Being a gardener, I am used to a bit of given thievery:

But a funny (or not-so-funny) thing happened in the test garden the other day. I am not always out there during this time of year but popped out to water the seedlings. There was an elderly couple out there, and something struck me as off about the woman. Namely, she was making a b-line for the chard plants. I'm used to visitors moseying about, pointing and pausing -- not speed demons.

May I help you with something? I asked.

Just looking, she said.

Apparently her "just looking" involved a paper bag and pruners.


She told me that she had an agreement with the gardener from "many, many years ago" that she can come and take whatever she pleases.

I told her that I was very sorry, but that this garden is specifically for the magazine. The very plot from which she was about to pluck is being prepped for its photograph right now! I have editors scouring over empty spaces and leaf formation.

I couldn't believe it! It's such poor garden etiquette to harvest someone else's veggies. It's even poorer form to tell me that you're just looking.

The real kicker is that I waited outside for a few minutes weeding something or other to see if she would come back. Sure enough, she did -- peeking her head around the bend to see if I was still there!

Truth be told, I have totally mixed feelings about the incident. What I love most about gardening is feeding people and sharing the bounty. And there is a Jewish tradition of pe'ah, leaving the corners of your fields unharvested for the hungry to eat. This approach appeals to me. It rings true with the type of gardener I want to be.

But let's face it: This ain't that garden. This is the Sunset test garden! Sprouting, growing, and ripening for our beloved readers!

Translation: HANDS OFF!

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