As a hint of shared labors fills the air

Over the past few articles I have had the visual aspects of gardening as the main storyline. It is true that we gardeners indulge our sense of sight with our avocation. Yet, there is another sense that plays at least an equal part in our enjoyment of what we do.

The sense of smell is a wonderful ally when it comes to gardening. The heady fragrance of flowers, the smell of the damp earth after a shower, and the protection against eating spoiled foods that our noses provide is more than enough to promote our olfactory system as perhaps our most important resource in gardening. I think what sets our sense of smell apart lies in its ability to stimulate memories from many years ago into experiences that seem as real and fresh as the day they happened.

One of those vivid recollections always occurs to me at this time of the year.

I grew up in suburban Connecticut, just an hour's train trip from downtown Manhattan. Yet to me, I grew up in the wilds of a magnificent forest, populated by sugar maples, jack-in-the-pulpits, cardinals, pollywogs and all the other ingredients that any other little boy who loved the out-of-doors knew, wherever he called home.

We were still "wild" enough to not have sidewalks in my neighborhood. I was fortunate to have acres of swamp and field behind our house. All I had to do was walk out the back door and I was in my own "wilderness," populated by the likes of Davy Crockett and Jim Bridger; my two personal favorites.

Our neighborhood had large front yards with much smaller backyards. The front was mostly lawn for looks and the back was the more private, "living" area.

It was there that we had the vegetable garden. Since no one wanted to give up too much space to the garden, the neighborhood divided up the growing of the different vegetables among the neighbors according to desire and ability. My mom grew mostly tomatoes. My best friend Eddy's dad grew blocks of corn. Butch's family grew carrots or something else that came from under the ground and always surprised me.

This way we all shared produce, growing what you grew best and had almost daily interaction with the other neighbors during the summer. What a concept!

Even now, as the weather cools and we await the first frost that will kill off most of the vegetables, I eagerly anticipate the first smell of burning leaves that brings back the memory of the big block party.

We shared the day with all the neighbors, as a kind of modern Thanksgiving and a farewell to the close contact until the following springtime.

In those days, almost everyone burned the fallen leaves. I certainly do not advocate doing that nowadays as I would hate to lose the benefits of having all those leaves for the garden, not to mention the air quality issues, but I am nostalgic for the days when neighbors were closer and shared what they had, even if they didn't particularly care for an individual every now and then. Ah, the good old days!

Just because those days are past doesn't mean that we can't share the fruits of our gardens with others. One of the greatest joys of gardening is having an abundance of healthy, tasty food that would be so appreciated by others who don't grow a garden.

If you don't know anyone personally who needs your overproduction, you can always contact the Gleaning Network through the thrift store at 665-1500 (ask for the dock) in the mornings, so your vegetables can go to those who need and would appreciate it. Try some of the other suppliers of food to the community to see if they can use it, like St. Vincent de Paul at 772-3828 (you deliver to the kitchen) and the Salvation Army (directly to the thrift stores).

In this way, we can all reach out and create our own memories and habits of any easy way to do a good deed. If we're lucky, there may even be a scent attached to it that will stimulate fond memories many years from now.

Stan Mapolski, aka The Rogue Gardener, can be heard from 9-11 a.m. Sunday mornings on KMED 1440 AM and seen on KTVL-TV Ch. 10 every Wednesday during the 5 p.m. news. Reach him at

Share This Story