Having a vegetable garden is sort of like raising a kid, but on a smaller scale, of course.

You tend it, feed it, water it, nurture it and try to make sure it gets enough sun and enrichment in its short life.

Feeling quite remiss that the weeds in my gardens had gotten ahead of me this summer, I spent a few hours over two days, yanking enormous clumps of grass and weeds out of them.

It was back-breaking work, as anyone who has a garden knows, but rewarding to sit back afterward and see how robust the plants look, and now there’s plenty of space between rows for meandering through and inspecting the harvest.

The best part of the chore was finding, under the gigantic leaves of my zucchini plants, that there were two very large zucchinis lying there in the shade that I would not have seen, had I not done a thorough weeding job. And under my green bean plants, I found many ready to pick — the first batch of the season. I also realized that if I did not return a couple of days later to pick more, I’d be inundated and risk getting a crop that is overgrown and pulpy.

My husband often says it’s an awful lot of work and initial expense to grow and tend a garden, and he wonders aloud if it is really worth it, although he loves it when the harvest comes.

We both grew up in families that had annual gardens and reaped the benefits of enjoying fresh vegetables on the table. Our fathers planned the gardens in winter and fertilized, tilled and planted come spring. Our mothers canned and froze vegetables, took us berry and apple picking and preserved the fruit to be eaten over the long, cold winter.

This has been a dry summer, and we seem to have watered the gardens more frequently in June and July than usual. When we water at night, the gardens are parched in the morning, and vice versa.

Yes, it has been work keeping gardens, but there’s nothing like being able to step out of the house and pluck fresh vegetables we have grown with our own hands, with no pesticides or other unhealthful substances, and bring them into the house to be consumed.

We took the zucchini, beans and lettuce from our garden to my sister’s house, where she cooked meat, steamed the beans and threw a salad together while I drizzled olive oil into a pan, sliced the zucchini into bite-sized pieces, sauteed them and tossed them with herbs.

We had a delightful summer evening meal outside on her patio with our first garden crop.

On the way home, driving past farms with grazing cows and endless fields of corn, we talked about the work that goes into growing potatoes, beans, squash, tomatoes, carrots, corn and other vegetables. The farmers who bring them to market, making it so convenient for us to purchase fresh, local produce, have put a lot of love into their labors.

While buying at the farmers market is not as perfect as harvesting vegetables from our own gardens, we at least know where the food is coming from, are supporting local farms and feeding our families nutritious food.

In this high-tech, fast-paced world, where so much is artificial, it’s awfully nice to be able to enjoy a simple, healthful summer repast of corn on the cob, fresh tomatoes, greens and other garden produce.

It’s one of those old, time-honored traditions over which we can still maintain control.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter for 28 years. Her column appears here Mondays. She may be reached at [email protected]. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to centralmaine.com.

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