Garden Variety: Tour Highlights Talents Of Local Green Thumbs

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How do the gardens of the Rim Area Gardeners grow? With splendid, dizzying variety.

The public can see for themselves at the annual Mogollon Garden Tour this Saturday.

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This slope on the Gooding property used to send water running into the street, now terraced planting areas hold the water and offer a treat for passers-by.

There will be six gardens opened for visiting on the self-guided tour. Tickets are $5 and are available at Ace Hardware, Plant Fair Nursery, Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce, Payson Public Library, and at each of the gardens during the tour.

Among the six tour gardens is that of Dean and Vee Gooding. The couple have worked on their garden for five years. Their home in Alpine Heights sits on a corner lot that is about one-third of an acre and just about every inch that isn't house and driveway is garden.

"When we bought it, there was a lawn, the trees and roses," Vee said. They kept the trees and roses, but replaced the lawn with flowers and shrubs, selecting low water use and native plants.

To help the roses along, Vee planted garlic at their bases. "It's good for the roses and helps keep the bugs away. And the blooms are beautiful," she said. She also makes good use of the garlic cloves.

Vee recommends using drought tolerant plants whenever possible and said Plant Fair Nursery is a great source. Some of the plants she likes are red-tipped yucca, which is also known as Hesper Aloe, sage, salvias, and red hot pokers.

"Mexican sage is a favorite, with its dark purple," Vee said.

She only plants perennials and lots of iris and daffodil bulbs. Vee said daisies are good too, once they get started they spread quickly.

"You don't have to do much with them. I look for low care and low water plants," she said.

She calls her landscape an old fashioned, English type garden.

Dean is the vegetable gardener of the couple. The property had a garden plot when they bought the place, but the soil was not healthy and the plot was the traditional flat space.

He spent two years building up the soil with compost.

"Composting is a big part of the success of all the gardens," Vee said. They use fresh llama manure and old horse manure.

An engineer, he redesigned the vegetable garden so that he and Vee could work in trenches with the plants at about waist level. It is a twist on the raised bed concept of gardening, but instead of raising the beds, Dean lowered the access.

The vegetable garden features tomatoes of all kinds, squash, cucumbers, pumpkins, potatoes, onions and carrots.

"He has wonderful rhubarb and makes great pies with it," Vee said.

Dean's engineering skills are most evident in the water harvesting system the couple uses and their greenhouse. He redirected the down spouts of the gutter system to water their gardens. Part of the system feeds a 300-gallon barrel they use to flood irrigate the patch of grass they have for their 15 grandchildren. Another part of the system fills the 400-gallon, multiple barrel system in the greenhouse. Other parts drain so the plants get the benefit.

The greenhouse includes metal panels on the back wall to catch and reflect the sunlight to heat the greenhouse and the water they will hold in its barrel system during the winter.

Another water harvesting system is a terraced garden the couple designed for a piece of their property where

before the water would just run off into the street. Now there are terraced planting areas, packed with a variety of flowers and shrubs -- even a wandering Jew that grew from house plant clippings Vee had tossed off a balcony for the compost heap. With the terraces heavily planted, the water that used to run into the street is now put to use.

The couple also buckets their bath water to use on the gardens and they have a drip irrigation system as well.

"Plant what you'll love," Vee said. She also recommends adding special points of interest in your gardens. Before moving to the area, Vee had an antique shop and she has put some of her favorite pieces in the garden, like an old wagon and a wheelbarrow. She is also a stained glass artist and many of her works can be seen around the different gardening spots on the property.

"Bird feeders and bird baths are a real asset to attract birds. But if you're going to have a bird feeder, put it in a place where you don't care what grows on the ground."

In addition to making a considerable effort to harvest rainwater and recycle water they use in their home, the Goodings also make good use of other materials, using recycled materials in the garden and greenhouse. They also try to stay away from pesticides, using a hard water spray or simple soapy water to get rid of many of the pests that try to make a feast of their plants.

To reduce damage by javelina, rabbits and deer, they have put in a lot of plants that the animals don't care to eat. They have a list of the plants from the Cooperative Extension Service of the University of Arizona College of Agriculture.

"A garden is a wonderful surprise," Vee said, "Every year it's different."

The Rim Area Gardeners' 2004 Mogollon Garden Tour is Saturday, Sept. 18 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Gardens on the tour are:

  • The Krison Garden of Walter and Elly Krison, 1307 N. Easy;
  • The Gooding Garden of Dean and Vee Gooding, 800 W. St. Moritz;
  • The Holt Garden of Dick and Lee Holt, 706 W. Overland;
  • Gila County Community College demonstration garden by the High Country Xeriscape Council of Arizona, 201 N. Mud Springs;
  • The Hartinger Garden of Joe and Ursula Hartinger, 1114 S. Elk Ridge; and
  • The Ostermeier Garden of Bob and Betty Ostermeier, 900 W. Heritage Circle.

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