Recently, I watched a video detailing a couple's fight to save their vegetable garden. The couple, Josée Landry and Michel Beauchamp from Drummondville, Quebec, had turned their front yard into a prosperous vegetable garden. However, because they had no lawn, the city tried to make the couple remove their garden. They had made an online petition, which acquired more than 29,000 signatures and ultimately saved their garden. To say their garden was stunning would be an understatement. When I compare my garden to theirs, I am embarrassed, to say the least. My garden has been plagued by various issues over the past few years. Whether it was zucchini squash rotting on the vine or woodchucks eating the "Early Girl" tomatoes, I've been through it all. The video has made me want to dig deeper into the many issues that plague my garden. I am currently making plans and coming up with solutions to implement next year. I feel like this is the next step in my journey, and I am more than willing to start it.

On a scale of one to ten, I would give my garden a two at best. However, I would give my gardening skills a six. Gardens and skills develop over time, as does the popularity of gardening. The popularity of vegetable gardening has waxed and waned, but given the fact that people have been gardening for the past 10,000 years, chances are we'll never stop. Gardening has a rich history, and it is fascinating to see how people's reasons for gardening and styles of gardening have changed over the years. Vegetable gardens are created for a reason; Josée Landry and Michel Beauchamp's reason was for their health. As Josée said in the video, "We were a bit overweight and wanted to get in shape. Michel was starting to have health problems. We decided to go on a diet to lose weight, the idea was to eat a lot more vegetables and completely change the way we ate. That's where the idea of the garden came from." In my case, the vegetable garden in my yard technically belongs to both myself and my parents. However, after we plant the garden every year, the responsibility for the majority of its care and maintenance falls to me. The only time my dad steps in is when there is an issue with one or more of the plants that I am not able to diagnose on my own. Yes, I said diagnose, as in my vegetable plants catch mysterious diseases. This mainly happens with the squash and tomato plants, although a recent crop of strawberries was plagued by rotting.

About two years ago in the mid-afternoon heat of a July day, I made a startling discovery in the tomato section of my vegetable garden. A yellow pear tomato plant that was once the healthiest tomato plant in the garden had drooping leaves with brown spots and little green tomatoes with no hope of turning a healthy shade of yellow. Baffled, I poured through website after website until I came to the conclusion that my poor plant had verticillium wilt. The aforementioned illness is a common fungal disease amongst tomato crops. Verticillium wilt is at its worst when the plants have grown in warm, moist conditions. The fungus enters the plant through natural openings and wounds in the roots and grows up into the stem, where it blocks the supply of nutrients and water to the leaves. The blockage of nutrients and water causes the tops of the plants to wilt in sunny afternoons, though they recover when the weather cools down significantly. Only a part of the tomato plant is infected initially, but the disease eventually spreads through the rest of the poor plant. The lower leaves usually turn yellow. They die and drop. The stem often becomes discolored and the color it turns is more often than not a lighter color than it was originally. Tomato plants don't necessarily die from verticillium wilt, but the disease slows their growth and reduces the amount of crops that can be harvested.

There isn't anything in my garden that I consider more precious than the tomatoes, it would have to be the squash. Every year we grow two different varieties: "Black Beauty" zucchini squash and "Straight-Neck" yellow squash. Strangely enough, every year we buy "Straight-Necks" and every year they grow as if they were "Crooked-Necks." Its the oddest thing, but it does not bother me nearly as much as the rotting and white spots do. For the past couple of years, I have begun to notice white spots on the zucchini leaves midway through the summer. Luckily, it's not that serious, unlike the tomato plant, which has now made part of my precious garden unusable for a year. The white, powdery mildew on the leaves is caused by fungal spores. Spores germinate on dry-leaf surfaces when the humidity is high. They do not germinate on wet leaves. To fix that particular issue, I had read that the best thing to do is to avoid water stress and cut off all of the infected leaves.

While the white spotted leaves are annoying, there is nothing that unnerves me more than when my squash rot on the stem. The zucchini turn yellow and the yellow squash turn brown. The affected squash barely grow at all before it started to rot. Every zucchini I lose is one less loaf of zucchini bread that I get to enjoy. When I researched this problem, I found out that front-end rot is caused when there is very little moisture in the soil, particularly when temperatures are above 90°F. Sometimes the reason behind this problem is a calcium deficiency in the soil which keeps the plant's roots from taking up water. The best thing to do in this instance is to fertilize planting beds to keep soil moisture even and to water the plants regularly. Most importantly, the soil has to be tested for calcium deficiency.

In 2009, my old childhood play area was cleared away and part of the newly opened land was turned into an expansion of the vegetable garden, enlarging it to the size that it is today. The squash now has more than enough room to grew without accidentally preventing the tomatoes from growing due to shade and spatial issues. When we realized that we had extra room, I had proposed that we fill the space with eggplants. I knew that I had a fair chance of getting their approval since we had grown eggplants before. In elementary school, we had something called the "Spring Flower Fair." Held in the gym, this multi-day event was used as a fundraiser for the school. At the flower fair held during the spring of fourth grade, I picked out an eggplant plant to give to my mom, presumably for Mother's Day. That was the best eggplant crop we ever had, as that was the only year the eggplants actually grew to their full size.

We've grown four different varieties of eggplant: purple, white, ichiban, and graffiti. The purple variety was the kind that I had bought for my mother at the flower fair; the kind I had only had success with once. The ichiban eggplants, also purple but long and thin as opposed to the other variety, were actually quite successful, even though my mother bought those by mistake. We grew them for two years and used them for vegetable dishes such as ratatouille, but my mother wanted parmesan size. We then tried white eggplants, but were unaware of how small they actually are. We've been growing them for a few years now and its always a gamble as to how many will grow, as well as how large they'll be. The graffiti eggplants gave a very interesting result as they grew to be similar in shape to the unusually small, regular, purple variety. I have searched the Internet endlessly for an answer as to why the eggplants have developed abnormally but I have come up with nothing as of late. It's still a mystery to me, and one that I hope to solve before it's time to plant the vegetable garden again next spring.

The vegetable garden is a place full of mysteries, both good and bad. Evils lurk where you'll never think to look, making gardening a challenge as much as it is a relaxing pasttime and a solution to a mundane lifestyle. The vegetable garden changes every day leaving surprises, both good and bad, to be discovered. Whether the vegetable garden is located in the front yard, back yard, or on a farm, makes no difference as they all have something in common. This has been the case since gardening first came into being. For instance, nineteenth century philosopher Henry David Thoreau's opinions about gardening have much in common with my own, and with those of other modern day gardeners. In his words, "Gardening is civil and social, but it wants the vigor and freedom of the forest and the outlaw." Thoreau is right; the garden is a place of prosperity, but it is also a place of wild experiences. Josée Landry and Michel Beauchamp would agree that their garden has and still is taking them on a wild adventure. I look forward to next Spring, and to all of the adventures, lessons, and solitude that my vegetable garden is sure to bring.

Katelyn Myhre is a junior English and History major. She's a Disney-obsessed, PGA golf fanatic who loves Broadway musicals, Harry Potter, anime, and getting a great deal at the mall.