Palm tree in Compton

In mid-June, I decided to plant a vegetable garden in my back yard. I was inspired by photos my daughter Arlynn texted me of her budding garden in Altadena. She had transformed her backyard by installing DIY raised planting beds, and filling them with all manner of vegetables and flowers. “How beautiful! I’m jealous,” I texted her. “Youcan have a garden. I’ll help you,” she texted back.

The next week, Arlynn visited me for the first time since the COVID-19 lockdown. At first, we wore masks as we worked — digging out weeds, planning what we would plant and where we would plant it, and chatting nonstop about the various topics mothers and daughters chat about. We finally removed our masks when we realized we were working well beyond the recommended 6 feet apart. Thank goodness for that belated realization. It was HOT outside!

During the weeks we prepared the yard, Arlynn visited the nursery down the street from where she lives. Every few days, she gifted me with new seedlings: onions, peppers, tomatillos, grape tomatoes, Japanese red sweet potatoes, collard greens and much, much more. Oh, and the flowers! Marigolds, petunias, zinnias, gazanias, and nasturtiums. Arlynn said the flowers would help ward off pests that might wish to munch on my veggies. But I loved them for their colors—bright yellow, orange, pink, red and purple.

My friends Tina and Miyo emailed me, asking how my garden was coming along. Proudly, I sent them photos of my garden-in-process. I had managed to transplant the seedlings to larger pots, but the pots still sat in my front yard, waiting for their permanent home to be ready for them.

Arlynn continued to bring me plants: edamame, cucumber, artichoke. Clearly, I had way too many plants for the pots I had bought. I invested in some raised planting beds that I could care for with relative ease.

I was almost ready to get my plants into the ground when Arlynn brought me six tiny seedlings of sweet yellow corn. At first, I said no to the corn. “Where will I plant them?” I asked. “Why don’t you plant them along your back fence?” she replied. That’s how I came to have a row of corn growing in my backyard in Compton. I have read the corn will reach 6-10 feet, towering above the fence.


The next day, Arlynn brought me some seeds to grow black-eyed peas and suggested I consider crop rotation. That’s when I finally put my foot down. “No, Arlynn, I don’t want to become a farmer. But thank you for all you’ve done tohelp my dream of a garden come true!”

In the weeks since I established my backyard garden, I have had the joy of watching the various plants stretch up and out, flower, and even bear fruit. I have had the satisfaction of harvesting a few ripe tomatoes, some crisp romaine lettuce leaves, and sprigs of gloriously fragrant basil.

After my gardening chores, I sit in the shade of the tent that covers the patio. Simple life stirs all around me. Trails of ants march across the brick patio. A spider lurches awkwardly across the steppingstones. Butterflies — white, pale yellow, bright yellow, and magnificent monarchs — flutter and dance through the air. A squirrel hustles across an overhead electrical wire, then scales the towering palm tree in my neighbor’s back yard.

I sink, heart and souI, into the peaceful scene. I originally planted the garden in thehope of growing my own vegetables, but the garden has given me so much more: a reason to get up and move when my joints are aching; the satisfaction of nurturing growing things; a peaceful place to retreat when the realities of COVID-19 and the stresses of everyday life weigh heavily on me.Weeks ago, Miyo suggested that perhaps my garden would be a source of future stories. Oh, how very right she was!

Margaret Mitchell

Margaret Mitchell


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