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Harvesting the Fruits of My Labor

By Steve Fagin

Publication: theday.com

Published July 13. 2013 4:00AM

After donning snowshoes last February and tromping out to the garden to inspect damage from a furious near-blizzard, my heart sank when I observed several feet of heavy, wet snow had not only ripped down most of the netting over my blueberry bushes but also snapped some of the wooden framework.

 

I had slaved for weeks last fall constructing a bird and deer barrier, and would therefore have to spend who knows how many more days repairing the structure in the spring.

 

Loyal readers will recall my travails reassembling the enclosure in order to foil a herd of robo-deer and one persistent catbird that were determined to penetrate my defenses.

 

I’m thrilled to report that my 10-foot-tall wire fencing and heavy-gauge nylon netting supported by 2x4s and steel posts, surrounded by a perimeter of tulip-poplar sapling trunks lashed together like tee-pee frames, have done the trick.

 

Not one four-legged or feathered freeloader has made it past my Checkpoint Charlie, and now I am fully appreciating the biblical aphorism in Galatians VI, “As ye sow, shall ye reap.”

 

Yes, I’m reaping blueberries big time, and if there’s a better way to start the day than a mountain of the fresh-picked fruit served over Greek yogurt I’d like to know.

 

Blueberries have been a perennial success for years but this season I have a new favorite crop, one that I’ve never grown before: garlic.

 

Just before the ground froze last November I planted more than 100 cloves, separated from about five pounds of bulbs, then spread 50 pounds of composted cow manure over the dirt, and finally topped everything with 6 inches of crushed leaves.

 

In late March daffodil-like shoots poked from snow-covered soil, and by June they had shot up hip-high. Soon scapes appeared – curved stalks that will contain seedpods if you let them grow.

 

Following instructions from various authorities I snipped the scapes so that more plant energy would go into bulb growth rather than flower production. Although some gardeners say cutting the scapes makes no difference in growth, an added benefit is you can sauté these scallion-like shoots and savor their garlic flavor long before you get around to digging up bulbs.

 

Last week I unearthed my first garlic bulb and raced with it into the kitchen.

 

Unlike dried bulbs most of us get from the store, fresh-picked garlic peels as easily as an onion, and in seconds I had the entire bulb sliced and sizzling in a skillet coated with extra-virgin olive oil.

 

Throw in a few veggies and serve over fresh pasta, and you have a breathtaking – make that breathshaking – meal.

 

Halitosis is the down side of garlic. It’s best not to consume large quantities the day before, say, a love scene with Gwyneth Paltrow or whistling the Bach Cantata 147 in close quarters.

 

On the plus side, you don’t have to worry about vampires.

 

About a third of my crop now is drying on a table on the deck under a beach umbrella – I’m letting the rest grow a little longer, though not too long or they may start to rot. In a few days I’ll hang the harvested bulbs from a line under the eaves for a few weeks, and then they can be placed in nylon net bags and stored for months.

 

I’ll also save a batch to plant in the fall.

 

Elsewhere in the garden, spinach and peas have already gone by, but the Swiss chard should be going strong through fall. Bush and pole beans are beginning to produce; tomatoes are still green and peppers still too small, but it won’t be long.

 

The Brussels sprouts look very healthy, though it will be months before they’re edible; onions and shallots are ready to toss into the skillet with the garlic.

 

For some reason, eggplant has been a disappointment this season. Oh well, can’t have everything.

 

Oh, and the table grape vines I planted in the spring have all sprouted, though it will be another year before they bear fruit. It was a real leap of faith receiving these bare branches in the mail in April, sticking them in the ground, and waiting to see leaves appear.

 

Come to think of it, all gardening is a leap of faith, rewarded by a miracle.

 

The season is still young; a continued harvest awaits.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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