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Niko Kirby

The Garden in August

By A Year in the Garden, Education

by Senior Education Specialist Judy Elliott

August marks a transitional time in the garden. With daytime temperatures that can stay in the low to mid-90s during much of the month and nighttime temperatures falling a bit to the mid-50s, it can be confusing, to say the least, for our veggies, herbs, and flowers.

Rain is sporadic, winds seem constant, and the air is thick with the smoke from fires in Colorado and other western states. At this time of the season, many veggies and herbs seem to be not quite as vigorous in their growth and show increasing incidences of insect infestations or disease progression. Considering that from the beginning to the end of the month, we’ve lost a little over an hour of daylight, it’s not surprising that plants are stressed.

Let’s consider some strategies that either extend the productive lifespan of our garden or renew its possibilities for the fall months that are right around the corner. 

E |Eliminate diseased plants + those with heavy insect infestations 

  • Members of the cucurbit (summer & winter squash, cucumbers, pumpkins) are beginning to show signs of powdery mildew. The fungi responsible for this disease produce spots or patches of white to grayish talcum–powder–like growth
  • The disease is more prevalent as the weather becomes hot and dry and as plants age
  • To keep this in check, avoid overhead watering, pick off affected leaves, and promote air circulation by selectively pruning off excess growth
  • If needed, apply a product containing potassium bicarbonate (‘Bi-Carb’) available, as are many other organic remedies at ‘Arbico Organics’: www.arbico-organics.com
  • Any crops showing spots or blotches on the leaves should not be utilized in compost piles

X| Extend a helping hand

  • Donate or preserve what you can’t realistically eat fresh
  • Donate your skills (helping to care for a plot, ‘strong back brigade’, gardening expertise, calming presence to others in your garden community. What we give returns in so many unforeseen ways

T | Tend your garden on a regular basis

  • Adhere to regular routines of cultivating, renewing mulch, and watering at the base
  • Remember that plants that are thriving, receiving regular care, and are harvested frequently while fruits are young remain productive for a longer period of time than those that receive sporadic care routines

E | Enjoy early morning time in the garden

  • Turn over leaves: pick off eggs of cabbage butterflies, wash off aphids, prune off fading flowers, cut back basil that’s in flower to make pesto, cultivate, and water
  • This is special time for renewal, so enjoy these little moments of noticing and care for yourself and your plants

N | Nurture soil, plants, and spirit

  • Spread handfuls of compost around all existing plantings and lightly cultivate it into the soil
  • Foliar feed leaves with a dilute solution of 1 tsp. kelp/qt. of water
  • Lovingly investigate soil under mulch and notice the biodiversity. It’s home to red wiggler worms, sowbugs, millions of beneficial bacteria & fungi that feed the underground community that in turn, feeds everything above
  • Know that you are a part of creating this miracle of abundance

D | Designate areas for fall crops

  • As you remove ‘old’ crops, begin to plan and plant for fall
  • Early August is not too late to plant fall peas. Soak them overnight in 1 tsp. kelp/qt. of water
  • Mid – August.: Plant small quantities at 2 weeks intervals of lettuce, spinach, arugula, radish, cilantro
  • Early August: Plant greenhouse-grown transplants of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and kale
  • Cool-season crops planted in warm soil should be planted a bit deeper than in spring & mulched immediately
  • Save space in late September and October for garlic and fall cover crops

August can be an exciting time to evaluate, renew and plan. Focus on one or more things that were a joy to grow this season and think about deleting the ‘heartaches’ from your next year’s garden.

Quick Garden Tip

Another benefit of visiting your garden in the early morning cool, in addition to the peace and tranquility of the special moments, involves the absolute joy that can be found in:

Zero Cost, Minimally Invasive, 100% Effective Pest Control

  • For those noxious Japanese beetles that decimate everything, including Virginia Creeper vine, roses, pole beans, zinnias, marigolds  prepare a solution:
    • 1 cup water with around a Tbsp. of any kind of dish soap
    • Take the bucket to the garden
    • Stand quietly with cup underneath affected leaves
    • Brush off beetles into their bath. They will not emerge
    • Enjoy
    • This also works for cucumber and/or squash beetles in early morning, before they fly

Mark your calendars for our Fall Plant Sale

By News

Our Fall Plant Sale is back!

