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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.
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