2009-07-23 / News

A bountiful berry harvest

The Island Garden
By Roger Marshall

I was out picking blueberries quite early the other morning, listening to the sounds of the birds (smack!) and the sounds of the deer snuffling through the undergrowth (smack!). Oh, and did I mention the sounds of mosquitoes buzzing around my arms and legs (smack!)? Mosquito swatting punctuated my picking.

Mosquitoes are a pain, but they are a cross we gardeners must bear if we want to work early in the morning or late in the evening. They can also carry some deadly diseases, such as West Nile Virus, Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) and even some forms of malaria. Infection can make the tiny wounds even more dangerous.

Long-sleeved clothes and mosquito repellents can help. But the best solution is to attack the problem right at the mosquito breeding grounds. Get rid of any standing water to eliminate breeding grounds. Unfortunately, that means emptying the rain barrel or treating it and your pond with a mosquito larvae killer. Most mosquito controls contain bacillus thurengiensis (BT), an organic pesticide. The granules can be added to any source of standing water and will eliminate the larvae. Some of the trade names of products containing BT are Mosquito Free Granules, Mosquito Bits or Mosquito Dunks.

Another way to control larvae is to drop a couple of goldfish into your pond. The least expensive goldfish cost approximately 25 cents at a pet store and they love to eat the larvae. Of course, you’ll have to feed the fish, but they can provide lots of fun for kids.

Once the mosquitoes are under control, the next problem is what to do with all the fruit you have harvested. This year, the blueberry bushes are so laden that their branches are in danger of breaking. Picking the berries in the early morning gets them off the plant before squirrels and birds take their share. The additional weight of a squirrel or a large bird can easily be enough to break an entire branch. But the bushes are so prolific this year, thanks to all the rain, that I may have to pick in the evenings as well.

Raspberries, black currants, gooseberries and red currants are all ready to be picked, and my solution is to pick them and freeze them. It is no fun trying to make jelly in the heat of summer when the kitchen is already 85 degrees. When winter comes and I need to warm up the house with some nice aromas, I’ll make jellies or pies with them and really enjoy the summer harvest.

Another crop almost ready to be harvested is garlic. Right now, the spathes (the curly seed tops) are sprouting. I snip them off so that the plant will put its growth into the bulbs and in another three weeks or so, I will harvest the bulbs. They will be cured for about a month outdoors, and then stored in the basement for use all winter long. I also make garlic soup and freeze that. Nothing quite like it to keep colds away during winter!

I also noticed that the figs are a few weeks from being ready. A fresh fig eaten right off the tree is delicious. In fact, now that I think of it, a lot of the produce doesn’t make it into the picking bowl or the freezer — it gets eaten right away. But that’s why we have gardens, to enjoy the freshest of fruits and vegetables.

As long as we can keep those mosquitoes (smack!) at bay!

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