Sweet Peas


Jamie and Sara picked up rocks while Dan and Beth raked the new garden that Father had plowed for them. Then they marked the soil off in rows.

“The garden is ready!” they all shouted at once when they were finished.

Father held out a shoe box as everyone gathered around. “Since this is going to be your money-making project for the year, you must all plant your own seeds and tend your own part of the garden. You may choose two kinds of vegetables. Whatever you grow you can sell at our roadside stand down by the gate.”

Dan grabbed a packet of tomato seeds and one of pumpkin seeds out of the box. “I’m going to grow the best tomatoes and pumpkins in the whole county!” he declared.

Beth chose green beans and cucumbers. “I’ll make lots of money growing these. Everybody likes them.”

Sara reached for carrots and yellow summer squash. “These are easy to grow,” she said. “I’ll have lots of vegetables to sell.”

Jamie looked at the rest of the seed packets in the box for a long time. She wished that there were more seeds to choose from.

“Why don’t you grow beets and green onions,” Beth suggested.

Jamie shook her head. “I don’t like beets and green onions,” she protested. “And I want something that grows tall.”

“Hurry up and decide so that we can get our seeds planted,” Dan said impatiently.

“You like lettuce, Jamie,” Mother suggested.

“Lettuce is good,” Jamie agreed as she picked up the packet of lettuce seeds, “but it’s not tall.” Then she discovered a fat white packet that had been folded over at the top. Jamie picked it up and shook it. “What kind of seeds are these?”

“Sweet peas,” Mother answered. “I didn’t have room for them in my garden.”

“I like peas,” said Jamie. “Do they grow tall?”

“Yes, very tall,” Mother said, “but—“

Jamie grinned. “Then I’ll plant them.”

Beth laughed. “You can’t eat sweet peas,” she said. “They’re flowers, not vegetables.”

“But I want to grow them,” Jamie insisted.

Father shook his head and smiled. “Let Jamie plant them,” he said. “She can grow whatever she wants in her garden. But, Jamie, you’d better plant the seeds next to the wire fence so that they’ll have something to climb on as they grow.”

Dan and Beth and Sara rushed into the garden to plant their seeds. Jamie got down on her hands and knees by the fence and poked her finger into the soft dirt to make little round holes like Dad had shown her. Then she dropped a sweet pea seed into each hole. After she planted the lettuce seeds, she watered her whole plot. She could hardly wait for the seeds to sprout!

Just a few days later Jamie noticed slender green shoots poking up through the soil by the fence. She watered the little plants every day. The round green leaves began to unfold on her lettuce plants.

One day while Jamie was pulling up weeds, Dan stopped and looked at Jamie’s garden. “You’d better thin your lettuce plants,” he said, “or you won’t have big round heads of lettuce.” He squatted down beside Jamie to show her how. “Leave the biggest, strongest plant, and pull out all of the little lettuce plants around it,” he explained, clearing a space around two nice-looking lettuce plants. Then he stood up and went back to his own garden.

Jamie looked at the little plants Dan had pulled out. She couldn’t bear to pull up any more. They would all die. So she left the lettuce row and went to look at her sweet peas. They didn’t need thinning. They had already put out little green tendrils that curled around the wire fence.

As the weeks went by, everyone worked hard, weeding and watering their gardens. Beans hung like long green fingers from Beth’s plants. Shiny green cucumbers peeked from among the broad leaves of her cucumber vines. Sara’s carrot tops were tall and lacy. There were crooked yellow squash all along her row. Juicy red tomatoes began to appear among the green ones on Dan’s plants, and fat green pumpkins dotted his pumpkin patch. Jamie looked at her own garden. There were only two round heads of lettuce. The rest of the row was filled with tall scraggly plants. The sweet peas had grown to the top of the fence and were covered with flowers in a rainbow of colors. They were pretty, but there were no peas.

One morning at breakfast Dan announced, “Some of our vegetables are ready to pick. May we open the roadside stand today?”

“Yes,” Father said, “but don’t pick more than you can sell in a couple of hours. You can always pick more, and your vegetables will stay fresh that way. I’ll put up the sign for you.”

“But my peas aren’t ready to pick yet,” Jamie protested.

“Those flowers aren’t going to turn into peas,” Beth said and rushed out the door after Dan and Sara.

Tears welled up in Jamie’s eyes. “My garden is no good,” she said. “It’s only flowers, not food.”

“Flowers are like food in a way,” Mother said, “food for the soul. When we see and smell them, they make us happy. I think that that’s why Heavenly Father made flowers so beautiful.”

Jamie sniffed and wiped her eyes. “Then can I take some of my flowers down to the roadside stand too?” she asked.

“Of course,” Mother said. “Take these garden shears and cut the stems long enough to put the flowers in water to keep them fresh.”

Jamie hurried to the garden and filled a small bucket with the colorful flowers. Then she carried them to the roadside stand. “Have you sold lots of vegetables yet?” she asked as she divided the sweet peas into bunches and put them into jars with water in them.

Dan shook his head. “Lots of cars go by, but nobody stops.”

Jamie had just finished setting her flowers on the counter when a car pulled up and a lady got out.

“What lovely sweet peas!” she cried. She chose a bunch and held them to her nose. “My, those vegetables look nice and fresh too.” She bought something from everyone before she drove away.

More cars began to stop. Soon Dan and Beth and Sara had all gone back to the garden for more vegetables. There was only one bunch of sweet peas left when Beth came back with more beans.

“I’m glad that people like your flowers so much, Jamie,” Beth said. “Everybody who stops to buy them buys vegetables too. Better hurry and cut some more.”

Jamie grinned and ran back to the garden for more sweet peas.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Dick Brown