"The vegetable garden is ready for your inspection, sir."

"Thank you, Sergeant. Now hear this. As commander of this spring garden, I want every plant to line up, in rows four abreast. Let's move it, on the double. You asparagus down there. I want your shoulders back, and your spears straight up. If you tomato plants don't stop sagging, I'm going to pull you up by your roots. Do your hear me? I said, do your hear ME? -- That's better.

"This is the sorriest excuse for vegetable life I've ever seen. But let me tell you something: By the time I get finished, every last one of you is going to be fit to eat, or I'll know the reason why.

"You think all it takes is a little mulch and fertilizer to be vegetable? Well, you're wrong, wrong, wrong. You've had an easy time of it, sacking out and slouching in your beds. Now you're going to start producing or I'll know the reason why.

"From this day on you're going to shape up or ship out. Is that understood? And that goes for the rhubarb, too.

"Sergeant, why do these corn stalks look so sick?"

"I don't know, sir. I've tried to get them to straighten up, but they keep flopping over."

"Maybe they could use a little discipline. Perhaps if we tie them to a stick for a week, they'll know how to stand at attention."

"But that's cruel and unusual punishment."

"It's nothing compared to what they'll face when they go up against the corn borer. I'm trying to save these plants' lives, and we can't do that by coddling them. Tie 'em up, and that's an order."

"Yes, sir."

"Why do these new wax beans look so sallow?"

"I don't know, sir. I think they've been high on nitrogen."

"They're all zonked out. From now on, no one gets any nitrogen until you check with me. Let me tell you wax beans something, and hear me loud and clear. I didn't even want you in my garden. I accepted you against my better judgment. But since you're here, you're going to play by my rules or else wind up in the compost heap. I want your pods polished every morning, so I can see my face in them. I want you tough on the outside and tender on the inside. If you can't hack it, I can always replace you with squash. Do you read me? I SAID DO YOU READ ME? . . . You scraggy plants give all wax beans a bad name.

"What do we have over here, Sergeant?"

"Carrots, sir. Off the record, they haven't caused us any trouble so far."

"Well, at least we have something in this garden we can count on. Give them an extra shovelful of topsoil as a reward. Where are the eggplants?"

"Dead, sir."

"Dead! How the hell did they die?"

"The early frost got them, sir. It's all in my report."

"Oh, well, it's no great loss. I don't know too many people who like eggplants. We can always fill out the ranks with cucumbers. How are the potatoes doing?"

"They're a great young crop, sir. But then we never have had trouble with potatoes. It's a tough little vegetable and it doesn't mind wallowing in the dirt."

"What's wrong with this head of lettuce?"

"It was wounded by an army worm in the trenches and doesn't want to grow any more."

"It's not sick. It's malingering. I can't stand a yellow head of lettuce. Our vegetables are out there giving their all for America, and this little coward just sits in its bed faking illness. Well, I won't have it. DO YOU HEAR ME? I WON'T HAVE IT! Take that, your miserable excuse for a salad."

"Sir, you slapped it in the face."

"That's exactly what it needed. If we coddle these rotten shirkers, we won't have anything to eat this summer at all."