You Can Pick That, Just Not That

I’ll come straight to the point. How do you ask your neighbour to ‘pick some veg’ while you’re on holiday, but politely say ‘leave some for me!’?

Our kind neighbour is poised to water our garden while we’re away and I have suggested that he might like to pick some of the Runner Beans, Courgettes, Radishes and French Beans. I don’t mind too much if he has the odd Raspberry too. But he can only have a Tomato if it’s practically falling off the plant! and I’d really like everything else untouched when I get back, specifically the Grapes.

The problem is – how to do I say that without sounding:

  1. very ungrateful for his help and
  2. a bit selfish and obsessed with vegetables?

17 Comments on “You Can Pick That, Just Not That

  1. Give him a link to this blog post! I’m sure he will understand!

  2. yes I agree, – get him to this blog, – if he’s a good neighbour, he’ll understand, – failing that, why not just say that you’ve got plans for the tomatoes and grapes, so please ask him to guard them against pests and burglars, (so he should get the idea that you need all of them)

  3. Just ask. It is a privilege to care for a beautiful garden, and I’m sure your neighbor has other reasons aside from just taking your veg! I watched a friend’s garden this month and on the first day there was a nice note listing what I could take, what to go easy on, and what she plans to preserve for winter. I didn’t have a problem with it, anyone who gardens knows how hard it is to grow those precious tomatoes..

    ps – I’ve always lurked, until I saw this question :) love your blog!

  4. You’ll just have to say what they can have and not have. Explain you’re making chutney with the tomatoes (Or whatever you are doing with them – got any recipes to share?) so they know you’re not just being mean.
    I’ve got damsons to pick and had two requests for them off other plot holders. I’ve got a big pile of jars now though so will be making a lot of damson jam myself, so they can fight over what’s left. I’m only a tiny bit worried they’ll go and pick them before I do!
    These damsons aren’t ripe apart from the ones which fall off which are sweet and lovely if you get them before the slugs do.

  5. Tell him to pick all the runner beans he wants, you can’t overpick those can you? I’m sure he wouldn’t take it all anyway, you’ll just have to explain what to pick. He won’t mind. My garden helper practically stripped my blueberries but he did get told off by the children when we got back!

  6. I think a note thanking him and detailing what he is welcome to pick (and what he shouldn’t pick) is the best way to go.

    I just copy my mother in that way of doing things- she always left a note with a little something for the person (never much, just a nice thank you token of appreciation) and told them which produce they were welcome to help themselves to and which needed to be left on the plant.

  7. I like the comment about “guarding them against pests and burglars”. : ) You could also take some photos of your neighbor watering your garden, (holding the watering can, hose, or whatever) and frame it and present it. Your photos are great: crisp, clear, focused, and appealing composition. Don’t be afraid to detail what to pick and what not to pick! Yum! I’m green with envy over your tomatoes. We have LOADS of squirrels that would get any toms IF they would grow… we have black walnuts trees next door that prohibit the fruit from setting. I almost look for yards from which to steal tomatoes…

  8. You could install drip irrigation and have everything on a timer. Not only will you not have to ask for watering help but your plants will greatly appreciate the deep root soaking that drip irrigation offers.
    As far as not coming across rude or selfish….just tell him what you said. To have certain crops but the grapes and tomatoes are in need of more time and not to harvest them. Or just have a super productive cherry tomato plant and tell your neighbor to harvest as many cherry tomatoes as possible. Saving you your sauce and slicing ones:)

  9. I agree entirely! I left an experienced gardener to look after mine while I was away. The courgettes turned into large marrows and the entire crop has died back and stopped producing anything! I also lost a crop of heritage beans that I was saving for seed!

  10. Why don’t you just say to him that you would prefer if he doesn’t pick the tomatoes and the grapes, because whilst the other veg grow from seed quickly and require less tending to, tomato seed sown in april, are still only maturing in august and tomatoes are a precious crop. Tell him you will share the tomato bounty with him, over a plate of tomato and mozarrella drizzled in olive oil and with fresh basil as a thank you for tending to your vegetables! It’s not selfish to want to eat your own tomatoes, it is such a long wait for them!

  11. Just ask him to water, and say in return you will make him a basket of produce when you return full of beans, courgettes and radishes… then say, ‘What the heck – if you want to help yourself to those while I am away, go for it… the rest probably won’t be ready until I get back anyway…’

    Perhaps he will get the hint from that? :)

  12. I agree that a note with instructions on what can/can’t be had would be effective, especially since it is something written that he can refer to. I’m sure he’ll understand. Is he also a gardener?
    As part of the instructions, maybe you can tell him that you’d like him to water and pick as needed to make sure that the fruit doesn’t go to waste or rot. If you are planning to save some to go to seed, you can mention that too. If you’ve noticed patterns in the garden as to what needs more/less water or sun, this would be a way to mention that too. Notes seem to work well for most people, especially those who are busy and might forget things (I always appreciate one!) and then expectations and boundaries are clear.

  13. Hi there, your blog made me laugh. I understand where you are coming from. After all the hard work the “harvest” is so important. I’m sure your neighbour will show some restraint, as he will want to be on speaking terms with you on your return. lol

  14. I agree that honesty is the best: tell him what you want watered and what to pick and what not to.

    I have to say, in the absence of instructions from my neighbour when they were away for a month, I did pick the ripe tomatoes and make tomato sauce. She didn’t seem to mind when she got back though…

  15. I had been having a similar problem. Mine was not related to someone garden sitting, but having to do to where my tomatoes are growing. I had asked a neighbor how never uses her yard, if I can plant some vegetables, and I told her that I would share some of the harvest for the use of the space behind her house (which she doesn’t own, but is still close to her back door that she has barricaded closed from the inside). She started picking all the tomatoes, not letting me have any, and every time I asked her about it, she would use the excuse that she likes fresh tomatoes. You can see my post about the incident in my blog at:
    I had to end up asking her to not pick anything at all, and that I will bring tomatoes to her, since she did not quite grasp the concept of sharing. But that now seems to be working. Good luck.