Create and Enjoy Community Garden Tours

Written by Nan Sterman

I tend to divide the world into two kinds of people: those who walk or drive down a street, oblivious to their surroundings, and those who notice everything, especially cool gardens.  The latter group often dreams of strolling through gates and peaking over fences into the lush backyards and courtyards of others. If you notice everything (and of course you do), spring or summer is your lucky season for garden tours, private or public. And, if you lack garden tours in your community, consider creating your own!

Types of Garden Tours

The gardens included on tours are often private but can also be public and include speakers.

Garden tours are usually organized or offered by garden clubs, garden societies, and or public gardens. Some benefit causes like school gardens or educational scholarships or community beautification projects.  Other tours, such as native garden tours, have an educational goal.  Still, other tours are just for the fun of it. I went on a first garden tour more than 25 years ago. Since then, I’ve attended dozens, held my own garden on tour many times, and designed tours for the public.

Starting a Community Garden Tour

If you are innovative and know lots of other enthusiastic gardeners, you can start your own garden tour in your community. That’s just what I did. In 2005, I was first asked to head a tour for my community, the Encinitas Garden Festival & Tour.  Then in 2010 an annual self-guided walking tour of over 23 private gardens (a school garden, a butterfly vivarium, and even a fire station garden) was created where I live! Thousands now attend the event, which also features a marketplace of vendors selling plants, pots, tools, and garden soil (like Black Gold®), and close to a dozen talks on gardening topics.

Our tour is unusual in its size and scope, but if you develop and host a tour annually, it will surely grow.  Typically, a new garden tour features four, five, or maybe ten gardens on a driving and walking tour. For the price of admission, attendees generally get a map of the garden locations and a description of what makes each one special, in addition to garden access. Garden hosts are at the ready to help attendees better understand the plants, development, and overall design scheme of their gardens. Each tour will be as unique as its community. As it grows, so can its offerings.

The Dos and Don’ts of Garden Tours

Whichever tour you choose to attend or host, here are some dos and don’ts:


  • Buy tickets ahead of time, so you know where to go, and so organizers can anticipate how many people to host.
  • Wear comfortable shoes.  (I’m always amazed to see high heels teetering down a garden path.)
  • Wear sunscreen, a hat, and bring a bottle of water — common sense.
  • If you have trouble walking or negotiating rough surfaces, inquire about the garden accessibility ahead of time. This is especially essential for people in wheelchairs and parents with children in strollers. Many private gardens are not designed for public access or ADA compatibility.
  • Get an estimate of how long it might take to visit the gardens, so you can plan your day.
  • With tours where there are just a few gardens but lots of people, expect some lines. Be patient. While you wait, strike up a conversation with the person next to you.  You may learn an interesting gardening tip or, at least, make a new friend.
  • Leave the dog at home. Fido may adore the walk but garden owners won’t be appreciative.
  • Bring a camera! Bring a camera! Bring a camera!  And a notebook.


  • Pick flowers, collect seeds, or take cuttings. Taking anything from a garden without permission is, well, stealing. If you see a plant you like, take a photo or note its name. Take that information to your local nursery.
  • Go into areas marked as being off-limits.  There is a reason they are marked that way.
  • Try to visit a garden that is not on the tour, even if it looks absolutely fascinating.
  • Criticize a garden. Their owners work hard to prepare for your visit.

Then once you enter each garden, take a good attitude and have a good time! After you complete your garden tour, your next step should be to go home and implement some of your new garden ideas using Black Gold®!


Build Organic Garden Soil with Black Gold

Building organic garden soil is the same as working the soil for any other kind of garden except for one thing: you must feed the soil with OMRI Listed products for organic gardening. The ground below your feet is not just dirt but a whole living breathing universe unto itself. Within those soil mineral particles are populations of microscopic bacteria, fungi, yeasts, protozoa and algae. They are collectively known as microbes, which feed on the remnants of dead plants, also known as organic matter. Organic gardens depend on high microbe populations to make plants grow strong naturally, resist pests and diseases, and produce a bumper crop of food or flowers.

