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LifestyleColumnistsJessica Damiano

Garden poetry contest winners: Long Island gardeners harvest prose

Leslie Bennett, of Massapequa, took first place with

Leslie Bennett, of Massapequa, took first place with a tribute to her father-in-law William Schoppmann who Bennett says taught her everything she knows about gardening. Behind them, tomatoes climb in their cages. Photo Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

It’s obvious that gardeners’ hands and knees are at home in the dirt, but what may not be visible is that their souls are also attuned with nature. So it follows that gardening and poetry are conjoined. How can one, after all, marvel at the miracle of a seed without sharing that revelation?

In May, I asked readers to compose poetry that expresses their reasons for growing edibles, and exactly 80 of you put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboards). These are the best crops from that harvest.

First Place

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By Leslie Bennett, Massapequa

Old man farmer thought his glory days were past,

He saw the want in a young woman’s eyes.

It was his skills he taught,

But, her passion grew his dreams.

She wasn’t sure if she could be him,

So, she persevered until his hands became hers,

Worn eyes that could only look on, still reflected pride.

“This was written for my father-in-law, one of the original farmers of Bethpage. He taught me the love of gardening, and I continue his passion of planting tomatoes, squash, peppers, zucchini, lettuces and herbs. I have since added carrots and spinach and continue to expand with new vegetables and herbs. He can no longer get the soil ready for planting or do the planting himself, as he is ill, but my husband (his son) and I continue his legacy, hoping others in our family will follow.”

— Leslie Bennett

Second Place

Grandsons' Garden

By Frank Rinck, Centerport

Today’s ripe cherry tomato

explodes in the three-year-old’s mouth.

Unconsciously he learns they don’t grow

in plastic boxes on supermarket shelves

but in gardens like this one

just outside Nanni’s kitchen door.

Third Place

Why I Plant Crops

By JR Turek, East Meadow

No hothouse produce for me, no lines to wait to pay,

no gas to guzzle to get there in time for perfect ripeness,

just a journey across backyard grass to harvest a crop

of homegrown goodness — bush beans, beefsteaks, dill

and thyme. I’m a sharecropper, happy bunnies leave me

some lettuce.

Honorable Mentions

The Farm

By Diane Kopitowsky

She planted her garden with care

Tomatoes and peppers to share

She watered and waited

Weeded, Cultivated

A Long Island farmer in prayer.

Halcyon Time

By Irma Souveroff, Baldwin

Near Fennel and the mints I wander daily,

Quite happily unnoticed from the street.

Add comfrey, sage and yarrow, nodding gaily:

Monks’ remedies; companions shy and sweet.

Though winding garden path be worn and rough,

With herbs to heal my days — it is enough.

Why I plant my garden

By Frank De Benedetto, Centereach

When a child is conceived

It’s the beginning of life

When a seed is planted life also begins

When a baby smiles the sun shines brighter

When the sun shines brighter the seed comes to life

A newly conceived child and seed give so much happiness to life.

Limerick of Hope!

By Jane Shelley, Wantagh

I have a small vegetable plot,

Where my tomatoes grow, ’cause it’s hot.

I water and stake,

Cultivate with a rake,

And pray for no blossom end rot!

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By Eileen Melia Hession, Long Beach

I feed my tomatoes in springtime

All summer I water and weed,

Until they’re bright red and juicy I give them whatever they need.

Then I pick them and freeze them and can them

And I taste them, and here’s what I’ve found,

Just a little work in my garden gives me summer the whole year ’round.

Basil as Tribute

By Elaine Anne Pasquali, Dix Hills

I look at the green, shiny basil leaves

and inhale their signature aroma

Memories of Mom’s cooking flood my mind

her spaghetti sauce chock full of basil

her mozzarella, tomato, and basil salad

Mom is gone and now I’m cooking with basil

I grow basil in tribute to my Mom’s memory.

Tomatoes and Memories

By Terri Donahue, Center Moriches

With grandkids we plant grape tomatoes, young and small

Grandpa helps to stake them when they grow too tall

With lots of water and tender care, they anxiously wait

For yellow flowers to turn to fruit, impatient for the taste

They pluck; they bite, while ’mato juice runs down each face

It’s not just tomatoes that grow every season

Grandkids and memories are the best reason.

My Reasons For Growing Crops: My Veggie Garden

By Judy Burkhoff, Wantagh

My veggie garden’s in the backyard, close to my house, in the sun.

I harvested, prepped and planted, and indeed, it was much fun.

The benefits are amazing, as the produce is nutritious;

There is no greater payoff than eating homegrown that’s delicious.

It saves me money, keeps me limber, reduces stress, improves my mood;

And I know I’m eating healthy, without pesticides in my food.

Simmering Summer

By Margaret Hanan, Rockville Centre

No bottled sauce for me will do

No Prego, Francesco or Ragu

Sweet basil, tomatoes and garlic I sow

And add to that some oregano, too

Why work so hard? Why till and hoe?

No need to ask, I think you know

My sauce tastes best with plants I grow!

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