Sunday, June 6, 2010


Late each spring, as Brigitte girds herself for about the fifth round of serious garden work, I have to fetch her a wheel-barrow-full of fresh black dirt from that shaded, dark strip of land from behind our garage. We have a compost heap although “heap” isn’t the right word. It is a rectangular frame of wood I’d covered with wire mesh when first I made it, oh, a decade or so ago. Here we dump our vegetable wastes and empty the mower’s grass bag. The rack has a great capacity to digest such waste. Its level rises and then slowly sinks again as rot and decay turn lower layers grayish-yellow and then black with rain and time. Once every year or so, this time of year, I dig a big hole in the back to fill the barrow. The new dirt then serves to fill the pots and to enrich our flower-beds. I fill the hole again from the compost heap, lifting oddly shaped pitch-forks full of stuff from its upper layer and burying them again out back. I mark the spot with a brick. The stuff will lay there for three years and, in the process, turn into black dirt again.

Three years ago we had a fun surprise. Some pumpkins seeds we had discarded in the wake of Halloween had managed to sprout deep inside the compost, looked through the wire mesh and then proliferated from that spot out- and downward so that a gigantic pumpkin vine eventually grew right on the concrete and produced two lovely pumpkins once again. This happened again the following year and—this spring—we wondered: would the pumpkin be back? Well it is back—but just beginning. The picture shows its green hopes sticking out, past the wire. Those of you who’re interested in the deepest levels of civilization may rest assured. I shall report on the Pumpkin’s Progress in the future with words and pictures.

Meanwhile, for the third year in a row, I’ve left the bottom layer of the compost heap entirely undisturbed lest I interfere with the life of one splendid specimen of Cucurbita pepo. Long live the pumpkin!


  1. The wait is over now that the tiny leaves have appeared again this year. The vines will grow and stretch for ten feet or more as the summer goes on. Glorious, huge blossoms will appear and eventually the fruit will grow too. Last year two small pumpkins, without the help of any seeming soil, grew on the concrete of the yard. By October or November I cut them and offered them to our friends the birds and the squirrels as a sort of thanksgiving for their steadfast work of keeping our plants free of pests throughout the summer... and all in an environmentally sound way.

  2. I love this and the comments!


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