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Niko Kirby

A Letter from our Executive Director

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What a year. 


2020 was a year of seismic shifts. Everywhere. For everyone. Literally from the minute the clock struck midnight on January 1st. Something was off kilter. I don’t need to recount the list for anyone reading this – we all are intimately familiar. 

But DUG held steady throughout. We kept our gardens open, we delivered seeds, seedlings and education to 1,000s through our greatly expanded food access programs, we taught elementary students how to cook healthy meals and our gardeners grew and donated 300 tons of produce. We also stumbled. And learned. A lot. 

What we also learned that DUG is a valued part of the fabric of Denver. In 2021 and beyond, we commit to serving our home town more completely, equitably and impactfully than ever before. 

As the word Interim is removed from my title, I look at what DUG has accomplished in its 35 years with awe, admiration, and gratitude and look forward to the next 35 years with giddy enthusiasm and confidence. 

With a robust network of gardens, tens of thousands of gardeners, even more people impacted by our food access programs, a best-in-class leadership and horticultural training curriculum and a deep connection to our youngest gardeners through our 74 school gardens and a best-in-class team, we will spend 2021 going deep. We will strengthen, enhance and aggressively commit to equity across the DUG network, ensuring all gardens, gardeners and students are met where they are and inspired and empowered to learn, grow and flourish. 

Our 30 acres will be welcome respite from months of indoor isolation for so many as our gardens will welcome 17,500 gardeners to come together safely in community, to dig in the dirt, sequester loads of carbon and produce clean, organic veggies. And we will strengthen the connections between gardeners, between gardens and with DUG itself as we are exponentially stronger when we are networked, connected and supported.

At DUG it all comes from the gardens: the soil, the roots, the bounty, the community. In 2021 we guarantee we will leverage our gardens to help Denver recover from the challenges we face stronger than before.

I can’t wait to dig my hands into the soil with DUG’s amazing team, our partners, our supporters, our gardeners and garden leaders and all of our other cherished stakeholders as we all celebrate our common humanity through growing food. Let’s grow together.


Linda Appel Lipsius

Denver Urban Gardens Executive Director

DUG is seeking a Marketing + Communications Intern

By posts

Denver Urban Gardens (DUG) was established in 1985 to support Denver residents in creating sustainable, food-producing neighborhood community gardens. In the past 35+ years, our network of community gardens has grown across six metro Denver counties, and our reach has extended to offering youth education and community training programs, as well as providing access to seeds, seedlings, and resources to build community resilience by growing local, fresh, organic food.

We currently operate more than 180 community gardens throughout Metro Denver, including more than 70 school-based community gardens. In addition to building and supporting community gardens, we operate DeLaney Community Farm, the Master Composter Training Program, the Master Community Gardener Training Program, Grow a Garden, and provide extensive opportunities for youth education in nutrition and gardening.

Position: Marketing and Communications Intern 

DUG is looking for someone passionate about urban gardening to join the team and assist marketing and communications efforts. This position is an excellent opportunity to learn, practice, and grow your skills across various areas within non-profit marketing and communications.

In this role, you can expect to: 

  • support in creating new content and maintaining DUG’s social media presence
  • assist in planning, writing and managing programmatic and fundraising communications in Mailchimp
  • draft and publish news releases, media alerts, and other stories for our blog 
  • assist with the design of flyers, graphics, and other marketing material
  • update and edit content on DUG website (using WordPress)
  • film, edit and publish short educational videos with support of our Education team

We’re looking for someone with:

  • a strong understanding of DUG’s mission and a passion for our work 
  • experience with social media management (personal or organizational)  
  • good attention to detail and an understanding of effective writing practices
  • the ability to communicate in a professional manner with our team and community members 
  • a drive to learn and an interest in learning new things   
  • good organizational skills and the ability to prioritize, multi-task and meet deadlines 

Position open until filled, requires 3 – 6 month commitment. Hours: 8 – 12 hours/week, remote. 

