by Leigh Mills
I get to visit all kinds of gardens and growing spaces as a columnist for the Eagle. Every place inspires me, and some remind me if there’s a will, there’s a way. No place in the San Luis Valley can be harder to garden than in Moffat where I visited Melinda Myers, Bob Long, and Betty Skoglund—three gardeners that turn the impossible into a miracle.
Moffat is situated in a low spot on the valley floor. The cold settles hard and the wind blows endlessly. Unexpected frosts make the short growing season even shorter. There is no real soil and every gardener has added truck-loads of amendments in an attempt to balance the clay soil and intense alkali conditions. Animal pests are different too. Gophers can be a problem, rather than deer and rabbits.
Melinda’s been gardening in Moffat for almost 15 years and said, “What I like about my farm is how the different systems work together”. Her animals are a big part of that system. She has several rabbits, young ducks and geese, chickens, mama goats, and horses. They all enjoy the harvest from the gardens and their composted manure is added to the soil. She grows lots of perennial flowers and vegetables and uses row covers and a hoop house to extend her season. Nothing goes to waste and she uses as few outside inputs as possible. I was given a taste treat, fresh from the garden and goat: cilantro pesto and “poor man’s guacamole” – sorrel, garlic and kefir, yum, yum!
Bob Long lives and works at the Mirage Trading Company and has been gardening in that spot for almost 7 years. His garden area is quite protected and he doesn’t suffer the wind as much as other Moffat gardeners. Bob is a home brewer and much of his gardening focus is on herbs and medicinal flowers that he adds to his brews. His small garden plot is packed with garlic, carrots, lettuce, peas and an assortment of volunteer goodies. A little tour showed he has a passion for flowers and likes to experiment with different growing techniques. Bob has transplanted many different plants into the alley behind the Trade and into special corners that need extra attention. The result is beautiful, and I will be taking another tour later this summer when everything is in bloom.
Betty Skoglund is a life-long gardener and has been living in Moffat since the early 1980’s. She said to me, “Gardening is something you have within you. Because you have to work with it all the time, either you ‘get it’ and love it, or you get discouraged.” She’s worked very hard throughout the many years she’s gardened in Moffat and the love shows. Garlic and asparagus are prolific growers, as are cabbage, carrots and beets. Betty makes “dilly pickled asparagus” since cucumbers don’t grow well and uses dill seed from her garden to season the crunchy spears. Her beautiful garlic braids are known throughout the valley. The original garlic came from her parents, who lived in Denver (her father was born there in 1898). She uses dried flowers from her garden to decorate the braids and sells them in the fall “to help pay for her garden”. Both Melinda and Bob have received some of Betty’s garden surplus and are growing garlic, walking onions, perennial flowers and herbs in their spaces.
These Moffat gardeners have proved they can achieve beautiful growing spaces which produce large amounts of food, flowers and herbs, thus working miracles in Moffat.