When I first ventured into vegetable gardening I was guided by books. Each step felt tenuous, like treading in the dark. My guide was a carefully drawn plan, each square foot measured, each seed accounted for.  With time I relaxed.  I learned that seeds grow and that I only need to provide water and shelter.

A few years have passed and now what joy! Borage, calendula, dill, sorrel and chives return on their own to resculpt the landscape. This spring, rabbits devoured the first shoots of sunflowers and greens…so I raised the height of the wire fence, used a large removeable barrel to block the entrance, and planted more seeds.  I still make annual plans—plant families rotate from year to year and companions are placed side by side.  Beyond my winter dreaming the real garden emerges in a flow of call and response.

Even with a plan

the path ahead is hidden

mystery unfolds

Foreground left to right: flowering cilantro, yellow calendula, and winter squash vine; behind is a removeable barrel blocking the opening in the chicken wire fence


Behind the barrel gate

cilantro blooms 

squash vines creep


In response to Suzanne’s Ontheroad prompt “Step by Step” based on this quote from Monkey King 2:

You don’t find the path, you make it step by step

and this haiku of Basho:

In the wintry gust

I wander, like Chikusai

the comic poet.
 – from “Matsuo Bashō: The Poetic Spirit, Sabi, and Lightness,” by Makoto Uedo

©2017 Ontheland



End of July Vegetable Garden Visit

Another summer month has come to an end and it’s time for a garden visit.  On the down side, July brought bug bites, hot scorching sun and drought conditions.  We’ve had only a few scanty showers.  The sight of drooping plants, as shown below, disturbs me but this shot also shows the cucumber vines climbing (a positive sight):


The biggest disappointment this month was animal nibbling by a skunk, rabbit, fisher or other mammal.  For the first time my peppers have been eaten…they bit the lower ends off! Onion greens were also taken, as were the tops of several milkweed plants!  The solutions?  First, I put up enclosures to discourage sampling.  I have a few peppers left and hope a few will ripen to red.  This shot shows the pepper plants with extra protection:


My second solution is putting out food offerings to keep the critters fed and less interested in my crops.  I have put out corn, carrots, and discount zucchini from the store.   This shot shows a chomped off milkweed plant and a nibbled zucchini offering.


Thankfully there have been peas, beans, spinach, cucumber and zucchini to pick and a wonderful garlic harvest.  And I have a hose that delivers water so the garden hasn’t fried to a crisp like the rest of the world.

Pole beans
Zucchini: the stems are prickly
Cucumber (notice the prickles on the hanging cucumber)
Heirloom spinach with a wild mint plant in foreground.
Red onions, struggling this year, but surviving
Winter acorn squash flowers

By mid-July I dug up all the garlic—not an easy task as the ground was hard.  Fresh garlic is attractive (especially when it’s your first garlic harvest):



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Time to grow—Haiku

Zucchini plant and beyond---July 11, 2016

July thunderstorms

electric rain and sunshine

all they need to grow

The gigantic leaves in the foreground are summer squash (zucchini) leaves.  Watering by hose is incomparable to the stimulating impact of rain—and when coupled with thunder and lightning, plants take off.  This haiku is in response to Ronovan Writes Haiku Challenge #105, ‘Time’ and ‘Grow’.

©2016, all rights reserved by ontheland.wordpress.com

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 ontheland.wordpress.com



Garden sage in bloom

In response to the Daily Post Photo Challenge ‘Partners’.

When I planted garden sage, I was adding to my collection of cooking herbs.  I must admit, I also dreamed of making smudge sticks, but later learned that the varieties of sage used for ceremonial burning are quite different….and it is not pleasant nor healthy to burn garden sage!  I tried a few locations, and finally found one where sage would grow happily.  In fact they took over…this is the third year now and they are a thriving community, bushy and close, sending up multiple spikes of purple flowers.


This second photo gives a somewhat closer view of the flowers, sharing their stems with many others.


Plants love to congregate.  It never ceases to amaze me how, when left to their own devices, plants will grow next to and under each other.  Sometimes called weeds, they could be thought of as companions, depending on your perspective at the moment.  The main neighbor shown here is a dogwood bush, visited by spittle bugs, which, I am told, will not damage the plant.  And finally, the most interesting part of this photo for me is the surprise collection of white sage flowers!


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Garlic scapes curl

This is my first year successfully growing garlic plants (second attempt) and I am excited.  When I say ‘successful’, I mean that I have large garlic plants growing out back–the ultimate success will be garlic bulbs at harvest time.

I have just learned that garlic plants send flower buds out on round stocks that curl and spiral. They’re called ‘scapes’.  They can be snapped off and eaten–in fact you want to remove them to promote the growth of the bulbous roots.  I have a small container of scapes in the fridge ready to be  used like garlic in summer salads and stir fries.

It struck me that these curling scapes might be of interest to those taking photos of curves for this week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge.  My first picture shows what a scape looks like when snapped off the plant.  The second photo shows two scapes curling beside each other.

Trimmed garlic scape
Garlic scapes demonstrating synchronized curves

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End of May garden visit

Welcome to my vegetable garden.  Last year I posted photos at the end of each month and found the process quite rewarding.  It’s amazing to see the changes every 30 days. For a slideshow method of viewing just click on a photo; captions pop up when  you hover over the bottom of a photo.  I close with a haiku after the photo gallery.

Bare teepee trellis,

hope soars above barren earth,

buried seeds awake.

