All Posts By

Niko Kirby

Fall Gardening

By Education, Fall, Fall Gardening, Grow a Garden, Winter

Fall gardening is a great way to extend the growing season as the warm weather crops of summer are ending their life cycle.

What to Grow
All cool weather crops can be successfully grown in the fall. Optimal temperatures for these crops range from 55-75° F. Crops grown for a fall and/or early spring harvest include garlic, radishes, beets, broccoli, cabbage (including Chinese cabbage), cauliflower, chard, collards, kale, kohlrabi, parsnips, rutabagas, turnips, carrots, peas, leaf lettuces, mustard greens, parsley and spinach.

When to Plant
Tentative first frost date in Denver is the first week in October. Check the maturity date (days to harvest) on the back of the seed packets. Add the time needed for germination (usually 7-10 days) plus another 10 days to your time to account for slower growth with decreasing daylight hours.
Example: If peas mature in 62 days, add 10 days for germination and another 10 days for slower growth in late summer. For this vegetable, we would need to plant the seeds 82 days prior to the end of the first week in October, which would be around the last week in July to gain a fall harvest.

Soil Preparation
Before planting new transplants or seeds, cultivate seedbeds deeply and incorporate at least one inch of aged compost, dug into the top two inches of soil. Moisten soil lightly and if possible wait at least two days for buried weed seeds to emerge before planting fall crops. Use a hoe to cultivate out weeds, which can be left on the soil surface to decompose and provide extra nutrients.

Selecting Varieties
Always select the shortest maturing variety of a vegetable (e.g. a 62 day vs. a 70 day pea) for fall planting. Some examples are below.



Shelling peas: Strike, Premium and Little Marvel

Snap peas: Sugar Ann, Sugar Sprint

Snow or sugar peas: Snow Sweet, Oregon Giant and Dwarf Grey Sugar Pea


Any variety of radish planted in spring that matures in less than 35 days, such as Cherry Belle or Easter Eggs can be selected for late summer or fall planting. Avoid daikon types that require a long growing season.


Nantes or Chantennay/Kuroda types (shorter, blunter carrots that do better in Colorado heavy clay soil) include Nantes Half Long or Vitana, Bolero or Hercules


Standard spring varieties of beets include Detroit Dark Red, Red Ace and Chioggia.


Varieties that are good for fall harvest and also can overwinter if protected with straw or leaves include Avon, Indian Summer, Melody and Tyee. Leaves can be either smooth or crinkled.


Greenleaf: Black Seeded Simpson and Waldmann’s Dark 

Redleaf: New Red Fire and Vulcan 

Green Oakleaf: Sergeant 

Romaine or Cos: Winter Density, Green Forest Green Butterhead: Adriana and Nancy

Bibb: Buttercrunch

Planting Techniques
Plant slightly deeper than spring plantings to account for hot, dry soil. When making a furrow, moisten it well before scattering seeds. Mulch seeds beds immediately with straw to preserve moisture and keep the soil as cool as possible. Peas benefit from soaking them for a few hours in a solution of 3 tsp. liquid kelp to one quart of water. Beets, carrots, parsley, spinach and parsnips should be soaked overnight in the same concentrate. All cool season crops, when planted in summer heat, enjoy foliar sprays of 1 tsp. liquid kelp to 1 quart of water. Mix the solution in a spray bottle and mist on all foliage. This also provides a few degrees of frost protection at the end of the season. Shade cloth fabric stapled on a wooden frame is helpful for peas, lettuce and spinach.

Crop Specifics
Broccoli, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts do better starting inside, under lights and set out when they are six weeks old. Plan on having them garden ready by the end of July, hardening them off for one week in the shade before planting them in full sun conditions. All of these plants require abundant nitrogen, mulched soils for cool roots and even moisture for best results. As tiny heads appear on cauliflower, tie the large leaves together with string to prevent browning of the curds from the strong sunshine.

Plant spinach during the last week in August and again in the first week in September. By mid-October, as nights cool substantially, mulch the whole plant with three inches of straw or chopped leaves to provide an over-wintering blanket of protection.

Lettuces are best planted as succession crops, in compost-enriched, moist 1/2” deep furrows. Plant small quantities from the end of August through mid-September, at two-week intervals. Again, mulch seedbeds as soon as seeds are planted. Young plants can be treated in a similar manner to spinach, using mowed leaves or straw for over-wintering.

Cilantro will yield a superior crop when planted early to mid-September as daylight hours shorten and temperatures cool. Spring planted cilantro often sends up a flowering stalk prematurely as temperatures warm rapidly. Allowing a single plant to set and drop seed is an easy way to plant a fall crop. Mulch the young plants as October approaches and plants will grow rapidly the following spring.

Frost Protection
Row covers of spun polyester (a Reemay-type of fabric) can be directly placed over crops when night temperatures lower into the 30s and will provide several degrees of frost protection.

Rocks can be used to prevent the fabric from blowing away, laying them directly on the soil/fabric interface. Additionally a foliar spray on all crops of liquid kelp (1 tsp. kelp/qt. of water) will provide additional frost protection and also increase the storage life of vegetables. 

