Sheila's Note: I read this piece by Robert in one of his NotMilk daily e-zines. I was so impressed I wrote and asked if we could include it on our site. I love the pictures being painted by his words and I eagerly accepted the invitation to visit his garden to photograph, draw, then share with you, what's being described here. See Robert's Garden Photo/Drawings. Enjoy!

by Robert Cohen

My garden has taught me many things.

The feeling of frustration of waiting for seeds to sprout and plants to grow was an optical illusion due to my lack of perception, my inability to see. What happens above ground is important in middle-age, but unless a solid foundation is established, the plant will not be strong. Root systems establish themselves during this critical early growing period. Roots protect a plant by giving it a solid footing. They grow deep, to gather minerals and water. I could not see the silent growth, but the energies of the plant were dedicated to insure its own survival in the darkness.

My garden has taught me that plants communicate with each other too. I cannot listen to their perfumy language, but each hour I take note of growing tendrils from cantaloupe and pumpkin vines, winding their way around weeds and other plants, but never touching their own limbs. Sometimes the tendrils hover in mid air, a foot off the ground, approaching a pepper plant or carrot or bean. I give them direction, pointing the way in beautiful straight rows through basil and eggplant, which will be harvested and long gone before melons mature.

The lettuce grows faster than I can pick it, red leafs and green leafs and pieces of romaine that seem to morph from out of the surrounding mulch. Each evening, for the past five weeks, my family of five dines upon larger and larger salads. Soon the tomatoes will be ready. Three viney plants each of grape tomatoes, cherries, yellow, purple, beefsteak, plum, and ENORMOUS designer Jerseys.

Between the tomato plants rise sunflowers. Eighteen happy seven-foot tall yellow faces now turn to the sun as beacons. A bright red cardinal sits atop the fence, anticipating his feast as I anticipate the ripening of my tomatoes and white eggplant.

The zucchinis are now so plentiful, sitting erect within the large fronds, attached to large yellow flowers, which we've been feasting on each evening, rare delicacies of the homegrown variety. The butcher's cuts of the plant kingdom, never sold in supermarkets. Next to the zucchini plants sit bushes of herbs--oregano, savory, lemon thyme, mint, spearmint, rows of basil and parsley growing tall. The purple Chinese eggplants will be sauteed with garlic sauce and soy-based oyster sauce. The black eggplants will be transformed into ratatouille with the yellow zucchini. The red eggplants will be cooked with curry and coriander, Indian style.

The soybeans are each different. The Laura beans bloom with tiny violet flowers. The other soybeans have shades of pink and red blooms. The potatoes grow tall, with yellow and white flowers. I've been warned to keep a lookout for potato beetles, and they've appeared. I've been told to crush them, but I cannot. I make a wish, then release them into a wind that blows down from the west into my valley, towards the Palisades a few miles away to my east, which flank the Hudson River.

Cantaloupe, honeydew, pumpkin, watermelon, their vines travel long distances past orange and pink, red and yellow nasturtium flowers that act as natural pesticides. They grew from seeds, and I'll plant even more seeds next year. If and when I retire from being the notmilkman, perhaps I'll retire to become the Johnny Appleseed of nasturtiums. There can be nothing more beautiful than a field filled with nasturtiums. A rainbow pales by comparison.

Cauliflower florets are added to each salad. So too are leaves from the red and white cabbage, from the kale and collards. Lizzy eats the carrots right from the ground. Habernero and cayenne peppers grow like beautiful convoluted sculptures amid green leaves. Garlic and brussels sprouts, beets, and broccoli. Too much broccoli, perhaps, but we'll find a way to eat it all. Thank goodness the dog loves broccoli. Twenty strawberry plants are nearly ready to yield their sweetness.

© 2002 Robert Cohen

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561-752-8339 - Sheila - Boynton Beach, Florida
Last updated 9/24/03