by Leigh Mills 

Approximately 40 people attended the Crestone Garden Tour last month organized by Matie Belle Lakish and others of the Holistic Living Alliance’s food group.  It was a wonderful whirlwind tour of nine gardens starting with the big beautiful “Bend Garden” coordinated by Robin Blankenship, and ended with a late afternoon tour of the carefully tended Atalanta community garden.  Along the way we visited a newer garden high in the Baca Chalets, full of flowers, fresh greens and herbs; Savitri House’s three gardens which featured an array of growing techniques; Matie Belle’s sculpted flower and vegetable garden with its rock walls and shady nooks; the abundant community garden fueled with “Ormus” at Hanna Strong’s; a revitalized older garden space in Crestone lovingly tended by Nora, Russ, and Mary; the Living Arts Institute’s many prolific garden areas, and Kizzen and Janet’s 24-year-old garden with its wonderful soil and bounty of green and color.

The hosts of each garden escorted us through their spaces and shared tidbits of info to the participants on how they started their spaces, what they did or are doing to improve the soil, and watering tips for making sure all the plants got their share of liquid magic.  A casual survey showed that half of the tour-goers had gardens themselves.  A guess is the other half were learning pointers for when they start their own.

All of the gardens practiced organic gardening methods and used various types of manure and compost to enrich their soils.  High fences were prevalent to keep out the bigger pests and the gardeners lamented the difficulty of keeping out the smallest pest, aphids. The “Bend” community garden shared a tip for rodents:  original Irish Spring soap.  Just unwrap a fresh bar, or  more, and put them in various areas of your garden.

Most gardens focused on conserving water by using drip lines. Everyone used mulching to keep weeds down and water in.  One garden used a “sheet mulch” method, and the Atalanta garden was using different types of wood chips to enhance their garden’s growing beds and walking areas.

An unexpectedly large and enthusiastic crowd meant that a lot of folks probably didn’t get all their questions asked, and we had a sense of rushing a bit to get all the gardens visited in the 4 hours set aside for the tour.  However it seemed like everyone enjoyed the opportunity to see the other gardens, whether they visited just a couple or the whole nine yards. The organizer of this year’s event has been receiving lots of wonderful feedback and will be incorporating the information into the plans for next year’s garden tour.  It seems like more and more folks are getting into gardening and are glad to be part of a community to share knowledge and learn from each other.  Thank you all for organizing and participating in this event!