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Gardeners Enjoy Nature's Gifts

Leo Cirino plucks a grape tomato and hands it over. He smiles and gently insists, and down it goes. The fruit radiates warmth from the summer sun and the taste is sweet. Cirino smiles.

"I've learned how nurturing God is," he said before tending to another plant. He glances around, taking in his plot at the Westport Community Gardens. "It's all His, He just allows us to enjoy it," Cirino adds.

To celebrate the expansion to a full acre, the Westport Community Gardens held an "Open Garden Day" Saturday. First Selectman Gordon Joseloff helped cut the ribbon and toured the property, which is next to Long Lots Elementary School. Happy growers made sure he and the other visitors had a steady stream of fresh produce to nibble on.

Sheila Bergmann, one of the master gardeners at the site, offered tips to Marion and Bob Paksik on how to avoid tomato blight and increase their yield. In his own plot, Cirino gave Jake Philips, 10, a tour and some tips. Philips has his own section a few down from Cirino.

Cirino's community garden plot is only one of five gardens he tends. At home, he manages a patio garden so he can guard his fruits and vegetables from rabbits and deer. He doesn't actually mind the wildlife, he just wants to keep some of his produce for himself. In fact, Cirino is a staunch opponent of any plans to kill the town's deer herd. "I will fight them down to the last, I don't believe in killing animals," said Cirino.

His love of nature began as a boy in Manhattan, where he gleefully ate the fruits off his grandfather's fig trees. He won't give his age, but teases with some clues that add more insight into a life pursuing nature's crop. When he was a year younger than Philips, he was growing Victory Gardens. With that he goes back to his crop, with decades of experience guiding his hands.

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