Compensation: This is an Unpaid/Volunteer internship. 

To Apply: Please send your resume and a personal introduction that explains why you’d like to intern at DUG to Niko Kirby, Director of Marketing and Communications, at

Denver Urban Gardens is an Equal Opportunity Employer and does not discriminate on the basis of sex, race, age, national origin, ethnic, background, disability or any other characteristic protected by law.

Gaining (soil) security in retirement

By Faces of DUG

#18: Meet Carin, backyard gardener and Grow a Garden participant

“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 to sign-up. I’ve continued with the Grow a Garden Program every year since, even after I retired when my dad got sick and I had to take care of both of my parents. 

The Grow a Garden program was what initially got me into gardening. I had always wanted to start, so it was the push I needed to do my research and jump-in. Now, I encourage everyone to sign up! It makes it so convenient. I love going to my pickup site to get my seeds and plants; it’s very clean, organized, and easy to find. 

I’ve developed an area in my mom’s backyard to use for my garden. She has many elderly neighbors in their 80s and 90s who aren’t able to leave their homes. Whatever I grow in abundance, I give to them, and they give to their friends. Everyone shares in the wealth. They’re so grateful because they can’t go to the grocery store, especially during COVID, and they live on a fixed income. 

I’m hoping more people will look into this program. It can save you so much on your grocery bills! Since I’m retired and only living on Social Security income, I wouldn’t have continued growing my own food without it. The price of organic produce is so high these days. This program makes it so that I know there’s no insecticide in anything I grow. For those like me who haven’t had good luck at grocery stores, this program makes food more readily available and even abundant. If you freeze your harvest, it can last throughout the year. I freeze everything, so I don’t have food waste. I still have tomatoes in my freezer! 

Gardening is peaceful, and it brings joy to people. Most people need something to do. Especially someone like me, who’s retired with no kids in the house. Other people do house cleaning or washing dishes, but I garden. It’s nice to be able to take care of something. Eating something you grew yourself gives you great satisfaction. What’s most fun about gardening is watching your plants grow. You get so excited!

All the programs DUG provides are fantastic for people who don’t know how to garden but want to start. Everyone needs to know about DUG–although then, you might grow too quickly, hah!” 

More Faces of DUG

Faces of DUG
July 27, 2020

Finding connection with food

“We lived in China for 7 years, where we met when Lily was my translator on a work project. We like it here very much. I am originally from the…
Faces of DUG
September 15, 2020

Gardening for Resilience

“One of the biggest challenges that our community faces is food insecurity, which has only been exacerbated by COVID-19. The funding we received through DUG has drawn us closer as…
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…
Faces of DUG
August 28, 2020

Finding purpose in growing and sharing food

"I think in so many ways the Master Community Gardener program was just what I needed. It really pushed me and challenged me because of the give-back hours; both building…

The Garden in January

By A Year in the Garden, Education

Looking out my window in early January, I am reminded of past seasons when the desire to put my hands deep into the frozen soil is overwhelming. Even though my ability to do that cherished occurrence is still months away, I continue to realistically welcome each moment of increasing daylight and intensity of the warming sun. Daily perusals of my landscape provide me with affirmations of resilience as I notice the bare whispers of buds on the contorted outlines of succulents whose origins are in South Africa, and are now thriving in Denver.

And I return to the power of dreams as I focus on January.

D | Focus on diversity 

The healthiest and most productive gardens mimic healthy communities by bringing together diverse vegetables, herbs and flowers that contribute to the overall strength of growth. Investigate diverse planting styles (permaculture, companion planting (i.e. the ‘Three Sisters’ growing of corn, beans and squash together) that celebrate the wisdom of the ages.

R | Review your garden plans 

Remember to rotate garden crops to a different area in your plot (especially important for tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and eggplant. If you haven’t already developed a garden plot plan and incorporate designated ‘walkways’ between rows to dimmish areas of soil compaction around plant roots. Feet do belong in gardens. They just need a place to dance!

