of October. Thus it seemed a trifle ungrateful to think of up-rooting them and consigning them to the compost. Still, like gardeners everywhere, members of Chester Garden Club track the seasons and they know that Mother Nature will not be denied. Jack Frost will find his way here eventually, and it’s much easier to dig in new plantings before the ground is frozen.  Therefore, to complete Phase 2 of the renovation of the Cove Garden, a dozen volunteers recently converged on the property to weed the beds, edge the paths, and lift all the annuals in order to replace them with more permanent plantings.

In sum, the club volunteers planted three pink azaleas (Northern Lights) in each triangular bed, along with a large number of day lilies (burgundy and apricot colours) and rudbeckias. These were under-planted with daffodils, yellow alyssum, ajuga and allium moly. The healthy ornamental cabbages were left in place as an attempt to appease the eye; their soft mauve spheres serve to outline the rather bare earth beds.  The small circular bed around the Ginko tree was filled with over 100 crocuses.  Another proposed bed, which will be developed under the ornamental fruit trees, will be done as part of the next phase.  Now, with all the plantings in place, there’s nothing to be done in this garden but wait for Spring.

Celebrating Earth Day

Celebrating Earth Day

Earth Day was first launched in the United States in 1970 as an environmental awareness event, and is now celebrated world-wide. By a happy coincidence, this year Earth Day fell on April 22nd, the day designated by Chester Garden Club for a spring clean-up of the two public gardens in our village. Answering the call for volunteers, about two dozen members showed up and contributed  their gardening skills in service to the environment in this one small corner of the globe.

The following gallery reflects the morning’s activities, which included spreading mulch, pruning and weeding at the beds in the Cove Garden and Parade Square, as well as socializing at a luncheon that followed, where all hands were offered delicious home-made squash soup and other treats. The photos were taken by Jocelyn and Joan. Unfortunately, Joan wasn’t able to maintain the chronological sequence of shots when creating the gallery  so, enjoy the images as a media melange.

Earth Day Canada is a national environmental charity founded in 1990, with the aim of fostering and celebrating environmental respect, action and behaviour change that lessens our impact on the earth.  Members of the Chester Garden Club joined over 1 billion people in over 170 countries by staging their clean-up on April 22nd.  Not all the club’s volunteers could be rounded up for the photo below but their work was much appreciated.


Assorted Views on an Obsession – Gardening

Assorted Views on an Obsession – Gardening

rock wall with cotoneaster
What treasures lie hidden beyond this sturdy wall?

Early March finds many gardeners beginning to create visions of the splendid displays they hope to achieve in this year’s garden. Of course, there are some who take a different approach to planning a garden. As syndicated humorist Dave Barry puts it: ” Your first job is to prepare the soil. The best tool for this is your neighbor’s garden tiller. If your neighbor does not own a garden tiller, suggest that he buy one.”

snow-topped holly bushes
Spring snow on holly looks like melted marshmallows

Obsession may not be too strong a term to describe the fervor of these folk who, fed up with looking out at snow-covered shrubs, curl up with their seed catalogues and dream of what could be.  In the thrall of  lavishly illustrated garden books, they somehow repress memories of the extent of work required last year. But, as Lou Erickson has noted: “Gardening requires lots of water — most of it in the form of perspiration.”

Heather and Myra weeding Parade Square
Is that a weed I see before me?

” No garden is without its weeds,”  observed Thomas Fuller, and a throng of other gardeners concur!

Day lilies engulfed in purple vetch
Day lilies struggle as purple vetch rules!