©2016, All rights reserved by Ontheland.wordpress.com

Milkweed Summer and Fall Photos

Yesterday I featured the Monarch butterfly and its relationship to the milkweed plant. Today, I would like to share a series of milkweed pictures that I took  from June to October of this year. The plant is beautiful, featuring broad strong leaves with a reddish vein going up the centre,  aromatic pink flower clusters, slender green textured pods that turn brown and crack, revealing silky white filaments attached to brown teardrop seeds.   All of this is documented in the photos below, but first I would like to indulge in a few words about milkweed and its ecology.

The milkweed genus, Asclepias, is named after the Greek God of healing, Asclepius, because of the healing properties of its milky sap.  The sap is also toxic and is eaten by some animals, such as the monarch caterpillar, to ward off predators.  Milkweed is not only propagated in the wind by white floss; it also multiplies by sending out underground rhizomes which sprout new plants (that’s why I have several plants growing next to each other).  If you think of these plants as ‘weeds’, this could be a nuisance, but if you have embraced them as friends, this is excellent news.

Milkweed is a friend to many insects and plants. Some insects are completely dependent on milkweed as a food source. These would include monarch caterpillars, milkweed bugs, and milkweed leaf beetles.  For an excellent photo of orange milkweed bugs, visit  PrairieChat’s ‘Taste of Minnesota Fall’ photo collection. Milkweed nectar is sipped by butterflies, native bees, and wasps; and many animals, such as spiders, small birds, and mice use the plant as shelter. For more ecology details check out this milkweed profile.

I would like to thank Sylvain Landry of Sylvain-Landry.com,  for the added incentive to publish this collection of photos, offered by his  SL-Week 13: Ecology photo challenge, which closes in a few days.

Milkweed Flowers, June 2015
Milkweed Flowers, June 2015
Milkweed Pods, August 13, 2015
Milkweed Pods, August 13, 2015
Milkweed pods, September 15, 2015
Milkweed pods, September 15, 2015
Mature Milkweed Pod, October 2015
Mature Milkweed Pod, October 2015
Milkweed Blowing in the Wind, October 2015
Milkweed Blowing in the Wind, October 2015

‘Slowly the pod would open, letting fly

Transparent chains of pearls across the sky.’

From The Milkweed Pod  by Elizabeth Bohm.

Empty Milkweed Pod, October 2015
Empty Milkweed Pod, October 2015
Milkweed seeds, October 2015
Milkweed seeds, October 2015

Milkweed seeds lying on garden soil, as stars in a night sky, offering hope of fresh growth next year.

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Milkweeds Star in Monarch Butterfly Story–Photos, Prose & Poem

Each year has brought more milkweeds to my yard. At first, one or two appeared in the driveway.  Last year, one or two grew behind the garden in front of the compost bin. This year, by the miracle of reseeding, a cluster grew.

Milkweed Garden, July 6, 2015
Milkweed Garden, July 6, 2015

This was originally a story about milkweed plants, but then I realized that it’s impossible to talk about milkweeds without mentioning the Monarch Butterfly. Most nature lovers will know that a few years ago alarm bells were sounded, as scientists realized that North American populations of monarch butterflies were drastically diminishing.  Why? They pointed to a few causes:  a lower supply of the monarch caterpillar’s only sustenance: milkweed;  neonic pesticides interfering with caterpillar development; and deforestation of the adult butterflies’ southern migratory destination, Mexico.

Monarch Caterpillar on Milkweed Leaf--CCO Public Domain
Monarch Caterpillar on Milkweed Leaf–CCO Public Domain

From this awareness, environmental organizations urged people to grow Milkweeds as they had been banished from roadways and killed off by herbicides in farmer fields.  This is how I came to protect wild milkweeds near my home.  It is a plant that fascinated me as a child, especially the milky substance that oozed out when you cracked a leaf and the silky threads bursting from the crispy pods in autumn.  This summer, I grew to enjoy milkweed flowers. With them beside me every day in the garden, I was able to appreciate their sweet scent.

Milkweed Flowers, June 2015
Milkweed Flowers, June 2015

Monarch butterfly caterpillars can only eat milkweed leaves. This limited dietary regime, consisting of only one type of food, is called ‘monophagy’.  Monarchs are brush-footed butterflies (Nymphalidae family) belonging to the subfamily of Milkweed butterflies (Danainae subfamily).  There are about 300 species of Milkweed butterflies worldwide, in tropical Africa, Asia, Australia, and North America.  

Here in poetic form is a monarch life story, told in Southern Canada, where third or fourth generation monarchs from down south arrive in early summer.

In summer,
dancing Monarchs mate
great grandparent memories
of nesting
under a brighter sun,
in warmer climes.

Orange brush foot union consummated,
the queen's destiny unfolds
her purpose known, yet unknown,
she searches
for a perfect bed,
only the finest of milkweed leaves
for her precious pearls.
Carefully she lays
her eggs here and there,
resting under many a milkweed leaf.
Wait,wait, and then they hatch 
baby caterpillars,
larvae programmed 
to mature, molt, and
sport yellow black stripes,
they are vegans 
born to nibble
on their cradle, 
never to stray, 
sworn to monophagy,
forever loyal, 
progeny of Monarchs.

And then,
the feast is over
it's time to weave
a silky chrysalis,
a place for 

A mysterious transformation.

A butterfly awakes,

Hangs out to dry,

Stretches fresh wings,

And flies away. 

Monarch Butterfly--CCO Public Domain
Monarch Butterfly–CCO Public Domain


Milkweed is a Monarch’s Best Defence, David Suzuki Foundation

The King of Butterflies–The Monarch Butterfly, Learnaboutnature.com


Garden Bugs of Ontario,  by Leslie P. Foster, Ken Fry, and Doug Macaulay

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