E | Encourage participation of others

Be realistic regarding what you like to eat, your life commitments outside of the garden, your abilities to maintain a garden space throughout the season. Utilize the immense fountain of knowledge in a community garden. Develop friendships and lists of people you can turn to for advice.

A | Activate your garden dreams

Join DUG’s online network to access the creative power of our gardening community. Our virtual commons connects novices and more seasoned gardeners, upcoming events and courses that can further your earth journey.

M | Maintain a base of optimism, based in reality 

The ground is frozen, but roots of perennials and trees are actively growing, opening up air channels for diverse soil – dwelling macro and microorganisms to proliferate. Denver’s last frost is typically around May 8th – 15th but early spring crops such as salad greens, radish, green onions, carrots, and beets can often be planted in early April. Note: Water in community gardens is usually not turned on until May.

Remember that the best gardeners grow slowly, like a rich compost. Take a walk outside and begin turning over leaves to experience the miracle of emerging crocus, snowdrops and other spring bulbs by the end of the month.

Sourcing Seeds

By Education

By Judy Elliot, Senior Education Specialist

As daylight hours lengthen and thoughts turn to the upcoming growing season, it’s a good idea to be practical about gardening expectations; with the myriad of seed catalogs available, either as online resources or ‘dream books’, it’s easy to get overwhelmed or overzealous in picking out your next season’s seeds.

Whenever possible, DUG recommends locally purchasing seeds and/or transplants or ‘growing your own’. However, this year, like last, many seed companies are experiencing delays processing seed orders due to increased demand.

A reliable seed supplier (free catalog & online) is: Johnny’s Selected Seeds. Metro Denver nurseries such as Tagawas, Echters, and Southwest Gardens also have a good supply of seeds for the ‘2021’ growing season. Transplants and ‘tubers’ for cool season crops, such as onions, potatoes, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and kale are typically available beginning in early – mid March. You can also apply for seeds and seedlings through DUG’s Grow a Garden program before January 31st.

Pro Tip: Check your current seed packets each year to see if seeds stored from prior years are viable (i.e.will they germinate & begin to grow).

To do this:

  1. Tear off several sheets of paper towels, stacking 2 together
  2. Moisten well with a misting or spray bottle
  3. Across the top of the paper towel, evenly space 10 seeds of the specific variety you are testing
  4. Carefully roll up the paper towel & seeds, place in a plastic sack and leave in a cool, dry place
  5. Each day, open the sack, unroll the towels & carefully blow on the seeds to surround them with carbon dioxide (which promotes germination)
  6. Repeat above process each day

Note the first day you see the seed coat split & baby root emerge. At the end of 10 days, if 7 or more seeds germinate, you are safe to utilize the seed source for growing. (70% or greater germination rate is preferred).

Of note, onions, leeks, green onions and lettuce are some of the seeds that are best purchased ‘fresh’ each year.

Join DUG for a special virtual Valentine’s Day event!

By News

Want to skip another night of Netflix this Valentine’s Day? 

DUG is thrilled to be partnering with local food hero Chef Biju Thomas for a virtual Valentine’s Day cooking class and dinner date on Sunday, February 14th, 2021

Time: 5:30-7:00pm

Invite your favorite quarantine partner, don your finest date attire (or your most comfy pjs, it’s all cool!), and meet us online in your kitchen as Biju walks you through preparing a delicious veg-forward (of course) 3-course dinner.

To help bring the vibe, longtime lovebirds Niki + Luke of The Dollhouse Thieves will play a special live set while the food is curing––and we’re also curating a special Spotify playlist for you to enjoy!

