The Rockford Files

In the Garden

“How’s your garden doing this year?”  It’s a familiar question, as normal as the greeting that began the conversation and the goodbye that will end it.  I cannot start a conversation with my grandmother, or an aunt or uncle or cousin, without being asked the question within a minute or two—or, depending on the time of year, one of the related questions: “So, are you going to put out a garden this year?” and “How did your garden do?”

To the outside observer, the question might seem like idle chit-chat, the kind of thing you say when you don’t know what else to talk about—like asking about the weather.  But listen a little longer, and you realize that there’s more to it; the question is only the beginning of the conversation, because they each have gardens, too.  How many tomato plants did you put out?  What varieties of peppers?  The melons are doing well, but the squash failed early in the season.  It’s been a great year for okra.  You grow everything in raised beds, don’t you?

We talk about the weather, too, because it tells us something about the state of our gardens.  We’ve had too much rain; they haven’t had enough.  The hot, dry weather, ironically, has made for the best watermelons in years, because they grow like wildfire and send down amazing taproots.  The last frost...

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