Straw, dirt, logs and twigs

careful mounds packed for decay,

this gardener’s dream:

black earth mountain richness feeds

a riot of spring flowers.

©2016 ontheland

Hugelkultur is a method of creating a new garden bed by layering logs, branches and twigs and covering them with alternating layers of organic materials such as  leaves, straw, compost, soil, and so on.  Digging in my yard is next to impossible as the topsoil is thin and there is an abundance of clay and rock. So this fall I constructed my first ‘hugel’ mound.   I placed straw and soil on top of  branches from a huge pile of brush left out back by previous inhabitants.  In spring I’ll add composted manure, liberally sprinkle with seeds, and cross my fingers. For more info and illustrations, visit this Permaculture magazine article.

Tanka poem in response to Carpe Diem Tanka Splendor #27: decay

End of June Vegetable Garden Visit

Welcome to the second 2016 visit to my vegetable garden—all photos were taken in the last days of June.  I can’t show every angle so I select shots that I think may be of interest.  June was a dry month and I thought growth was slow.  Yet when I compared pictures from this time last year, I discovered that some parts of the garden are farther along.  I need patience and gained perspective.

I start with the beans.  The tall bamboo poles (on my blog masthead) are a statement of growth.  I love how pole bean vines wind upwards.


The zucchini plant is growing rapidly.  In the bottom left corner: yellow dill umbrella flowers and a single calendula flower bloom.  In the upper right corner: bean plants.


Here is a closeup of a calendula flower between the garlic plants.  About five years ago, I planted dill and calendula—they have self-seeded ever since.


The cucumber plants are growing:


Peppers are starting to show.  They emerge from tiny star flowers.

Pepper flower


I harvested three beets today.

Peas emerge from delicate white flowers.  They are flourishing and will be finished soon.


Vegetables that didn’t make it to this photo post are winter squash, onions, spinach, lettuce, and broccoli (a story in itself).  Thanks for visiting!

©2016, all rights reserved by



Roll in the mud and track it into the house–#Writers Quote Wednesday, #BeWoW

As snow fell outside, I browsed The Napanee Beaver, a local paper.  This headline caught my eye: ‘My top 5 garden resolutions’.   It’s  pleasant to think about gardening while I wait for the storm to end–and I imagine that, as I write, some of my readers may be out in greenery.   Mark Cullen’s resolutions have a spiritual leaning, titled: ‘Think’, ‘Peace’, ‘Love’, ‘Nature’, and ‘Quiet’.  These words captured me the most:


Nature is everywhere.  It is in the air that we breathe and every sinew of our bodies.  We are a part of nature and a product of it. Think about that next time you are tempted to yell at the kids for bringing mud into the house.

At this time of year I can be almost nostalgic about tracking mud in–no kids here, but between me, my partner, and the dogs, we track in enough muck.  Sure, I try to leave my shoes outside the door, but dirt gets in anyways–and then I mop it up.   The free spirit and breath of spring attract me to Mark Cullen’s words.  Mark Cullen is a well-known Canadian gardening guru who appears on TV and radio and  authors a  gardening  website.

Inspired by thoughts of mud, I found another quote, this one by Carl Sandburg.  It speaks for itself I believe:


There is an eagle in me that wants to soar, and there is a hippopotamus in me that wants to wallow in the mud.

Carl Sandburg was an American author and poet living from 1878 to 1967; winner of three Pulitzer prizes for works of poetry and his biography of Abraham Lincoln.  I tried to find out where and when he said these words, but was not successful.

This post is in response to Writer’s Quote Wednesday, hosted by Colleen Chesebro of Silver Threading and Be Writing on Wednesday (BeWoW) hosted by Ronovan Hester of Ronovan Writes.  Please visit these sites for more quotes and reflective writing.


On a Crescent Moon–Ronovan’s Weekly Haiku Challenge #67


This evening I stayed out in the garden after the sun went down, with a crescent moon above.  I was warm enough in the chilly weather with a cozy jacket, hat, and work gloves on; motivated to keep working with the knowledge that winter is fast approaching and that clearing needs to be done.  Clearing involves pulling up plants and cutting  them up for the compost bin; taking down the trellis and bamboo poles; emptying soil from containers, and so on.

I enjoyed being outdoors tonight. The temperature was nice and cool for working and there were no pesky mosquitoes.  I was listening to music on my iPhone as I worked.  A purist might wonder why I didn’t tune in to the sounds of nature, but it was a quiet night and my 21st century soul needed/wanted some music.

I decided to write a haiku for Ronovan’s Weekly Challenge, based on this evening’s activity, and stopped putting things away in the garage to type a few ideas into a notes app.  The prompt words that I had to keep in mind are “Cheer” and “Call”.


On a crescent moon, winter calls, gardener clears,

Winter calls, gardener clears, calmed in music’s cheer.

For full challenge details and links to other responses, please visit Ronovan Writes

©2015, All rights reserved by

End of Summer Vegetable Garden Visit 2015

This is my vegetable garden’s 5th year–just as I thought I was catching on–mother nature supplied a new set of weather conditions. Every year I have tried to get seeds and transplants into the ground earlier, but this year I held back due to cold nights extending into June.  I am not a great weather historian and don’t keep daily notes, but after the cold I recall a long wet spell followed by full force heat.  And now, after a stretch of unusual coolness, we are in the middle of hot, foggy, humidity.

