The idea of having a vegetable garden at the cottage is very appealing to many of us. Not only are gardens wonderful for the obvious bounty that is possible, but also for the positive impact on one’s physical, mental and emotional well-being. However, the logistics can be a challenge for those who are not able to spend a significant amount of time at their recreational oasis. For many years, we dabbled in cottage gardening – flower boxes, some potted plants on the deck, a small bed of tomatoes and some herbs. It was fun on many levels, but I often arrived at the cottage only to find my tomatoes wilted, my herbs nibbled on by the neighbourhood critters, and my flowers desperately holding on.
With increased amounts of time spent in cottage country (ok, we are here from May until November), we have been able to invest more time and energy into our garden. A few years ago, we began to research box gardens as an alternative to traditional garden beds. We were very aware of the plethora of wildlife in our area and felt that the garden boxes would be most suited for the climate and environment of our Georgian Bay water access property. We began with two boxes that were 10 ft x 3 ft x 2ft high. This quickly resulted in the addition of two more garden boxes and a fence to stop the deer from enjoying a midnight feast.
Each year we mix in manure, peat moss, blood meal and new soil. We have decided to keep our garden organic, so we are very careful about the seeds that we plant and what we use to feed the plants and manage unwanted pests. Last year, our garden was amazing! The veggies grew well and there were relatively few invasive bugs. We did have a short battle with tomato hornworms, and found that the best way to control them was to diligently pick them off each day. This year, our battle has been with the relentless cucumber beetle. We have found that spraying the flowers and the beetles directly with a mixture of Blue Dawn and water has resulted in the most favourable outcome. Our garden however, is not what it was last year thanks to the beetles and the large quantity of rain we have received this season. But, we have learned from each growing season and the produce we have been getting is very much appreciated!