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Mom and Dad's Northern Ontario Garden

My parents own some beautiful waterfront property in North Western Ontario and over the past few years they've been getting more and more involved with gardening. They can't avoid it actually. I'm certain it's genetic.

northern garden
dense garden

Being on the north edge of zone 3a in a region better known for lumber and pulp wood presents gardening challenges. They have lots of space where the sun can beat down from above, unobstructed all day long. But the ground tends to be rocky. Their growing season typically runs from the beginning of June to the beginning of September. By the time I see my first frost in Toronto, their lakes and rivers are frozen and the snow is falling.

One of their biggest challenges, I think, are pests. But not insects. For them it's the larger four legged kind. Deer roam quite freely through their property in search of food and safe haven. Some years the deer population is thinned out by packs of wolves who also roam nearby. But I think the most invasive pest their garden encounters is chipmunks. There's nothing chipmunks enjoy more than putting a bite into each ripe tomato they can find. Mice and voles are another problem, particularly for root crops. A little bit of fencing keeps the deer away but there's not much they can do about the smaller animals. Or the occasional bear that feels like ripping into the composter.

They don't grow anything too exotic. I convinced them to try ground cherries once and they managed to get quite a few but I don't think their plants grew as full as they could have. The season was a little too short, even for plants started indoors. They did manage to get some fruit from the bushes though, when the chipmunks weren't around. They were able to get lots of pumpkins off some plants I gave them one year. Pretty much everything they seed they are able to grow without much trouble. Tomatoes and peppers grow well for them. The summers are quite hot considering how far north they are but a little on the dry side. Since their property sits on the bank of a large river and they pump all their water from that river, they never have to worry about a water shortage or drought.


This past year they were growing carrots, onions, tomatoes, squash, peppers, cucumbers, kohlrabi, beets and chard. I'm sure I missed something. They also have a small patch of raspberries next to the garden. It too is fenced off but the fencing pulls away for easy berry retrieval. Their wilderness location does have one thing almost completely missing on my balcony: insects. Swarms and swarms of insects descend on their garden. The raspberry bushes buzz with bees. Some bugs are harmful to their garden plants but with so many insects and birds around, for every pest there always seems to be a predator keeping it in check.

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