“Family Garden,” Friend, Apr. 1987, 44
For as long as Marie could remember, the big vacant lot next door to her house had been an ugly sight. So she was very surprised when she arrived home from school one day and saw how it had changed: All the tall weeds and broken bottles and torn newspapers were gone. The ground had been plowed too. That’s the cleanest dirt I’ve ever seen, she thought.
A man wearing baggy overalls was putting a sign up in the middle of the lot. In large letters it read:
BIRCH STREET COMMUNITY GARDEN
RESERVE YOUR PLOT NOW!
“Excuse me,” Marie said to the man. “What’s a community garden?”
“Anyone in the community—the neighborhood—may use part of this lot to grow his own garden,” the man replied. “Would you like to sign up for a plot?”
Marie had never seen a garden in her neighborhood before—only buildings and sidewalks and streets.
“A garden would be great,” she said. “I’ll ask my brothers and sisters if they’ll help me. Thanks.”
When the family sat down to supper that evening, Marie told them about the new community garden next door. “We can have fresh vegetables all summer,” she said. “It’ll be a very big garden. I’ll need help taking care of it, but we’ll have lots of fun.”
“Sorry, Sis,” said Joe, the oldest. “I need to find a summer job. I’ll be too busy to help.”
“Me, too,” said Rose. “I have a paper route. Besides, vegetables are all right, but I like flowers better.”
Marie was a little disappointed, but she still had four other children to ask.
But Flo said, “I have to take care of my rabbits. I won’t have time to garden.”
“Count me out,” Peter told her. “I hate vegetables. Yuck!”
The twins were Marie’s last hope, but before she could ask them, Mike said, “We don’t like vegetables, either.”
“We definitely hate vegetables,” Ike agreed.
After supper Marie went outside and stared at the vacant lot. It was all ready for planting, but no one would help her with the work.
A few minutes later Papa came out and stood beside her. “Marie, I’ll help you with the garden after supper every night,” he said.
“No, Papa,” Marie replied. “Thanks, but you work hard all day. I’ll just plant a small garden and take care of it myself.”
“Well, I’ll help when I can,” Papa said. “We’ll go together Saturday to reserve a little garden plot.”
Then Papa took Marie’s hand in his, and they walked back to the apartment.
At supper the next evening Marie turned to Joe. “It’s hard to find a job, isn’t it?”
“It sure is!” he answered. “I’ve been looking for weeks and still haven’t found one.”
“Nearly everyone likes corn on the cob and watermelon,” Marie pointed out. “I’ll bet that you could grow some in the garden and sell them to make money—after all, you’d have the freshest vegetables in town. You could grow enough for the family too.”
Joe’s eyes lit up. “That’s a great idea, Sis. I’ll give it a try.”
Then Marie looked across the table at Rose. “Your paper route won’t keep you busy all day,” she said. “Since you like flowers, you could grow sunflowers and scarlet runner beans. The beans have beautiful blossoms, and we can eat the beans and the sunflower seeds.”
Rose grinned. “Sure. That way I can grow flowers and food.”
Now Marie turned to Flo. “You could grow carrots and lettuce and radishes, couldn’t you? Then you wouldn’t have to spend your whole allowance on rabbit food, your pet bunnies would be happy, and there would be plenty for us too.”
“The bunnies will love it!” Flo exclaimed. “When do we start?”
Pete had figured out what Marie was up to. “Don’t look at me,” he said stubbornly. “I still hate vegetables, and nothing you say is going to change my mind.”
“You don’t hate all vegetables,” Marie answered. “You like popcorn. That’s a vegetable. And you’re crazy about pickles. They’re made from cucumbers, you know.”
“I never thought of it that way.” Pete laughed. “OK. It looks like I’m in charge of the popcorn and pickle patch.”
“What can we grow?” asked Mike. “We don’t want to be left out.”
“We hate vegetables, but we want to grow something,” said Ike.
Marie smiled. “Well, you boys like chili better than just about anything else, so you can plant a chili patch.”
“A chili patch? How do you grow chili?” asked Mike.
“Just think about what’s in chili,” Marie said. “There are beans and tomatoes and peppers, right?”
“Yes!” cried Ike. “We’ll plant our very own chili patch!”
Then Mama, who had been listening the whole time, spoke up. “Marie, is there enough room for a patch of the other vegetables that we like? I’d like to plant some spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, and peas. We all like these, especially when they’re raw.”
“Of course, Mama! You can plant anything that you want,” Marie answered.
“What am I going to help you grow?” Papa asked Marie.
“We’ll plant an enormous dessert patch!” she said. “It will be full of sweet things like strawberries and cantaloupes to thank everyone for helping with the garden.”