Hoop houses are a great way to extend the season by creating a mini-greenhouse in your garden. Here is a video on how to build one.

Harvest Essentials
Harvest individual, outer leaves of spinach and lettuces to promote extended growth periods before heavy frost. Carrots must be thinned to 2-3” apart as they grow, to allow the roots sufficient room to expand. They may be harvested as baby carrots, as soon as the deep orange color is seen.

As they grow, mound soil over the tops (crowns) of the carrots to prevent the sun from greening the shoulders of the vegetable and producing a bitter taste in the roots. Radishes are best utilized when they are about the size of a penny and will reach edible size within a month of germinating. Vegetables are most nutritious when grown in compost-enriched soil that is cultivated on a regular basis. 

An Intro to Permaculture

By All Seasons, Education

“And we pray, not for new earth or heaven, but to be quiet in heart, and in eye, clear. What we need is here.” 

– Wendell Berry

As the days get longer, we all start thinking about our first seedling trays and dreaming of the harvests to come. Although February is a little early to start most annuals, it’s an excellent time to plan for potential changes in our gardens and outdoor spaces, and one powerful tool for doing that is permaculture design. 

Although the term “permaculture” was coined in the late 1970’s in Australia, it’s become widely acknowledged as an extension of the nature-based mindset that drives traditional cultures all around the world. As a movement and global community, permaculture strives to use observation of natural processes to find better solutions for the problems we face–whether those are in the garden, or in fields as varied as finance, governance, architecture, education, or technology.

Sometimes gardening can seem like an exercise in constant importing: bags of soil, tap water, seeds from thousands of miles away, not to mention hoops, shade cloth, tools, and everything else you might use every year during the growing season.

But in nature, it’s rare for an ecosystem to rely on inputs from very far away. One of the most liberating ideas that permaculture offers is that everything we need to succeed is already around us.

Looking at our gardens with that lens, we can start to replace our inputs with self-generating materials and systems. Here are some examples:

We live in a dry climate, but there’s so much impermeable surface (roads, sidewalks, roofs) in Denver that there’s a lot of opportunity to direct runoff towards plants, mitigating flooding, and nourishing soil life at the same time. When was the last time you made a map of where your downspouts go?

Another resource in a city is waste, in the form of organic material. Check out Chip Drop for a free load of locally-produced mulch; put up a sign in the fall asking for bags of leaves; if your neighbor doesn’t want to turn their lawn into gardens but doesn’t spray herbicides, ask if you can take the clippings instead of letting them go to a landfill.

Lettuce can be hard to grow in our hot summers, but if you live next to someone who’s letting their trees hang over the fence, plant lettuce in the shade, and save the sunny spots for peppers and tomatoes. Similarly, all of our brick buildings means there are a lot of south-facing red earthen walls that will trap heat and extend the growing season without building anything extra.

Permaculture is all about careful placement; don’t force something into an area where it won’t thrive! 

Something else to think about for this year might be perennial plants.

Permaculture design looks to create deep-rooted, regenerative systems in all facets of human life, but certainly in the garden as well, and plants that come back year after year will give an increasing yield, while simultaneously requiring less maintenance and input each year.

Perennial vegetables like rhubarb and asparagus give an early harvest, while Nanking cherries and wild plums flower early, feeding pollinators and hosting beneficial insects. Comfrey is a great plant to cut back several times a year and add to compost, while yucca and nopales can thrive in brutal conditions and connect you to the ancestral diet of this region.

This is really just the beginning of what a permaculture mindset and practice can bring to your yard and your life. If you’re feeling curious, watch the movie Inhabit, or read the books Gaia’s Garden or Practical Permaculture. Visit the Rainwater Harvesting website for water ideas, and while you’re there you can check out a region-specific Rain and Forest Garden Plant Matrix, compiled by former Boulder permaculturalist Jason Gerhardt. 

Gardening can save us.

By News

written by Linda Appel Lipsius, DUG’s Executive Director 

On the surface to many, gardening might appear to be a lovely, quaint pastime. After all, with grocery stores on (almost) every corner, who needs to grow their own food anymore? 

Even if we have both the financial means and the access (neither of which is true for many Coloradans) to get all of our food, wrapped neatly in non-compostable packaging, grown using derivatives of neurotoxins and explosives, devoid of both flavor and nutrients, at supermarkets–should we? 

No. We shouldn’t. 

Every human should have the resources and skills to grow their own food. In soil. In a garden, on a rooftop, in a container. This simple, elemental act will reap exponential dividends.