Another observation that rings true is: “A garden is never so good as it will be next year”; this, from Thomas Cooper, a wise man who obviously speaks from experience.  Of course there’s also the familiar refrain, “you should have seen it last week,” (anonymous, but widely quoted). Then there’s the perennially perceptive adage, “God made rainy days so  gardeners could get the housework done,” by another old favourite – Author Unknown.

violets spilling over pond rocks
Native violets and strawberries creep to the edge of a pond

But the most reliable of all these observations,  corroborated by years of personal experience is:  “Despite the gardener’s best intentions, Nature will improvise. “ – Michael P. Garafalo

carpet of oregano around stone bench
A sky-blue carpet swarms over a tiny patio
Azalea (flame) with Spirea (Bridal wreath) and hardy geraniums
A young Azalea is overwhelmed by a heavy branch of Spirea, and surrounded other volunteers: cranesbills, violets and even a rogue maple.

Looking into the near future, Garden Club members are reminded that the aptly-named Iris Burke will be guest speaker on March 18 to help guide us in our planning for this year’s gardening.

Preparing Your Garden for Winter

Preparing Your Garden for Winter

A tumble of pumpkins

October’s pumpkins and coloured leaves mean that Chester gardeners, however reluctantly, must say farewell to summer and begin to prepare their gardens for winter’s onslaught, especially for our region’s common freeze and thaw cycles.  At a recent meeting of the Chester Garden Club, Rosmarie Lohnes passed on some tips to help local gardeners maintain healthy gardens through the off-season.

Her first tip included the benefit of  dividing perennials at this time of year because, when many leaves have fallen, it is easier to see the bones of the  garden and plan any changes in the placement of plants.

Woodland colours
Sedum “Autumn Joy”

Weeding in the fall also provides a good
opportunity to get down close to the ground and examine plants for disease or damage that may need remedial action.

Rosmarie recommended natural plant-based fertilizers like diluted manure  or seaweed tea for fall feeding, especially for plants that have been divided and moved. She noted that synthetic fertilizers and fish emulsions should not to be used at this time of year because they would stimulate above-ground growth rather than feed the roots.

Rosmarie Lohnes of Helping Nature Heal

 Mulching is an important part of winter preparation because climate changes in recent years have resulted in a lack of snow cover that used to provide a good layer of insulation.   Along the south shore of Nova Scotia, winter now brings repeated cycles of freezing and thawing and, in the winter, the lower angle of the sun means that its rays can hit the ground under what would have been summer’s leafy barrier.  This constant changing of ground temperature can result in a plant’s being heaved up out of the ground.  Despite the chilly air that retards a plant’s growth, its roots remain active (absorbing water and nutrients) until the temperature falls below about 7 ° C, so if any roots have been heaved out of the ground by the freeze-thaw cycle they are vulnerable to dying off.  A thick layer of mulch, such as hay or leaves anchored with brush (evergreen cuttings), provides good protection against this damaging cycle.

October is also a good time to prune both shrubs and any dead stalks on perennials. Woody stalks should be cut back only to the rosette.  One simple rule of thumb Rosmarie passed on was that any plant that will be “mushy” in the spring can be cut back now.  Ever the keen recycler, Rosmarie suggested that all old stalks and leaves be chopped up and sprinkled on garden beds,  where they will disintegrate over the winter, gradually being absorbed as nourishment for the soil, or that they be added to a compost. Some old stalks can be left to provide seeds for the birds or just simple eye appeal to the garden.

Fluffy seed heads of fountain grass wave in the breeze

As for shrubs, another rule of thumb for fall pruning is not to prune any branch that is larger than your finger. If the plant is not dormant, it is advisable to wait until spring to prune any branch larger than your wrist in order to prevent “bleeding” from the cuts.

Despite the advent of cooler weather, some plants continue to defy Mother Nature and are still producing blooms. The next two shots from Myra’s garden illustrate the hardiness of some of the Gaillardias.  Although the fall blooms lack the lushness of those in the  warmer months, they are still an attractive asset to her garden.

Gaillardia grandiflorum Goblin in July 2012
The same Gaillardia plants on October 15

In contrast to the survival of those Gaillardias, tender annuals like New Guinea Impatiens and  nasturtiums have been touched by a light frost in some areas. The main  colour in many gardens is found in yellowing foliage, ripened apples, and crimson berries like those on these cotoneasters.

Cotoneaster berries