As our close friends and family know, Gary & I love our box gardens. We spend a lot of time puttering in the garden and find it therapeutic, relaxing and very rewarding (mostly)!
Our box gardens are awesome this year and I’m so excited! Last year, I was equally as excited to plant our box gardens in the spring, however soon into the growing season, the cool weather and deluge of rain quickly transformed our garden into a sad reflection of the year before. And, to add to the challenges, we were inundated with cucumber beetles. Given that we are organic gardeners, we resorted to picking the beetles by hand and spraying them with homemade concoctions. This helped, but certainly did not resolve the problem and our crop certainly suffered their rampage. Needless to say, the yield was disappointing. But, that was then and this is a whole new growing season.
We planted a bit later this year as our busy schedules prevented us from getting to our beloved garden sooner. This year we decided to be pro-active. We introduced new soil, organic manure (sheep and cow), and some additional peat moss. We also introduced beneficial nematodes to our soil and are we ever glad that we did! Following last year’s disappointment, we spoke with a number of professional and seasoned gardeners regarding the organic options that we had for ridding our garden of the very brazen cucumber beetle, and quickly learned that we had limited options. One option, however thought to be marginally beneficial with these destructive beetles was the beneficial nematodes. I sprayed, and sprayed, and sprayed (it took about an hour to disperse the whole solution). And then we planted.
Here’s what we planted this year: beans, peas, cucumbers, broccoli, squash (spaghetti & acorn), cabbage, red onions, green onions, beets, carrots, radishes, jalapenos, green peppers, tomatoes, spinach, kale and several types of lettuce, and herbs.
So far, I’m happy to report that our garden is fabulous! We were concerned that with all of the rain early in the season, our crop would suffer, but so far this is not the case. And, fingers crossed – the only foreigners in the garden so far this year have been the garter snakes and leopard frogs (and they are huge this year!).
To date, our lettuce crop has been amazing, although it is tricky to stay ahead of it all. We are now eating lettuce for breakfast, lunch and dinner – literally! For breakfast, I have started to juice the lettuce and add it our morning smoothies. For lunch, I have been using the lettuce to make wraps and have even learned how to make lettuce soup! For dinner, we have been enjoying a large organic salad topped with flavoured olive oil and balsamic vinegars purchased from Attilio’s (www.attiliosoliveoil.com) at the Parry Sound market that runs from 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. every Tuesday in the summer. We have enjoyed this with a fabulous wine that Jennifer Vipond, Sommelier, Bruce Wine Bar and The Phillips Team Cottage Real Estate magazine chose – Conundrum LCBO#694653 (see our home page for a copy of our magazine & summer wine picks). We liked it so much that our local marina, Moon River Marina is keeping it on the shelf this summer!
Well, I’m going to wrap up this blog for today. The sun is shining and my garden is calling. I think that we will add some fresh beets and peas to our meal this evening. Happy cottage gardening everyone!
Lettuce Soup Recipe
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup sliced onion
1 teaspoon garlic
1 tablespoon chopped parsley leaves, plus more for garnishing
1 tablespoon chopped chives, plus more for garnishing
1 tablespoon tarragon leaves, plus more for garnishing
2 heads lettuce
3 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup of cream (I use 5%, but you can use heavy cream)
squeeze of lemon to flavour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Heat olive oil over medium-low heat in a large saucepan. When hot, add the onions and garlic and cook until the onion is translucent (about 3-4 mins). Add the parsley, chives, tarragon and lettuce and stir until the lettuce is completely wilted (about 3 mins). Add the chicken stock and simmer uncovered for about 20 minutes. When ready to serve, process the soup in batches, taking care since the soup is hot, then return it to a clean saucepan. Add a squeeze of lemon (if desired), and stir in the cream, salt and pepper. Simmer for another 5 minutes or until heated through. Adjust seasoning as you like. Serve immediately and garnish with fresh herbs and perhaps a dollop of soft goats cheese. Enjoy!