Vibha Akkaraju: Growing Friendship

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Vibha Akkaraju discovered a secret to growing a plentiful harvest that you wouldn’t read in a gardening handbook.

Ten years ago, I gave up my community garden plot right before I was formally evicted. My garden was overrun with crabgrass, pesky squirrels and aphids. I tried keeping these things in check, but they were so much more tenacious than me. So for years, I stopped gardening. In fact, I actively started badmouthing the hobby.

Turns out I wasn’t alone. My friend Diana also couldn’t manage her garden. There was just too much weeding, watering, and upkeep.

Then early this spring, Diana had an idea: why don’t we try it together? We can share a plot and the responsibilities and the harvest. I had fears of repeat failure — but said, “All right…why not.”

The joint venture was fun from the get go. We went plant shopping together, each of us energized by the other’s enthusiasm. She attended gardening tutorials. I got the mulch. We prepped the soil together and planted arugula, lettuce, parsley, peppers, basil, tomatoes. Lots of tomatoes.


The lettuce grew first. Beautiful, tender green leaves, thriving in the shady parts of the garden. Glory! But a few days before harvesting it, I went to the garden – and to my dismay found it chewed down to nubs. I had seen little holes in the leaves before, telltale signs of squirrels, but now every leaf was gone.

I was angry, but Diana laughed it off, saying, “I guess we’re feeding nature.” We kept taking turns watering and weeding. Then the arugula started to grow, followed by parsley and basil. Little flowers popped up on the tomato plants.

The arugula is super spicy. I see why the squirrels hate it. And I have no idea what to do with all this parsley and basil. Still, watching these things grow fills me with a sense of satisfaction, the thrill of a surprise success, and most importantly, the warmth of friendship. In fact, that’s the thing thriving best in my garden.

It’s a truism, but one worth trying: when the going gets tough, go with a friend.

With a Perspective, I’m Vibha Akkaraju.

Vibha Akkaraju is a writer and a budding gardener living in Palo Alto.