I never really know how it’s going
to turn out from year to year.
Overall, the garden usually yields
something decent, like teepees of
green beans for miles or bushels of
sungold cherry tomatoes that snap
in my mouth, sweet and warm
from the August sun. Lettuce does
better when confined to containers,
and the herbs should always be
potted, lest they overtake the yard.
But forgive me. I don’t really know
what I’m talking about. I’m still a
novice in the garden, with my
unturned compost and thirsty
marigolds. (I hear they keep the
pests away.) I try to learn a thing or
two from the neighborhood nonnie
and poppy who grow enough
zucchini and plum tomatoes for
the Amalfi coast, or at least for our
block. Same difference. There is no
compost in their garden. No mess.
Not a single weed. Plants stand in neat
little rows. Netting covers the fruit.
And a perfect robin’s nest is at
home just above the aluminum lawn
chair where poppy listens to his Italian
soccer broadcasts. It’s hard to imagine
squash withered by vine borers here or
eggplant flowers that fall, fruitless, into
the soil. But nonnie smiles, handing me
a brown bag of plum tomatoes.
“Sometimes, you know what you get?
You get nothing,” she says and shrugs,
palms lifted the sky. “What are you gonna
do? You just gotta try again. It’s a pain in
the neck, I tell ya.” She laughs, tilting her
face to the sun. “Other times we get so
much, we gotta give it away." She sweeps
aside this riddle with a small, strong hand.
“It don’t matter, honey. Either way, it’s
good to be outside.”