Mark your calendars! Our Fall Plant Sale will be Saturday, August 7th from 10am-1pm at DUG HQ within the Posner Center.

We’re excited to be bringing back our popular Fall Plant Sale to the community, along with a free ‘5 Tips for a Fall Garden’ workshop from Senior Education Specialist Jungle Judy Elliott running at 11am and 12pm.

Come get cool-season plants, cover crop seeds, and pre-order your fall garlic while enjoying time with other DUG community members.

DUG + MLB = a home run!

By News

On Friday, July 9th 2021, Denver Urban Gardens partnered with Spark the Change Colorado and Major League Baseball for a day of volunteer service at three different DUG gardens to kick off All-Star Week!

DUG hosted more than 70 volunteers at the Horesbarn Community Garden, Morey Middle School Community Garden, and at Delaney Farm. Working together, the groups completed a variety of projects including building a shade pergola, laying down pathways, planting fruit trees, and weeding beds.

Despite scorching temperatures, the day was fun-filled and highly-productive as volunteers came together in service of community and food access. The  partnership with Spark the Change Colorado and MLB was a winning combo, for sure!

Images courtesy of Major League Baseball.

Exploring a new career path

By Faces of DUG

#24: Meet Alex, our first Fransisco Cordero Legacy Apprentice

Our longtime contractor and friend Fransisco Cordero passed away in November 2020 due to complications with COVID-19. In 2021, we established the Fransisco Cordero Legacy Apprenticeship program to provide pathways into career fields with urban agriculture. Alex Oldham is our first apprentice with the program.

“I’m 20 years old and live with my foster parents. With the pandemic happening, I had to stay in a lot. Because they’re older, I didn’t want to risk them getting sick for me going out or anything. So I picked up a night shift at FedEx. I was doing that for a very long time. Then my brother-in-law introduced me to a friend. And I guess, he also knows the Executive Director that works over here at DUG. He had been sending me a few different applications of places. When this one popped up, I was interested because growing up, I worked outside doing farm-type work with my grandfather in Oklahoma.

In Oklahoma, the atmosphere is different (than in Denver). Being in the country is different. The smell of manure is everywhere. Taking care of cattle, making hay, riding the tractor, and stuff like that. But it’s cool. I also just wanted the change of being out in the daytime, in the sun after being out at night all the time.

Not everything is necessarily gardening with what we’re doing. Some days, we have to use wheelbarrows, and we’ll put really heavy gravel down, just scoop it all in there. And then carry it over to lay it on the pathway. The similarities of being outside in the sun and working hard is what carries over to this. There’s a lot of work to do – just seeing what every garden needs. If they need their fence fixed, we’ll go do that. I’ve gone to Home Depot to get some parts for water tank adapters. I’ll be mowing lawns, doing wherever (the gardens) need. Oh, and a lot of weed pulling, too!

I’ve been learning a lot from Nessa [Director of Physical Infrastructure and Community Engagement] and about what DUG really does. I like seeing everything growing. So far I’ve learned that we have like 180 something gardens all around Denver and Lakewood and stuff. I didn’t expect that a lot of them are refugee community gardens.

Sometimes the fruits or what they want to buy at the store they don’t have from their own places, so they can just grow it in their garden. That’s really cool to see. The price of getting a plot for the year isn’t that much. So I think that it gives them the opportunity to keep making the food that they want, without having to make a lot of money to go buy food. Because I know coming to America and getting jobs and stuff like that is a lot harder.

 I’m a really picky eater. I like all kinds of fruit, but vegetables are not my thing… so everyone is trying to give me vegetables, like sugar snap peas or something like that. That’s the only thing I’ve eaten so far. They’re really secure about their stuff and they like everyone to see what they’re growing. They’re always asking me to try something new. 

I think me being also a person of color, and then seeing all these other people of color and different ethnicities that are from other countries come into these gardens. Helping in any way that I can help them is why I feel like I’m really here. I’m helping the people who really need the gardens to grow their food. So that’s why I like it, I like helping them and want to continue to be in the position to help other people with their gardens.”