Fortunately I grow for only two people.  So although the amount of some crops, such as zucchini and cucumber, was under average, I  have supplies in the refrigerator and have made a few batches of both sweet and savoury zucchini breads, with probably more to come.  I don’t do preserves so there is no disappointment there–I was thinking of exploring community donations, but that won’t happen this year.

The garden started to mature by late mid-August.  The pictures I show below were all taken after the 20th; probably half were snapped on the 31st.

Bell peppers
Bell peppers

The bell peppers plants were more leafy than usual this year and a bit nibbled by the baby grasshoppers–which by the way, have multiplied and matured,  and are currently hopping and flying all over the place.  It’s the year of the grasshopper.  These peppers can ripen into red peppers, but it may take a while.  I harvested a nice collection last year, but I am not sure I will this year.  If a green pepper shows any signs of ‘age’ or  potential decay, I harvest it;  I already have quite a few in the fridge.

The milkweed are maturing:

Common Milkweed
Common Milkweed

I planted two winter squash plants and only one good size squash has survived to date. Let’s hope I harvest it at the optimum moment.  This one is on a vine that snuck in with the cherry tomato plants.  I’m glad I let it roam.

Nutter Butter Squash
Nutter Butter Squash

On August 31, I discovered two renegade zucchini.  No matter how closely I keep watch, they sometimes escape my notice and explode in size.  The biggest one of the two late bloomers below, was 14 inches long and weighed 3.25 pounds.

As plants start to dry out and stop producing, new shoots and flowers continue to appear– makes me think of how even in physical old age we can blossom and show signs of youth and creativity. The flower below is on an ‘ancient’ bean plant.

Late Fortex Bean Flower
Late Fortex Bean Flower

Yellow dill flower heads brown and produce seeds that may be harvested or left to scatter in the wind.  Dill plants can grow quite tall.  This year they averaged 5′ with the tallest one soaring to just under 6′.

Mature Dill Seed Head
Mature Dill Seed Head
Tall  Maturing Dill Plants
Tall Maturing Dill Plants

Coriander’s small white flowers become green seed balls, which mature to a brown color.  The leaves harvested before this plant flowers are known as ‘cilantro’. I regret that the green balls are not in sharp focus–I tried.

Green Coriander Seeds
Green Coriander Seeds

Fortunately I am the only member of my household who can eat raw tomatoes–so the low crop of ripe cherry tomatoes is not a tragedy.  The peak was on August 24 when I harvested 91.  The picture below was taken a few days before the ‘peak’.  If we have some  warm sunny days in September, I may find more of these golden fruits.

Blondkopfchen Cherry Tomatoes
Blondkopfchen Cherry Tomatoes

French Marigolds in a Vegetable Garden: ‘From every Angle’ Photo Challenge

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “From Every Angle.”

This week the WordPress weekly photo challenge invited us to photograph a stationary subject from different angles, for example from above, from below, from the left and from the right. As I browsed my camera shots  I realized that, though I often take multiple photos of a subject, my variations are usually subtle–aiming to display a variety of angles was to be an interesting exercise.

This evening I went out back and took some pictures of maturing wild ‘corn’ stalks and thistles–unfortunately I wasn’t very pleased with the results. I sauntered over to the vegetable garden to do my daily look around and selective watering.  While there, I realized that a particular patch of French Marigolds has become quite bushy. As  I have been harvesting vegetables and removing their remnants for the compost bin, the Marigolds have been blazing strong. Here are a few shots taken from different angles:





French marigolds — Tagetes Patula

Why Marigolds in a Vegetable Garden?

French marigolds, the flowers shown in my gallery, are thought to be the most effective kind of marigold for a vegetable garden. (Hawthorn Farm seed packet and SFGate Homeguide.)

Marigolds add colour and beauty to a vegetable garden, and  have other roles as well.  They are planted as helpful companions to attract beneficial hoverflies and repel  pests.  For example, it is thought that marigolds repel cabbage worms from cruciferous crops and that their root secretions kill harmful nematodes (microscopic root worms).  For their nematode killing properties they are often planted near tomato plants.

End of July Garden Visit

Over the last days of July I collected pictures of what is going on in my vegetable and herb garden:


The most recent shot, in the top left corner, gives an overview. You can see:

  • a  teepee bearing Fortex green beans. The lower left collage picture gives a closer look at bean plants with calendula flowers in the foreground.  If you look closely, you will be able to see beans hanging between the leaves, well camouflaged;
  • the apparently empty bamboo teepee in front is for Marketmore cucumber plants, not  visible in this shot, but shown in the collage photo at top right;
  • at front right of overview photo, a zucchini plant with huge floppy leaves (Costata Romanesco); yellow dill umbrellas tower behind;
  • at front left there are purple-blue borage plants and nearby,  yellow-flowered calendula;
  •  Sugar Daddy Snap Pea vines, growing on the trellis at the right, were finishing  this week with final  offerings.
  • the bottom right collage picture shows a yellow cherry tomato plant (Blondkopfchen) leaning against a spiral support. There are chive plants to the left.

In the collection of 10 photos below, travelling from top to bottom of each column, starting from the left:  winter squash plants (no flowers yet), a bowl of green beans, a tiny baby cucumber in the foreground, sorrel plant, spinach and swiss chard, red onions, baby green peppers, baby and mature basil plants, zucchinis very ready to  harvest, and cherry tomatoes.