The people who rented the community garden next to our plot have completely given up.
In early spring, looking across the fence into their neat rows of plants, I was a Green (with envy) Thumb, but not anymore.
Back then, their sturdy and tall bell pepper bushes, which had already passed the flowering stage, made our hot pepper plants look like scrawny runts.
Their tomato plants were promising and already bearing green fruit, while the stalks and leaves of ours were turning a funny deep purple color, signaling a lack of nutrients.
Their rows included corn. How cool was that?
But the pride of their garden, to me, was the most colorful and bountiful blueberry bush I’ve ever seen up close, planted just on the other side of the fence that divides our two plots.
I’ve heard that growers should always plant more than one blueberry bush, but the one they planted was flourishing alone.
During each garden visit, I could see clusters of blueberries ripe and ready to pick just on the other side of our beans.
How those berries escaped the birds, I’ll never know. Maybe the shiny tin pie plates we tied along our fence did their job to scare away the animals.
One day while I was picking lettuce in our garden, a plump, deep-blue berry dropped from the bush and rolled into our rows. The perfectly ripe fruit landed beside my muddy tennis shoe where I had squatted to pick our red lettuce.
At first, I ignored the berry and continued selecting from our leafy greens. I wasn’t sure if I could add the berry to my harvest bag or if I should return it to the neighbor’s garden. But how would I do that? I couldn’t put it back on the bush.
I moved down the row, away from the berry, and picked a few of the green lettuce leaves that belonged to me. I moved further away, to the last row of our garden where we planted onions and pulled a few to add to my decent harvest.
As I headed to the car, I detoured down the lettuce row and put the berry in my bag. When I got home I ate the fruit, and it was so good I didn’t want to eat my lettuce anymore.
As the weeks went by, I forgot about the neighbor’s garden and concentrated on my own Green Thumb side. Soon, we had the prettiest garden being farmed with healthy greens stealing the show. Our spot became known as the “lettuce garden,” and I forgot all about blueberries and corn. I was proud of The Green Thumb vegetables and how well our spot was managed.
I was surprised this week, after returning home from vacation, that the weeds had overtaken the neighbor’s growing area so much that I couldn’t distinguish the blueberry bush from the tall corn. The garden was one big jungle.
“All you can see is green, except for those two red bell peppers,” my youngest son said as we looked across our fence at the mess.
The peppers looked tempting to pick, and neither vegetable was going to spontaneously jump off the branches and roll into our garden.
But under current conditions, the only way I would go near those peppers would be if I were a bird because of my fear of snakes that might have found a home underneath all that overgrown grass.
I wanted to jump the fence and start pulling the weeds because underneath all that tangle were vegetable plants that could thrive with some care.
As I calculated what could be done to save the food, I realized that I’m becoming a true gardener. I care about plants and their survival.
But I’m still scared of snakes.