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Spirit of the Garden & Spirit of the Sun

By Evelyn Alton and Gloria Huegel, Colorado Master Gardeners

Cheyenne-Arapaho Park, Photo: Arapahoe County

The Tsistsistas Hinonóei (Cheyenne Arapaho) Park honors the Plains Native American tribes with inspired art and a council gathering ring. The park is located at 9200 E. Iowa Ave., Denver. In 2022 Arapahoe County Open Spaces, the CSU Extension Colorado Master Gardener (CMG) program in Arapahoe County and Denver Urban Gardens partnered to provide a demonstration garden in a newly constructed community garden. “I am thrilled to see our newest demonstration garden up and running, and ready for educational programming,” says Arapahoe County Open Spaces Director Shannon Carter. “May we continue to see good things grow, come together as neighbors, and enjoy this beautiful park!”

Dawn Fradkin, CMG Coordinator for Arapahoe County said, “Our CMGs have been doing a fantastic job of creating demonstration plantings to teach from and organizing community classes at this newest demonstration garden. They are honoring the Native American ties to the park by growing the traditional “3 Sisters,” which is a companion planting of corn, squash and beans that indigenous nations have grown for centuries.” The CMG demonstration plot focuses on education and all aspects of the gardening experience by providing thoughtful plantings and workshops. Gardeners and the community can follow along on the progress throughout the season on our web page.

Some initial demonstrations include:

1. Tomatoes: when to plant them, how to manage insect pressure, fertilization, and comparing hybrid to heirloom varieties.

2. Seed tapes vs. sowing seed: is one approach better?

3. Three Sisters planting – benefits of historical companion planting.

4. How to combat pesky squash and cucumber feeding insects.

Evelyn Alton and Gloria Huegel, who are volunteer CMGs with combined experience of more than 21 years, lead this project. “I’m excited about the prospects of helping gardeners learn new science-based information to incorporate into their own skill sets and gardens,” said Evelyn. “This is a unique opportunity to grow in the same soil and conditions they faced as well.” Being present in the garden weekly gives us an opportunity to get to know the gardeners in the community and help with their challenges. Gloria advises gardeners, “Don’t give up! Slow and steady wins the race in a year such as the one we’re experiencing with all the rain, hail and cold. Reflect on the things you’ve learned, such as covering young seedlings to protect them from hail, and installing fencing to protect your garden from critters.”

Organic produce harvested will be donated to the Native Elders through Spirit of the Sun, a non-profit organization “founded on the belief that effective and sustainable development work recognizes the intersections of culture, community, economy, and health.”

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