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Gardening should be shared

I am now seeing backyard gardens sprout up around the county. Almost everyone seems to have squash and bean plants, along with tomatoes, eggplants and cucumbers. Gardening has always been an enjoyable hobby for me, although I don't think I'm that good at it.

There's a fellow on Haralson Mill Road who grows a spectacular garden every summer. I envy it each time I drive by. Along with a few rows of corn, the man also has lattice for bean vines in the back and 4-foot tomato cages.

When I drive by his house on some mornings, I can catch him outside working. I can see him completely now between the rows of small plants, but in a couple of months about the only thing that will be visible will be his wide brim straw hat bobbing through the tall plants.

I started a garden in our back yard for the first time in years this spring. I did it partly because of the sticker shock my wife, Amy, has experienced in our grocery's produce section, but it's also just something I like to do. It's a good reason to step out of the house in the morning to piddle around or pull a few weeds. I hope my work pays off with big, red juicy tomatoes and crooked-neck squash in the coming weeks.

Mom and dad always kept a big garden when I was growing up in Hampton. They both grew up on farms, and for them, a garden was as much a way to put food on the table as it was a past time. I didn't understand that at the time. All I knew was that most vegetables came from the grocery store. I hated, really hated, when dad made me go out to pull weeds. When I was big enough, I manned the roto-tiller each spring.

Now I know that a garden really helps in filling out the cupboard.

Another garden lesson I learned was in Jesup where I briefly worked as a reporter for the Savannah paper. I remember the local librarian offered me some yellow squash. I said "no thanks," but she was insistent on sharing the bounty of her garden. Next thing I knew, I had three big paper grocery bags of squash sitting in my kitchen.

I stored some in the freezer, gave a lot of it away and ate squash that summer until it seemed like it was coming out of my ears. Still, I thought it was a very nice gesture to make a stranger feel welcome in town.

Gardening brings out the best in people when it comes to them sharing their bounty. It's almost like being initiated into a community, only you don't need to learn a secret handshake.

But today, I don't have much to offer. My tomatoes are still green, and the beans are puny.

I should stop by the man's house on Haralson Mill Road one day to ask for advice. I wouldn't be surprised if I walked away with a bag of beans.

Jay Jones is a staff reporter for the Rockdale Citizen. E-mail Jay at jay.jones@rockdalecitizen.com.