Anne VandeMoortel is a Moline school nurse, blogger, grandmother of five, Prader-Willi mother, serial hobbyist, and collector of people and their stories.

Do you need any zucchini?

I bet if you were within miles of a gardener when you mention you would like some, you would end up with a bagful. And probably another bagful the following week.

For the first 10 years of my adulthood, I tended a garden. I had a small plot near my garage that produced copious amounts of vegetables.

My farm-raised mother didn’t think it was possible to grow sweet corn, cabbage, and cauliflower in such a small area. She was used to ample room for long, straight rows of organized vegetables.

My little rectangle had radishes, onions, and carrots all planted in the same place, but being harvested at different times. Spinach and lettuce nestled under an umbrella leaf of broccoli to keep them from being scorched by the bright summer sun which shone on that little patch of land from sunrise to sunset.

When I moved to my new house, I attempted to plant a garden, but soon realized that my clay soil was as hard as concrete and there wasn’t a square foot of sunshine to be found. I tried a raised bed filled with luscious, loamy soil and hoped that indirect, or dappled, or nearly non-existent sun would be sufficient. I quickly learned how important constant sunshine had been to the success of my old garden.

For more years than was reasonable to keep trying, I grew spindly, weak plants which produced vegetables that would get eaten by wildlife the moment they turned ripe. I eventually decided the cost and labor was not worth the sorry excuses for produce I would reap. I gave up. I now rely on the generosity of other gardeners for my fresh produce fixes, and they never let me down!

In just one week I was given tomatoes, green peppers, sweet corn, and green beans from five people.

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I have noticed that unlike the image of prolific zucchini taking over an entire house, their generosity isn’t because they have huge surpluses that they cannot use, it is that they are willing to share. Even before my sister has done her canning, she is giving me juicy tomatoes.

These big-hearted gardeners are happy to give away their goodies. I’ve noticed they aren’t just generous with their fresh-picked produce, but also with what they make from it.

My favorite items at summertime picnics are sliced cucumbers and onions in a sweet vinegar solution, crisp, cold wedges of melon, buttery ears of corn, fresh green peas with new potatoes, roasted purple beets, and absolutely anything that is being brought to the table by the generosity of my gracious gardeners.

They often show up with a jar of salsa or jam and always bring a pie to lend a bit of freshness to a wintry holiday dinner, sharing their bounty all year round.

Gardeners don’t limit their generosity to foodstuffs. Due to people who have shared bits of their flower gardens with me, I have a variety of blossoms creating a kaleidoscope of color in my yard.

Lily bulbs from the home of a friend’s mother keep her memory alive and blooming in my yard. I pick peonies for Memorial Day from plants that originated in the yards of several friends. Each fall I gather the spiky seeds from cosmo stems just as my father saved them for me from his yard.

The glory of my yard and the bounty of my summertime table are due to the generosity of hopeful people who scrape the soil in the spring and drop in tiny seeds with full confidence they will sprout and be fruitful.

Watching the flowers bloom in the yard is akin to looking at a scrapbook of memories of people close to my heart who have given me rhizomes, tubers, seeds.

Anne VandeMoortel is a Moline school nurse, blogger, grandmother of five, Prader-Willi mother, serial hobbyist, and collector of people and their st


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