When I was a kid, I used to feel deprived because unlike my friend, Sarah, I had to weed the garden on Saturday, and couldn't go to the roller skating rink until I had put in a couple of hours.

"Just work the rose garden this morning," my mother would say, pretending not to know that the rose garden was as big as a football field.

Now I can't wait for spring so that I can weed, and plant until the moon comes up. In the winter, you won't see any flowers; the dormant plants, however, are defined by white post markers sticking out of the ground: Scilla 2009, or Peonies 2002, they read.

Gardeners need to be vigilant about predators. There are bunnies and woodchucks, and assorted insects that want to make a meal of the plants. Luckily, there are various methods and repellents to route out these pests such as dried blood, ground hot pepper and even beer. Did you know that if you put beer into a saucer near your tomato plant that the slugs will think it's a swimming pool, jump in and drown?

There are good bugs called "beneficial insects" and you can buy them over the Internet. They are natural predators that make a meal out of aphids and other bad bugs. A few years ago I purchased several thousand ladybugs and let them loose in my daughter's garden. Their ancestors are still around today doing a bang-up job of clearing out the no-goods. When my son, Jeff, asked me how to amend his soil, I had several bags of Mexican worms mailed directly to his house. At the time he wasn't real happy with me, but now the worms have grown into fat adults, and the "castings" have helped to make the soil healthy.

Why am I telling you this? Well, it's one thing to amend soil, plant a pretty garden and rid it of predators, but what do you do when the predators are your neighbors?

When I bought my house, one of the first things I had to do was plant an arborvitae hedge between myself and my neighbor's garage, which is party central and about 10 feet from my bedroom window. Around 2 a.m., the revelers get a craving for take-out food. Off they go, in a car with no muffler (or so it seems) and the radio blaring -- the bass thumping so loudly the walls of my bedroom vibrate.

My neighbors are not the kind you can reason with, and this became more apparent this past summer when my neighbor's son took it upon himself to "trim" the arborvitae right back to the tree trunks. He then continued to slice through the sides of each tree so that the hedge row now looks more like a picket fence. I yelled. I cried. I yelled some more. And then I filed a police report, spoke to a lawyer, and paid for a property survey.

Unfortunately, there was no apparent recourse. While the tree roots were planted on my side of the property, some of the lacy "greenery" grew just inches over the property line. They'll grow back, his mother said, but as anyone who has any knowledge of arborvitae, this will mark the beginning of the end.

How does this relate to business? Just like most gardeners, most business people play by the rules. They plant the seeds, (the idea) nurture them (network and work long hours) and through due diligence grow a successful crop (business). But as in the gardener's world, predators abound, waiting to ruin the crop, steal the profits, and wreak havoc either out of ignorance or for their own basic greed. Vigilance and sometimes a healthy distrust are required to keep those who would destroy a bountiful garden or a successful business just because they can. (Think Bernie Madoff, credit default swaps, Enron.)

Is there a lesson in all this? Perhaps. Or it could be that true stories have no moral. Or maybe it's just simply the Golden Rule of Life: As you sow, so shall you reap.

New chamber members

"¢ Old Post Tavern LLC: Patrick Tennaro, 1418 Post Road, Fairfield.

"¢ Verizon Wireless: Kate Nadirali, 1201 Kings Highway, Fairfield.

"¢ Gofer Ice Cream LLC: Jay Ragusa, 522 Greenwich Ave., Greenwich.

Michael J. Reynolds, D.D.S., P.C.: 2600 Post Road, Southport.

"¢ Clinical Laboratory Partners LLC: Allison Catalano, 425 Post Road, Fairfield.

"¢ TheDailyFairfield: Ernest Reed, 53 Water St., Norwalk.

"¢ The Delamar Southport: Gary D. Mitchell, 275 Old Post Road, Southport.

Patricia Ritchie, the president and CEO of the Fairfield Chamber of Commerce, can be reached at patricia@FairfieldCTChamber.com