The Menu

Fattoush (z’atar) Salad 
Winter Vegetable Roast with Chicken, Falafel or Crispy Tofu
Wildflower Honey and Butter-poached Pistachios in Pastry with Cinnamon Cream 


$250 | VIP Sit Back and Relax Package for Two 

We’ve taken care of it to make this a low-stress, high-fun evening–including everything you’ll need to make special craft cocktails with Boulder Spirit’s pink gin, sweet treats from local favorite Hammond’s Candy, heart-shaped beeswax candles from Bee Healthy Candles to set the mood, and all of the ingredients you’ll need for the cooking class.

Pick up at the DUG office (free) or have it delivered ($25 fee). Note: you must be 21+ to purchase VIP package.

$150 | Table for Two

We’ll send you the full ingredient list so you can shop beforehand and join in on the virtual fun

Get your tickets now

A hearty thanks to Boulder Spirits, Hammond’s Candies, and Bee Healthy Candles for their generous support of DUG!

The Garden in December

By A Year in the Garden, Education

After our long, extended fall, replete with record high temperatures, it seems that some more ‘seasonal’ weather may be settling in. With a light covering of snow on the ground, and temperatures hovering in the tens or twenties at night, it’s hard to turn our thoughts to the garden.

Ah, but this is the season of magic, of tree and perennial flower roots spreading underground, quietly storing sugars and starches to prepare for active growth in the spring. This also is the season for us to focus on our ROOTS.

R: Remember the past growing season by:

  • Making a simple garden map showing what you planted, its location in the garden and any companions it had (flowers, herbs)
  • Be mindful of garden challenges: (heat, insects, diseases, drought)
  • Was the garden utilized spring through fall?

O: Organize and clean any garden tools, sharpening edges of pruners, shovels and garden hoes, removing rust and oiling wooden handles

O: Order fresh seeds if needed. Typically, if stored in a cool, dry location, most veggie seeds, (other than lettuce, green onions, bulbing onions & leeks that lose viability after several years) can be successfully planted for the upcoming season. Order seed catalogs in December to expand your field of dreams. Some favorite selections include:

T: Treasure the gifts that each season brings. Continue to:

  • Care for the soil by piling more leaves or straw on top of growing areas, to promote increased organic matter as they decompose over the winter season
  • Water fall planted garlic once monthly if not adequately covered by snow
  • Deep water those treasured trees and perennial plants

S: Share your increasing garden knowledge, extra preserved garden harvest goodies with neighbors, friends and others in your community. Most of all, know that as we continue to nurture our growing areas, we are also nurtured in a sense of purpose and place.

Connect with other gardeners and plan your springtime garden in DUG’s online community!

2021 Grow a Garden applications open January 1st!

By News

For the last 23 years, we’ve been fighting food insecurity and building resiliency in Metro Denver through our annual Grow a Garden program, which connects individuals, families and community groups to free and low-cost seeds, seedlings, and educational support to grow their own food either at home or in a community garden. We’ve served tens of thousands of people over the decades, and each year we hear firsthand how transformational the program is, especially for first-time gardeners.

2020 was our largest program yet, and we’re gearing up for another unprecedented year. In order to make the program ever more accessible, we’re excited to be offering a Pay-What-You-Can model in 2021. Now anyone, regardless of income, can benefit from our organically grown and non-GMO seeds and seedlings, and expert garden support.

We’re committed to making this program accessible to all. Our suggested $60 program fee is offered as a a guide to help you set your own price. We’re trusting you to let us know what’s right for you–more or less. 

We also listened to your feedback and are transitioning our in-person workshops to online support through our virtual network offered in easily digestible, bite-sized bits of wisdom. 

Our online application is open all of January and allows you to select a convenient pickup location for your seeds and seedlings from one of our 16 partner organizations. Learn more and apply here between January 1st – January 31st. 2021.

Building community during COVID

By Faces of DUG

#17: Meet Jean, Garden Leader at Cedar Hill Community Garden

“I am the Garden Leader at the Cedar Hill Community Garden at Green Mountain United Methodist Church. We have been working on the building of our garden for six years since we first received Lakewood City Council approval in Ward 1.

