A garden isn't just something to look at - it's a fascinating and delightfully sensual experience.

Step inside a garden gate and you can smell the rich earth, the pungent tomatoes and the fragrant flowers. The tastes are as varied as a smorgasbord, and the textures, from soft soil to glossy fruits, invite touch. Bees and breezes make music, and everything presents a visual display. None of the senses is slighted.

And, if you just pay close attention to what a garden does to your senses, it will teach you a lot about how it grows.

By experiencing your garden and developing your powers of sense perception, you can keep on top of what's happening in your plot and on hand to help. You'll notice when everything's right and when something's not. And you'll no doubt see some things things that will surprise you.

Don't be afraid to get too close. After all, the graden's on a different scale.

Stories say old-time farmers were so good at observing that they knew when their soil needed lime by tasting it, and they could tell what nutrients it needed by noticing what weeds thrived.

Nothing tells you so much about your soil as the feel of it in your hands. If it sticks together in a ball in springtime, it's too early to plant. If it's kind of crumbly, it's right.

The only way you can know waht's happening in your garden is to be there - observing. It's easy enough habit, and, as garden work goes, it sure beats picking bugs or pulling weeds.

Experiencing your garden can take as little as 10 minutes a day - 10 peaceful minutes of doing nothing more than sitting in the garden and noticing what's going on.

I like the morning for watching. The light is nice, the plants are still jeweled with dew, everything is just waking up and the weather is usually cool. The bugs are sluggish too - and that means that if you see them happily munching your plants, you can give them a warning to clear while you watch. If they don't, they move slow enough so you can watch them.

And if you don't see hungry insects, but only the holes they've left in taking their vegetable meals, observing is a good way to find out who's coming to dinner in the garden, and whether any other insects are coming to dine on them.

Sometimes it takes wiles to catch them in the act, as they can be sneaky. A friend of mine found holes in the leaves of his garden plants every morning, but couldn't figure out what sort of creature he was dealing with. All he knew was that it ate discriminately, chewing big holes in all the plants in sight.

He played a little Sherlock Holmes, and went out to the garden with flashlight and magnifying glass to do his watching at night. He sat in the dark and then shined his light around, to discover earwigs, calmly eating their way through his corn. Traps made of rolled newspaper provided the solution. It took several days of emptying them in the morning, but it worked.

If you notice insects early enough, you can work to keep them from having families in your garden. It's much easier to get rid of a few insects than a community.

But garden observation is more than noticing the problems in your garden. It's noticing everything - when plants flower, when they set fruit, how they act, how they like their companions, how some thrive and others don't. It's experiencing all the tastes, sights, textures, sounds and smells, and savoring each of them.

It makes it easy to see why Adam and Eve's earthly paradise is depicted as a garden, and easy to see your own garden as a little piece of paradise.