More Faces of DUG

Faces of DUG
March 9, 2021

Growing community support in a school garden

“I was one of the founders of the Samuels garden in 2011, and have been a Garden Leader there for the last 10 years. I was never a gardener before;…
Faces of DUG
June 2, 2021

Leaving a legacy of wonder

“My daughter Beth introduced me to Denver Urban Gardens around 6 years ago. She’s always been a big DUG fan. She received an impact award at DUG’s annual fundraiser for…
Faces of DUG
January 11, 2021

Gaining (soil) security in retirement

"I found out about DUG’s Grow a Garden program 6 years ago when I worked at a nonprofit called Servicios de la Raza. We would tell all of our clients…
Faces of DUG
August 21, 2020

Inspiring lifelong curiosity through gardening

"My favorite part of being in the garden is being able to see the vegetables grow. We’re growing tomatoes, cucumber, and on the back there’s broccoli. And we’re also growing…

There are some new faces at DUG!

By News

As part of our Baseline Infrastructure Initiative, we’ve activated our first-ever DUG Corps along with the Fransisco Cordero legacy apprentice program and a youth green team through Groundwork Denver

Meet the DUG Corps Members

Our first two Corps Members, Anastasia Hill and Eliza Greene, are providing daily ‘boots on the ground’ support for our 180+ gardens. Their work focuses on supporting community-led workdays with extra hands, organizing and leading ‘micro-network’ (clusters of DUG gardens located near one another) educational and social events, and visiting all of the gardens to connect with Garden Leaders and gardeners about their needs, troubleshooting as necessary.

Anastasia started with DUG in 2017, helping to lay the foundation for garden micro-networks as part of her Environmental Leadership graduate thesis project with Naropa University. With a focus on food justice, social systems, and community care, she continued volunteering as both gardener and garden leader in the following years. Originally from Florida, she’s fallen in love with the Colorado ecosystems, including both land and people, and is passionate about bringing individuals closer to each other and the environment that helps them thrive.
She brings over 10 years of non-profit experience in a variety of roles, all involving community activation and connection. In her free time, she’s a Jiu Jitsu practitioner and enjoys gardening at home with her cat or lounging in parks with friends and plenty of snacks.

Eliza joins the 2021 DUG Corps with a passion for gardening and community. She grew up around gardening and farming in Massachusetts and worked in landscaping seasonally for many years. Eliza brings her love for digging in the dirt and helping things grow with her to her role at DUG. With a background in sociology and community organizing, she also brings curiosity about the world around her and dedication to making it better. She loves that community gardens are a place of skill-sharing, education, empowering people, and building community resilience.

In her free time, Eliza is most likely going for a walk in nature with her rescue dog Jasper, lost in a good book, or attending a community event.

We are still hiring for one more seasonal DUG Corps position. BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, non-native English speakers, and other underrepresented folks are encouraged to apply!

Meet our Fransisco Cordero Legacy Apprentice 

Our inaugural apprentice, Alex Oldham, works closely with our Director of Physical Infrastructure and Community Engagement, Nessa Mogharreban. Under her guidance, Alex is working to learn the ropes of urban garden construction and maintenance. Together, they lead our volunteer workdays, attend to maintenance calls in the garden, and work on new infrastructure projects related to the BII.

Alex is our newest member of the team. He is a very outgoing yet nonchalant person who is easy to connect with. Alex is a natural athlete with a lot of motivation to be in better physical shape and reach higher levels of skill. He loves all kinds of fruit and is trying to add more vegetables to his menu.  He grew up doing farm work with his grandfather and is familiar with getting out and doing physical activities. He loves to spend time alone to watch movies or vibe to some music and is a lowkey superhero nerd.

Learn more about Alex in our Faces of DUG project.

Meet our youth green team with Groundwork Denver

Baz, Dante, Greg and leader Magali are part of Groundwork Denver’s program of youth environmentalists, acting as the organization’s task force to implement projects to improve Denver’s urban environment. The principal goals of the Green Team are to prepare youth for educational and career success, encourage them to become engaged members of the community and demonstrate alternative career pathways in fields like natural resources and sustainability.

Under the supervision of our Director of K-12 Education, Rob Payo, the green team works in tandem DUG Corps members to activate underutilized gardens by clearing weeds, laying compost, and repairing plot borders. The green team also maintains our DUG demonstration plot and joins volunteer workdays as needed.

