DEAR MISS MANNERS: Is it considered to be stealing if your gardener just helps himself to your lemons, oranges, etc.?
GENTLE READER: It depends on what is included in the “et cetera” -- or in this case, what is under the pile of leaves in the back of the gardener’s truck.
He has been hired to tend the garden, which, absent express authorization, is not a license to harvest or to hunt. He is expected to dispose of items that you would consider waste, even, Miss Manners notes, if he may not. This includes dead leaves, weeds and other floral detritus (even though he might be able to employ them elsewhere as fertilizer).
It does not include hanging fruit (high or low) or stray pets (dead or alive). Fruit that has fallen to the ground lies in unmarked territory as it has, technically, begun to decompose -- even if it is still bouncing from the fall.
As it would be considerate to provide workers with some nourishment, you might wish to be more explicit and say that while your family plans to pick the apples this evening (though not to count them), you hope he and any assistants will enjoy one each as well.