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Better Results All Season Long with Black Gold®

Black Gold All Purpose with Multicote Potting SoilWith the advent of Black Gold® All Purpose, you are now able to enjoy the benefits of a premium quality potting soil with a fertilizer that will feed your plants for up to six months. Sun Gro sells this same fertilizer product to professional growers. By incorporating Multicote® into your potting soil, your plants will have a consistent supply of nutrients throughout the entire season.

Multicote®, a controlled release fertilizer, has been coated with a polymer that slowly breaks down to release the nutrients over time. Unlike other controlled release fertilizers in the marketplace, Multicote® will not release excessive nutrients in higher temperatures, thus ensuring your plant will thrive no matter what the weather. This baseline of fertilizer allows your plants to grow all season long, not just when you remember to fertilize. Additional fertilizations with a liquid fertilizer, starting a couple weeks after planting, will ensure your plants get all the nutrients they need, particularly if your plants are heavy feeders.

Ideal for all types of plants, Black Gold® All Purpose with Multicote® is a great choice for house plants, patio containers and hanging baskets. Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss with earthworm castings, forest humus, compost and pumice combine to provide your plants with both moisture retention and good drainage. Since this potting soil has a higher amount of peat moss, it is ideal for gardeners looking to reduce their fertilizer and water usage.

Think of all the benefits – you start with a premium potting soil; add a controlled release fertilizer that will lessen the frequency of fertilizing; and you get improved plant performance by using Black Gold® All Purpose Potting Soil with Multicote®.

The Best House Plant Potting Soil

BG African Violet front-2Do your houseplants need to be re-potted? If so, Black Gold® offers a wide variety of product choices. We have four specialty mixes to choose from in addition to three standard all-purpose mixes. They are the perfect house plant potting soils.

Black Gold® African Violet Mix – Finicky African violets thrive in this blend of Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss, compost, pumice, earthworm castings and screened forest humus. The pH has been balanced to create the optimal rich and porous medium for growing foliage and flowers. African Violets must be pot-bound to bloom, so it is important to choose the correct size of pot. You should choose a pot that is 1/3 larger in diameter then the plant, and keep in mind African Violets need to be repotted every six months. The new potting soil will give the plant new organic matter and nutrients, and will reduce the build-up of salts.

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All About Black Gold® Garden Compost

Black Gold Garden Compost Blend is a wonderful amendment and mulch for strawberry beds.
Black Gold Garden Compost Blend is a wonderful amendment and mulch for strawberry beds.

One of the secret ingredients used by successful gardeners is Black Gold® Garden Compost Blend. What exactly is garden compost? Compost happens when microbes break down or decompose organic or living matter. The next time you are on a walk in a forest, look down at the forest floor and you will find compost being made naturally. The final product is a dark, rich, earthy smelling material, which gardeners commonly call “black gold”. Today at Black Gold® we use garden compost in several of our products, which makes our slogan “All the Riches of the Earth™” so true.

Black Gold’s® ready-to-use garden compost is OMRI Listed. This means that our garden compost is so naturally rich and pure that it can be used to produce certified organic garden products. If you purchase compost that is not OMRI Listed, you may get a product that contains ingredients you may not want in your garden. Using Black Gold® Garden Compost Blend in your garden soil encourages earthworms and other beneficial organisms to multiply and improve soil structure, break down organic matter for plants and increase soil fertility. Healthy soil will help your garden grow plants that are strong, healthy, productive and more naturally resistant to pests and diseases. Garden compost provides organic matter and natural nutrients for your garden soil and also improves soil texture and structure. In sandy soils, garden compost helps the soil hold more moisture, while in wet, heavy clay soils, compost improves soil drainage.

Black Gold® Garden Compost can either be mixed into the soil before planting as a garden amendment, or applied to the surface of the soil as mulch. It is true that you can never have enough garden compost. That’s why we also encourage you to make your own compost, even while you are experiencing a bountiful garden using Black Gold® Garden Compost Blend. Information on composting can be found on the Internet by doing a simple search for “composting”. Plus, in addition to having a flourishing garden, when you compost you keep the material from filling up overburdened landfills.