As part of our partnership with Groundwork Denver, the green team is introduced to nutritious cooking through bi-weekly cooking classes at DUG HQ, where they learn how to prepare food that is harvested from the gardens!

Word of Thanks with Kyle Clark

By News

DUG is honored to be this week’s 9 News + Kyle Clark’s Word of Thanks recipient!

The Word of Thanks micro-giving campaign brings viewers across Metro Denver together in the spirit of collective fundraising. Every $5 or more that is donated through the campaign helps Denver Urban Gardens provide infrastructure upgrades to existing community gardens and reduce barriers to growing fresh, organic food for metro Denverites.

We work directly with communities to increase access to land, provide resources for people to successfully grow healthy nutritious food, as well as gain resilience for themselves + connect to their communities.

Donations support our new Baseline Infrastructure Initiative (BII), a holistic program centered on establishing and increasing equity across DUG’s entire network of community gardens. The BII covers both physical and human resources to ensure that all 188 of our gardens are resourced at an equitable level to support a thriving community garden producing optimum yield. Read more about our BII work here.

The Garden in July

By A Year in the Garden, Education

by Senior Education Specialist Judy Elliott

July is one of the hottest months in Denver, with temperatures ranging from the mid to high 90s during the daytime to lows in the 60s at nights. There are some years in which we are lucky enough to receive a bit of moisture from monsoon rains, but this is a sporadic occurrence. Humidity is generally very low, making it seem ‘hot and dry’ throughout the month.

Additionally, daylight hours, after the vernal equinox in June are decreasing, with a loss of about 45 minutes from the beginning to the end of July. Since plants use sunlight, with the process of photosynthesis to produce food in the form of sugars and starches, that accumulate in the leaves, they begin to react to light changes in many ways. Some exhibit signs of stress by sending up seed -stalks, signaling the end of their lives, others send out chemical signals that seem to magically attract pest insects, others slow down their growth and seem more prone to diseases.

This is a month of transition, providing moments of reflection that allow us to evaluate our current garden plan, proactively plan for renewal of soil and spirit, and actively learn from our environment. 

L |Leap into learning 

E| Evaluate your current plantings and soil conditions

  • Realize that all plants have a life cycle, seed to maturity, and respect their needs. 
  • Replace cool-season crops such as salad greens, peas, and radish with beans
  • Consider planting one more summer squash seed to provide strong growth that may resist late-season diseases
  • Renew straw or leaf mulch as needed to prevent erosion, soil compaction, and lessen the effects of diseases. Remove lower leaves & secondary stems from tomato plants so no branches or leaves touch the soil surface.
    • Water that splashes onto lower leaves which may be showing leaf spots or other signs of disease can transmit diseases to the foliage above.

A | Arm yourself with strategies that allow your plants to survive in the heat 

  • Keep plants growing actively with sufficient leaf cover to prevent ‘sunscald’ of unprotected fruit
  • Use kelp (liquid seaweed) either as a foliar (leaf) spray or soil drench to provide a supply of micronutrients to stressed plants
  • Space warm-season crops such as squash far enough apart so that mature leaves act as a ‘living mulch’, shading the root zone.

R | Replant crops that are no longer productive + renew the soil

  • As peas become unproductive, cut off vines at soil level & leave their roots in the soil to feed the microorganisms. The vines can either be chopped & used in the compost pile or left around crops as a mulch
  • Plant a second crop of beans in place of salad greens and radishes that were removed. Beans, such as peas, add nitrogen to the soil
  • Plant summer cover crops, such as buckwheat, that are a haven for beneficial insects and promote soil health. Before they ‘set seed’, cut stalks down at ground level, leaving roots in the soil
  • ‘Top dress’ all crops with handfuls of landscape-based compost, lightly cultivating it into the soil at the base of plants

N | Nourish your spirit by slowing down and creating peaceful places of reflection

  • Bring in a bale of straw or old chair to create a peaceful place that encourages you to visit more frequently
  • Add artistic touches (painted rocks as plant markers, colorful flowers, unusual trellises, or growing containers) that feed your soul

Do remember that gardening is a process, not a race, not a contest. Your role is to nurture, give back and, hopefully not repeat the same mistake each year.

