How does your garden grow?

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Puma strolled down the hill from the vegetable garden, paws placed neatly in front of him with every step, his tail whisking back and forth.

"He's a really good hunter. He keeps the critters out of the garden," said Margie Arbogast, owner of the garden.

About one and a half miles up from Routt County Road 36 a voluptuous herb and vegetable garden sits in the front yard of the Arbogast residence.

Along with keeping her black cat Puma around, Arbogast also treats her vegetable garden with beer to keep the slugs away.

Small cans sporadically placed around the garden draw in the bugs and keep her organic garden fresh and clean.

Two dogs and a fence around the vegetable garden keep the deer, elk and bears from destroying her lifetime passion.

On the rocky hillside leading up to the fenced-in vegetable garden, carefully placed bushels of tarragon, marjoram, various species of sage and many other herbs sit in crevassed spots between boulders.

"Tarragon is my favorite. It's so versatile in cooking and it's the base of all my vinegar. My second favorite is sorrel. It's fabulous in soup. It cooks down just like spinach," Arbogast said pointing to the large-leafed herb.

Arbogast won the Helen Sherrod outstanding home artist award at this year's Routt County Fair.

Arbogast has participated in the fair for about five years, beginning as the photography superintendent. Arbogast also won first place at this year's fair for her photograph called "Elk River Valley".

Because Arbogast's garden rests at 7,600 feet, the home art division of the county fair has particular instructions on how to can vegetables.

Arbogast said items to be canned must be boiled for a certain amount of time but living at a higher altitude means it takes longer.

"My apricot-ginger preserves took first," Arbogast said.

Actually, Arbogast took the most first-place prizes within the fair's home arts division this year.

However, Arbogast said there weren't any guidelines for the produce or herbs.

"At my altitude I can't do tomatoes because there's not a long enough growing season. that's why my husband is going to build me a greenhouse," Arbogast said.

A basket of her finest vegetables and herbs laid at the first step leading to her gardens.

In it were yellow and red Swiss chard, little carrots, beets, turnips, pickling cucumbers, rhubarb, patty pan squash, acorn squash and "big fat zucchinis."

Many of Arbogast's entries in this year's fair were grown in her garden for the first time.

Understanding if cauliflower, peppers and snow peas are supposed to grow so large still is a mystery to the garden lover.

"They'll be much better next year," Arbogast said of her snow peas.

Arbogast planted her first seeds this year on May 5, watering only at night at weeding three times a week.

"I water at night because the ground holds the water and it doesn't evaporate," Arbogast said.

Her garden of perennials is completely organic so beer is used rather than pesticides.

Many of the herbs begin to bloom toward the end of the season, which for Arbogast usually comes to a close about the middle of September. When planting the garden, Arbogast staggers each vegetable so that she doesn't end up with pounds of squash and carrots that she doesn't have a use for. Arbogast said she always had a vegetable garden behind her house when she was growing up and it became a natural hobby after raising her own herbs in

the garden.

Soon, an herb and vegetable fascination turned into a love for cooking and exhibiting her produce. Arbogast walked through the herb and vegetable garden with her orange scissors, snipping at pieces here and there and munching on bits of lettuce along the way.

"I'm a salad lover. (So many of these items) are wonderful on salads," Arbogast said. "We really like to have our friends over

for dinner."

When bushels of veggies begin to show nothing but seeds, Arbogast will dry them and give them to friends as Christmas presents, along with her tarragon vinegar and lavender sashes.

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