Tour gardens Saturday

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By The Staff

Since moving to Los Alamos two summers ago, I’ve heard many stories from folks who lived through the days of the great fire of 2000. The Cerro Grande fire changed the landscape of Los Alamos and the mountains surrounding it for decades to come. Not only did the fire cause erosion by burning down vegetation, it also damaged the soil.

A very hot fire can cause soil to become hydrophobic, unable to absorb water. Insects, fungi and bacteria, which contribute to a living, fertile soil, are destroyed. How can these obstacles be overcome to successfully garden in damaged soil? In Los Alamos and White Rock, residents can learn from homeowners who have successfully created thriving gardens.

Included this year in the NMSU Master Gardeners’ Tour are three gardens in fire recovery areas. Each has taken a different approach to recovery, and each will give inspiration and encouragement. The Rumsey garden makes use of raised beds and water harvesting techniques to attract hummingbirds, butterflies and bees. The Gursky/Bolton garden uses terraces and xeric plants, but proves that low water gardens need not be sparse. The Horpedahl back yard provides an example of forest urban interface.

Three other gardens on the tour will get visitors thinking with their creativity. The handicapped accessible and dog-friendly Stoddard landscape unifies many different areas through the creative use of moss rock. The Linnebur garden provides fresh vegetables from summer to December. Disease resistant plants and a drip irrigation system will give people ideas for their own vegetable garden. A walk through the Ragsdale yard will delight the senses. A quiet pond, raised beds of ornamental and edible plants, and fruit trees are a few of the treats in store for those visiting this garden.

The final garden on the 2008 Tour is the Demonstration Garden. Carlos Valdez, NMSU extension agent, will be there to answer questions and direct visitors through the garden. A brand new Oasis Garden and some Industrial Strength gardens have been added to the Sensory Garden, Artemisia Bed, the Perennial Mound, Herb Garden and an example of fire-safe landscaping. People can pick up a plant list and choose something new for their own garden.

The NMSU Master Gardeners’ 2008 Garden Tour is free to the public. To attend, pick up a brochure at the Extension office, 475 20th St., or at the Los Alamos or White Rock Library. The tour is self-guided; to begin simply choose a garden and follow the map. Participants may visit all or just some of the seven gardens on this year’s tour. The tour will operate from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. June 28.

Los Alamos Master Gardeners, NMSU Cooperative Extension and Los Alamos Department of Public Utilities sponsor the garden tour.

For information about the Master Gardener Program or for answers to any other gardening related questions, contact the Los Alamos County Cooperative Extension service at 662-2656 or valdez@nmsu.edu. Its mission is to educate Los Alamos residents about knowledgeable, effective and safe horticultural practices that build healthy gardens and communities.