Quick Garden Tips

  • Consider the use of ‘shadecloth’ over your tomato cages for a few hours during the heat of the day. Shadecloth is permeable to light and water but a strategy that aims to limit the burning effects of late afternoon sun intensity. The cloth can be attached to tomato cages with clothespins
  • Handpick Japanese beetles in the early morning hours, when they are more sluggish, and drown them in buckets of soapy water. They are also a preferred culinary delight for chickens! 

Live virtual Q + A with Jungle Judy is back!

By Education, News

Last year during COVID, we started a virtual Q + A series with our own Senior Education Specialist ‘Jungle Judy’ Elliott to an overwhelmingly positive response! So we’re bringing the series back!

Our live Q + As through Zoom allows you to bring Judy right into your garden to get your gardening questions answered, seek troubleshooting tips, and get best practices for organic gardening in the heat of the summer.

REGISTER FOR A Q + A SESSION

How Community Involvement Supports Neighborhood Health

By posts

by Brenda Stuart

Your thumb doesn’t need to be any shade of green to get involved in a community garden. It’s a great way for beginners to learn about horticulture from those who have been gardening for years. 

Denver Urban Gardens brings Denver folks together (for more than 35 years now!) to grow local, fresh, organic food. Not only does this benefit our tables, but people in tight-knit communities tend to be healthier.

Physical Health

Gardening may not look physically challenging, but even a moderate workout has benefits. There’s a lot of bending and stretching, reaching, pulling, and squatting involved, and you can burn up to 300 calories in 30-45 minutes of working the soil.

Treat gardening as a workout for the best physical benefits. It’s useful for older and younger adults and kids, all of whom are welcome in community gardens. Of DUG’s 180 gardens, only a few target specific communities. The majority are open to the public

You can expand your “gardening workouts” beyond your own family and invite others in the garden to join in. Gardeners get about 30% more moderate exercise each week than non-gardeners. You may soon have others in the community improving their health, and looking forward to these gardening sessions.

What you eat also impacts your physical health. Community gardens result in neighborhoods with healthier diets. More than 50% of gardeners meet federal guidelines for fruit and vegetable intake compared to 25% of non-gardeners.

Mental Health

Stress is a killer. It causes all parts of your body to decline, from eyes and gums to your heart. Gardening fights off stress by decreasing cortisol in the body (a stress hormone) and restoring your good mood. 

There are several advantages to practicing green-care therapy with the community:

  • Socializing  – Working with companions toward a common goal increases your sense of well-being. It also sharpens your memory and cognitive skills, and it may help you live longer.
  • Sunlight – Exposure to the sun increases the brain’s release of serotonin, a hormone thought to boost mood and help you feel calm and focused.
  • Being Outdoors –  Calming nature sounds (birds, insects) and even outdoor silence help distract your mind from negative thoughts. The visuals of nature have a similar effect.
  • Exposure to Plants – Greenery cleans the air. Plant leaves remove toxins, dust, and microorganisms and freshen the air you breathe.

Spending time outdoors surrounded by natural elements helps you forget the pressures you face in the rest of your life, like deadlines at work or family dilemmas. Community involvement in a garden offers these queting benefits to everyone in the neighborhood.

Overall Neighborhood Impact

How well do you know your neighbors? Community gardening creates a positive atmosphere in which people get to know one another and enjoy their living space. 

Community gardeners nurture relationships with the folks next door, are more involved in civic activities, eat better, and stay longer in their neighborhoods. People who garden together say their communities are cleaner, safer, and more beautiful; all qualities that promote healthier living.

If you’re ready to try your hand, or thumb, at a worthy project, take a look at the gardens in Globeville, Ruby Hill, or any of the other best community gardens around Denver. Most gardens not only feed the neighborhood, they donate produce to food banks and other food charities. You aren’t only helping yourself and your community, you’re providing help to others throughout the city. If you’re ready to dig in, contact us here at Denver Urban Gardens.

Brenda Stuart is a journalist and avid gardener in Denver. She takes a lot of pride in planting tomatoes, lettuce, and broccoli, which she’ll sometimes trade with her neighbors for carrots and peppers.