How to get a green thumb

Chances are we know more about our respective gardens than we care to admit

Ants eat sugars secreted from the extra-floral nectaries on peonies. Shake your blossoms before bringing them inside

Ants eat sugars secreted from the extra-floral nectaries on peonies. Shake your blossoms before bringing them inside

I hate telling people what to do. Or rather, I hate myself for telling people what to do, which puts me in a tricky place as garden columnist, because I feel as if I’m meant to prescribe, issue directives, offer advice, and yet when it comes to gardening, I’m a firm believer in cultivating intuition.

Chances are we both know more about our respective gardens than either of us care to admit. Our inadequacies, we itemize. Apologies, abound.

Here’s what I know, right now, as I sit typing: I know the slugs are stirring. It’s dusk and they are crawling up the seedling trays in my poly-tunnel, sliming their way to an evening’s feast.

The penstemons I moved today are most likely in shock: I must remember to water them tomorrow. The garlic scapes need to be picked to drive the plant’s energy into the bulb. The peonies have yet to be corralled despite being swollen in bud, and the roses need protection because the bamboo/netting combo I rigged up is a pathetic excuse for a barricade and the deer like David Austin’s scented roses as much as I do.

Dandelions are ballooning disastrously beside the compost, whilst the cursed Alstromeria is sending its brittle fingers into every impossible corner of the border. I should have watered the south-facing edge of my driveway, where I’ve planted some perennial Verbena which will need coddling before enduring summer’s drought.

I’m at my desk and I know all of this. Maybe you’re standing in the kitchen, agreeing yes, there’s always a list, a great hierarchy of needs. Look out the window at your garden: It can be hard to see the forest for the trees.

Still, every time you look, you learn. Success can come from simply paying attention.

Case in point: the other day I noticed the new leaves of my Belle de Boskoop apple had curled. I’d been seeding French beans, but stretched open a reluctant apple leaf and found an aphid colony, happily being nurtured by ants (a fascinating instance of mutualism, whereby the ants eat the excreted honeydew from the aphids and assist with aphid survival). My instinct was to smoosh the aphids, and before long I was on the hunt, peeling back leaves, grabbing soap spray, settling in for the kill. A half an hour passed before I went back to the beans.

Perhaps, you putter about the garden, trimming here and weeding there. That time you spend, close up and personal with your plants and your soil, allows you to really see, to understand what needs to be done.

 

 

 

Christin Geall teaches creative nonfiction at the University of Victoria and is an avid Oak Bay gardener.

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Metchosin Coun. Kyara Kahakauwila is stepping down as deputy mayor following controversy over her decision to travel to Mexico in December. (Black Press Media file photo)
Councillor steps down as deputy mayor of Metchosin after controversial trip to Mexico

Mayor hopeful mediation will help council get back to the business of community

Victoria police are warning people of a continued rise in cybercrime. (AP Photo/Jenny Kane)
Victoria police warn of rising cybercrime called spear phishing

Fraudsters continue to trick people out of large sums of money

Saanich has awarded the tender for a youth bike skills park planned for the lot next to the George Tripp BC Hydro Substation off Lochside Drive to Bike Track Ltd. for $242,000. (Black Press Media file photo)
Saanich selects company to build youth bike skills track at Tripp Station Park

More than $240,000 allotted for Bike Track Ltd. to design bike park

The purchase of 27 acres in the Millstream Creek watershed by The Land Conservancy and other partners will protect a sensitive ecosystem in the Highlands. (Photo contributed by The Land Conservancy)
Provincial land conservancy lays out $600,000 for Highlands property

Anonymous donor helps buy purchased 11.1 hectares of Coastal Douglas-fir ecosystem

Colin Springford doing what he loved best, tending to his garden. (Linda Matteson photo)
Longtime farmer Colin Springford dies at age 75

‘He will be deeply missed, always loved and never forgotten’

A woman writes a message on a memorial mural wall by street artist James “Smokey Devil” Hardy during a memorial to remember victims of illicit drug overdose deaths on International Overdose Awareness Day, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, on Monday, August 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. paramedics respond to record-breaking number of overdose calls in 2020

On the front lines, COVID-19 has not only led to more calls, but increased the complexity

Throughout December, RCMP conducted CounterAttack road checks as police worked to keep roads free of impaired drivers. (BLACK PRESS file photo)
From the “You can’t make this stuff up” file – stories from the BC CounterAttack campaign

Amusing, yes, but a reminder impaired driving affects ability to drive and to make good decisions

(Thesendboys/Instagram)
Video of man doing backflip off Vancouver bridge draws police condemnation

Group says in Instagram story that they ‘don’t do it for the clout’

The RCMP are reminding drivers to find alternative ways home if they have consumed anything that impairs their ability to drive. (Black Press file photo)
Impaired Island driver flees road check twice on the same night

The officer issued the driver numerous violation tickets, and a four-month driving suspension

Inspection of bridge crossing on a B.C. forest service road. (B.C. Forest Practices Board)
B.C. falling behind in maintenance of forest service roads

Auditor finds nearly half of bridges overdue for repair

(Black Press Media files)
Woman steals bottles of wine after brandishing stun baton in New Westminster

Police say the female suspect was wearing a beige trench coat with fur lining

Toronto’s Mass Vaccination Clinic is shown on Sunday January 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Canadian malls, conference centres, hotels offer up space for COVID vaccination centres

Commercial real estate association REALPAC said that a similar initiative was seeing success in the U.K.

Kamala Harris and Joe Biden are sworn into office on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Saul Loeb/Pool Photo via AP)
Joe Biden has been sworn in as the 46th president of the United States

About 25,000 National Guard members have been dispatched to Washington

The objectives of the Vancouver Island Down Syndrome Society include peer support for parents and caregivers, as well as developing support services, projects, educational and employment opportunities for people with Down Syndrome. Photo supplied.
Vancouver Island Down Syndrome Society offers support for families in the community

New non-profit seeking directors in cities across Vancouver Island

Most Read