I spent this past weekend in Queens, NY, at a family party and found myself wondering what is proper garden etiquette. Say you walk through someone's garden and see a bunch of things that aren't right but could be fixed in a second. Do you say something? Do you take matters into your own hands? Or do you just keep your mouth shut? And what if the garden belongs to a family member?
There I was, at a party when I was accosted by a cousin from Bensonhurst. Because he's from Brooklyn, I think he thinks he has license to carry on like dere's no tamorrah. If yous gets whad I'm sayin'. Surprisingly, he reads this blog. He called himself "our third reader" and kept referring to me as "the sustainable one" or something along those lines. He complained that I hadn't written anything in a long time but said it was probably because I was spending all my time screeching at everyone for not composting their teabags.
While he carried on, as only someone from Bensonhurst can do, I looked around the party girl's yard. Like Therese and Peter's garden in Brooklyn, my cousin had done a lot with her small growing area in Queens. Her garden held several thriving basil, tomato and pepper plants, and garlic with scapes that were as long as my arms. My cousin was standing next to me and said the garlic came from my parents. Lovely. But what was she thinking? Those scapes should have been cut a week ago. I tried to hide my horror from Cousin Bensonhurst but he was too quick. He caught my gaze. "What's the problem," he laughed. "She didn't compost something?" I wanted a knife. No, not to stab my cousin with, to cut those scapes. I scanned the yard for another cousin—who I know always carries a knife—but couldn't find him. Besides, Andrew was whispering loudly in my ear, "It isn't your garden. What if she wants her garlic to blossom?" I mumbled back, "Clearly, she doesn't know she's supposed to cut them. She's Italian, she planted a sauce garden! Her sauce will be ruined. She needs help!"
I forced myself to look away and focus on her container garden. She had the most gorgeous pot of coriander I've ever seen. The plant was huge, full, and bolting! I couldn't take it. I gently nudged Cousin Bensonhurst out of the way, bent over and snipped. I plopped the stem onto Andrew's plate and moved on to the dill. Caterpillars. Two little guys. I thought they might be baby swallowtails (and would have left them) but I wasn't positive so I snipped the little stem off and brought them over to my father. He took one look, said they weren't swallowtails and then dunked the branch in a cup of red wine. I couldn't take it anymore and was afraid at what else I might spot. I think Cousin Bensonhurst may have bet another cousin that I was going to collect all the food scraps and take them back to Virginia compost. The thought hadn't even crossed my mind. But I did decide that if you like the person whose garden you're in, it's okay to point out little things here and there. Of course, I didn't learn until later that my cousin hates coriander and had actually purchased it by mistake thinking it was parsley, she wanted it dead. Oh well.