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How Does Her Garden Grow?

Ruby's Green-Thumb Journal

April 19

Finally, a sunny day! I thought this spring rain would never end. My neighbors have been out in their yard since this morn-ing. It seems as if they're out there a lot, so I went over to ask them what they were doing.

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Mr. Gerber was raking and making a big mess, getting soggy old leaves out of the way. And Mrs. Gerber was wearing a big floppy blue hat and digging around in the dirt, pulling out dried up old plants.

``We're getting ready for spring,'' Mrs. Gerber said. ``Want to help?'' When Mom has to substitute teach, I go over to their house after school.

``Sure,'' I said. ``Can I plant something?''

``Well, Ruby, it's not quite time yet, but maybe you can help me get some seeds ready indoors,'' Mrs. Gerber said. ``How about this week?'' April 20

When I came home from school, Mr. Gerber was clanking around the basement getting the lawn mower fixed up. He came upstairs to the back porch where we were cleaning tools.

``Ruby, if you'd like, I thought I'd dig clear an old patch of garden that our kids used when they were your age - about 9 or 10. Then you could have your own little place to plant things,'' Mr. Gerber said. I almost laughed because he had a big streak of grease on his nose from the lawn mower.

``That's a great idea!'' Mrs. Gerber said. I could tell she was trying not to laugh, too. ``Then Ruby can tend to it when her mom is teaching.''

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I started to giggle. Then Mrs. Gerber did, too.

``We'll help you get started,'' Mr. Gerber said. ``Hey, what's so funny?'' April 23

Even though it's Saturday, I asked Mom if I could go back over to the Gerbers'. Today was indoor-planting day!

Mr. Gerber was outside clearing branches from a new patch of garden for me, a place over by the toolshed. Mrs. Gerber had lots of little packages of seeds with pictures on the front and instructions on the back. There were dozens of little envelopes: flowers, vegetables, herbs - even pumpkins. There were so many choices! I finally narrowed it down to tomatoes, marigolds, sunflowers, and nasturtiums (delicate orange, red, or yellow flowers, I found out).

We got out plastic trays with little places to put soil and a few seeds. Mr. Gerber came inside and brought a big bag of dirt out to the porch. This time he had dirt stuck to the end of his nose!

Mrs. Gerber and I scooped dirt into the trays. The instructions on the seed packages said that we could start the tomatoes and marigolds indoors while the weather was still cold outside. We put a few seeds in each section of the tray, and covered them with a little soil. They all looked so different, sort of like this:

The tomato seeds were tiny, tan, and a little fuzzy. But the nasturtium seeds looked sort of like nuts, or like really little peach pits. The marigold ones were long and skinny. I didn't think they looked like seeds at all. And the sunflower seeds were smooth, flat, and dark.

Then we put the tray with the sections on top of another flat tray and poured water in the bottom. The other seeds I chose are supposed to be planted outdoors when it's warm enough. I helped Mrs. Gerber plant the rest of her seeds, too - lots of flowers and some herbs. We set the trays in a sunny window on the porch. April 28

The marigolds had tiny sprouts today! They didn't look much like the picture on the seed package, though. There were just a couple of little round leaves and not much else. But it's working! May 1

Today, Mr. Gerber was mowing the lawn for the first time this year. ``Today is outdoor planting day!'' he said (with grass clippings stuck in his eyebrows). ``And here are your very own gardening gloves - nine-year-old size.''

I got my packages of nasturtiums and sunflowers. Each one had to be planted in a special way. The sunflower seeds had to be six inches apart, because they get so big. We put the nutty nasturtium seeds closer together. May 15

Well, after waiting for two weeks - a sprout! I guess I can see what all that rain does. Mrs. Gerber says that gardens need plenty of water and sunlight - and room to grow. We'll have to pull out weeds and some of the extra sprouts so they don't get too crowded.

My tomatoes on the porch sprouted and have some real leaves now. Pretty soon we can move them outside. I saved a special row in my garden for the tomatoes.

Yummy! May 28

I can hardly wait until school is out!

There is so much to do in the garden. Today I got my tomatoes and marigolds planted in the ground. When I pulled them out from their little pots, the silvery roots had grown all around the inside. Mrs. Gerber says that means the plants are good and ready to go outside.

Six tomato plants, a row of nasturtiums, lots of marigolds, and five sunflowers on the way. Not bad for my first gardening attempt, I'd say. Even Mr. Gerber seems pretty impressed.

``Not bad, Ruby. You're doing a good job with that weeding,'' he said (this time a leaf was sticking out from behind his ear). ``We have to go away for a few days next week. Would you mind looking after our plants while we're gone?''

Would I! I think it will be a lot of work, but I like taking care of these plants. June 3

What a busy week. I was at the Gerbers' almost every day after school. But those plants are really growing! I made sure to pull the weeds - they keep popping up. I even had to water with the hose, because it didn't rain much.

This afternoon I was out working in the yard when Mr. and Mrs. Gerber came home.

``Ruby, what a great job! There's hardly a weed in the garden! And your marigolds are really growing,'' Mrs. Gerber said. ``Do I see a bloom on one of those tomato plants?'' Sure enough - there's a little yellow flower. That means a tomato will grow there.

``When school is over, do you think you'd like to help us a little every day?'' Mr. Gerber asked. ``You know, we keep planting more and more things every year and could use a hand.''

I told them I would. I think it's fun to watch the plants grow. It seems as if something changes almost every day - first sprouts, then leaves, then flowers. But Mr. and Mrs. Gerber started to giggle a little bit as I answered....

``What's so funny?'' I asked.

``Ruby, you're a real gardener,'' Mr. Gerber said. ``You've got sticks in your hair, dirt on your cheeks, and weeds sticking to your shirt!''

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