Our garden is going to be a bee garden. We have beekeepers and are going through the permitting process. We also have a daycare called “Tiny Hearts” and they have a garden plot as part of their STEM program. We surveyed our community because we wanted to model the garden after what they wanted it to become. We had to raise money for building. So we started grassroots fundraising. We were able to raise about $40,000 within the community through plant sales, selling bricks, and through memorial donations. 

If you think about planting a seed, not every seed is going to grow. Whether it’s grant writing or an anonymous donor, you put seeds out there, and some of them will germinate. And if it doesn’t happen one way, it’ll happen some other way. Sometimes very unexpectedly. That’s how our garden developed; it became a strong foundation for our community in just one season.”

“My husband surprised me with a To-Grow Box for my birthday this past May. It was right in the middle of COVID. We were in the middle of building all 20 plots in our garden, and then COVID hit, which limited how many of us could build at a time. But we persevered and finished.

My mother was a master gardener, but I had never planted in a community garden before. So this was new for me. Every plot ended up under cultivation. We used the garden to feed our community. I couldn’t believe how much food the plants and seeds from my To-Grow Box produced!

The To-Grow Box included a lot of hot peppers. My sister-in-law is from Vietnam, she came as a refugee when she was nine years old. She uses a lot of spicy peppers in her traditional cooking, so she and I had a lot of fun with the peppers from my To-Grow Box. She is connected with the Vietnamese community around the garden. They loved using swiss chard, which is a lot like bok choy. The garden connected these communities together. It connected our Green Mountain Community with the folks who are shut-in. It connected homeless people, it connected people living in the section eight housing next-door.

My plot became the heart of the garden. I would go to water my plot, and would realize that someone had already watered it, and I ended up with this entire network of people (gardeners and non-gardeners alike) helping me harvest. We all went out and visited those people that were shut-in and brought them fresh veggies. We sat in their garages or next to their beds and chatted with them. Our faith is oftentimes referred to as the “ministry of presence.” We go out and listen to our community. We don’t have the answers. Just being there with someone can make all the difference. We found recipes for them to use with the produce we gave them. One of our elderly church members loved snap peas and tomatoes, so that’s what I would bring to her. I sent her pictures of the garden. She is now going to donate the benches and pergola for the shade area. These community members are now donating leaves to our garden to nourish the soil before the spring season comes. 

We also had little kids from the neighboring section eight housing units come to the garden and I told them that they could harvest from my plot. They use the garden parking lot for skateboarding and bike riding. We are going to host a bike rally for them. They love snap peas. One of their moms would pick zucchini from the garden. Her kids didn’t like zucchini, but she made it into bread, which they all loved. So I showed them how and when to pick zucchini, and they started doing it on their own. It was like an Easter egg hunt for them. 

“One To-Grow box has fed over 100 people. And that number doesn’t even include all the folks who walk through the garden and just have a snack on their way to their destination. I started keeping track of how many people we delivered food to, but once my list got to 80 people, I just stopped counting. When you harvest the fruits from a garden, it will just keep on producing. The garden reached into more than one community. It led us during COVID.”

More Faces of DUG

Faces of DUG
September 4, 2020

Creating a piece of home in the garden

“I am from Central Africa. I couldn’t find seeds from my country to grow. I said, “If I cannot find this vegetable I will have to move back to my…
Faces of DUG
August 28, 2020

Finding purpose in growing and sharing food

"I think in so many ways the Master Community Gardener program was just what I needed. It really pushed me and challenged me because of the give-back hours; both building…
Faces of DUG
July 13, 2020

Digging deep into DUG’s roots

Marty is a North Denver community and social justice activist and a pioneer of Denver’s urban garden landscape. The first community gardens were started when a group of Hmong women…
Faces of DUG
July 27, 2020

Finding connection with food

“We lived in China for 7 years, where we met when Lily was my translator on a work project. We like it here very much. I am originally from the…