Chapter 1: Ready, Set, Grow!
READY, SET, GROW!
“Gardening is the best,” eight-year-old Joe Hardy said, leaning back in his lawn chair and munching on a freshly pulled carrot.
“There’s a difference between eating the garden and gardening.” His older brother, Frank, looked up from weeding the zucchini patch. “I’m the one doing most of the work. And if you keep eating all our veggies, there won’t be anything left for the judges from the FEEL Contest to judge.”
The Bayport Science Center was sponsoring the Friendly Environment Edible Lawn—FEEL for short—Contest. Just about all the houses in the Hardys’ neighborhood had signed up to turn their front lawns into eco-friendly edible landscape gardens.
“It’s an edible landscape contest. What good is a yard full of plants you can eat if you’re not allowed to eat the edibles? Right, Mr. Bee?” Joe asked the bumblebee collecting pollen from one of the bright red nasturtium flowers growing along the path leading to the Hardys’ front door. Joe plucked one of the petals and popped it into his mouth. “Who knew flowers could be so tasty?”
“The bees help by pollinating the plants,” Frank said. “You just eat them!”
Joe shrugged. “By the way, the beans look like they could use some watering, when you get a chance.” He took another bite of his carrot. “See, I’m helping!”
Joe pulled a leaf from a tall stalk with pom-pom-shaped purple flowers on top, but Frank started waving his hands in the air. “Don’t eat the milkweed leaves! Not all parts of every plant are edible or okay to snack on raw. You should never try something unless you’re totally sure.”
Frank sighed. “Besides, the block party where they judge the contest is just a few days away, and I want to at least get an honorable mention. Even if we don’t win, there are still a lot of great prizes for the runners-up.”
“Our neighborhood sure has come a long way since they announced the contest a few months ago,” Joe said, looking up and down their tree-lined street. “Before everyone started gardening this spring, the street was full of boring old grassy front lawns.”
“All that water people were using just to grow grass no one can eat is now growing lots of food,” Frank said. “Edible lawns look good and they’re good for the planet.”
“And tasty!” Joe said. “The whole street is like one big, beautiful garden full of munchies.”
“Some of the yards are more beautiful than others.”
Joe and Frank looked up to see their schoolmate Vic hop onto the curb in front of their house. He wore a fancy leather holster with a garden spade on one hip and a pruner on the other. His knees were covered in dirt, just like Frank’s.
“Don’t rub it in, Vic,” Frank grumbled, looking across the street at the gorgeous edible jungle growing on Vic’s front lawn.
“You gotta admit, it is pretty spectacular,” Joe said. “The kale plants look like little palm trees! And check out all those cucumbers. There must be a hundred of them!” He whistled at the six-foot-tall trellis next to Vic’s house. It was made of carefully crisscrossed bamboo poles, and cucumbers of different colors, shapes, and sizes dangled from the green-leafed vines that were climbing up it.
Vic glanced across the street, admiring his garden. “Thanks, Joe. My family’s always been known for our green thumbs. Your garden isn’t bad either.”
“It could be better,” Frank said with a sad glance at the spotty patch of lettuce next to him.
“Everybody can’t be the best at everything,” Vic said, leaning on the Hardys’ gated fence. “My family may be gifted gardeners, but everyone knows the Hardys are Bayport’s best mystery solvers. Not that it’s any mystery who’s going to win the FEEL competition.”
Vic looped his thumbs through the belt of his holster and grinned.
“Gardening is a new hobby for me, I guess,” Frank said, looking down at the stack of gardening books and seed catalogs sitting next to his bin of tools.
The whole town knew about the Hardy boys’ first hobby—detecting. Their dad, Fenton, was a detective, so like Vic’s green thumb, it ran in the family.
“Us gumshoes make okay gardeners, but our specialty really is cracking cases,” said Joe.
“What’s a gumshoe?” Vic asked.
“It’s an old-timey way of saying detective,” Joe explained.
“The rubber on sneakers used to be called gum, so ‘gumshoe’ means an investigator who can sneak around and be stealthy,” Frank added.
There was a sudden not-at-all-stealthy rustling from the bushes behind the garden. The three boys looked up to see the leaves shaking, like something was lurking inside them.
Vic bit his lip nervously. “Um, what is—”
Before he could finish his question, a wild beast burst into the yard!