Our current industrial food system has many consequences:

  • Dislocation from where our food comes from, resulting in passive, disengaged consumption 
  • Fruits and vegetables that are both nutrient and flavor devoid
  • A food system designed for our food to travel 1,000s of miles from farm to fork, requiring warehouses, coolers, and transport, contributing to greenhouse emissions
  • Harvested produce that loses its nutritional value as it sits for days to weeks before getting eaten
  • Chemical pesticides and fertilizers that are destroying ecosystems and harming farmworkers.
  • Extractive farming that depletes farm the land’s ability to be productive and to heal 

When we activate ourselves and our communities to grow their own food– to re-engage with the miracle that is our earth’s bounty– important lessons and truths reveal themselves:

  • The wonders of nature: how can one tiny little seed produce 50 tomatoes or hundreds of beans or the spiciest of peppers?
  • The critical importance of soil: that if it is healthy, thriving and full of beneficial microorganisms, crops (and the planet) will thrive
  • The importance of biodiversity, pollinators and beneficial pests
  • The mental and physical health benefits that come from digging in the soil (After a year + of the pandemic, I know I’ve learned that getting dirty on my knees with a fistful of dirt is the ultimate antidote to a day spent staring at a screen)
  • The reconnection to our resources: when we grow our own food, we’re less inclined to waste it

Please learn more. Take action. Become an intentional eater and grow something you like to eat. See what an organically grown tomato or cucumber from your backyard can taste like. Today. Plant a seed in a pot, a garden, or a park. And start demanding that our industrial food system delivers food with the same integrity as what you grow in your backyard – or on your roof or in your containers – by supporting producers with integrity.


Through Denver Urban Gardens, gardening communities grow more than 600,000lb of food each year across 188 community gardens, all consumed on a neighborhood level, using organic & regenerate practices. We teach people to garden and provide the space and community support to succeed. Imagine how much hyper-locally produced, highly nutritious food we could be enjoying if we all started growing our own… 

Companion Planting Guide

By Education, Grow a Garden, Spring, Summer

Companion planting is the practice of growing different crops near one another to enhance crop production, repel damaging pests, improve soil health, and promote biodiversity.

Three Sisters Garden
Utilizing companion planting also helps maximize your garden space, by pairing different types of plants, like tall plants to provide shade to smaller plants, vining plants like squashes to help with weed suppression, and flowering plants to attract beneficial insects. A great example of companion plantings is ancestral The Three Sisters Garden or Milpa, which includes corn, beans and squash. The corn provides a natural support trellis and shelter for beans, peas and other climbing crops. In return, these legumes provide nitrogen to the soil for the corn and squash plants. Squash and pumpkin leaves shade the smaller bean and pea plants that need sun protection and provide weed suppression.

Here is a list of the most crops and their preferred companions:

Vegetable Plant with Do not plant with
Beans Potatoes, carrots, cucumbers, cauliflower, cabbage,

summer savory, most other vegetables and herbs

Onions, garlic,


Beans, Bush Potatoes, cucumbers, corn, celery, summer savory,

sunflowers, strawberries

Beans, Pole Corn, summer savory Onions, beets,

kohlrabi, sunflower

Beets Onions, kohlrabi Pole beans
Cabbage Family (cabbage, cauliflower, kale,

kohlrabi, broccoli)

Aromatic plants, potatoes, celery, dill, chamomile, sage, peppermint, rosemary, beets, onions, thyme, lavender Strawberries, tomatoes, pole beans
Carrots Peas, leaf lettuce, chives, onions, leek, rosemary,

sage, tomatoes

Celery Leek, tomatoes, bush beans, cucumbers, pumpkin, squash
Corn Potatoes, peas, beans, cucumbers, squash, pumpkin
Cucumbers Beans, corn, peas, radishes, sunflowers Potatoes, aromatic


Eggplant Beans
Leek Onions, celery, carrots
Lettuce Carrots and radishes (lettuce, carrots, and radishes

make strong team grown together), strawberries, cucumbers

Onion/Garlic Beets, strawberries, tomato, lettuce, summer savory,

chamomile, beans (protects against ants)

Parsley Tomatoes, asparagus
Peas Carrots, turnips, radishes, cucumbers, corn, beans,

most vegetables, herbs (adds Nitrogen to soil)

Onions, garlic,

gladiolus, potatoes

Potato Beans, corn, cabbage, horseradish (should be

planted at corners of patch), marigold, eggplant (as a lure for Colorado potato beetle)

Pumpkins, squash,

cucumber, sunflower, tomato, raspberries

Pumpkin Corn Potatoes
Radish Peas, nasturtium, lettuce, cucumbers
Soybeans Grows with anything; helps everything
Spinach Strawberries
Squash Nasturtium, corn
Sunflower Cucumbers Potatoes
Strawberry Bush Beans
Tomatoes Chives, onion, parsley, asparagus, marigold, nasturtiums, carrots, limas Kohlrabi, potatoes, fennel, cabbage
Turnip Peas

Here is a list of the most commonly planted herbs and their preferred companions

Herbs Companions and Effects
Basil Companion to tomatoes; dislikes rue intensely; improves growth and flavor;

repels mosquitoes and flies.

Beebalm Companions to tomatoes; improves growth and flavor.
Borage Companion to tomatoes, squash, and strawberries; deters tomato worm;

improves flavor and growth.

Caraway Plant here and there; loosens soil.
Catnip Plant in borders; deters flea beetles.
Chamomile Companion to cabbages and onions; improves growth and flavor.
Chervil Radishes; improves growth and flavor.
Chives Companion to carrots; improves growth and flavor; plant around base of fruit

trees to discourage insects climbing trunks.

Dill Dislikes carrots; improves growth and health of cabbage.
Fennel Plant away from the garden; most plants dislike it.
Garlic Plant near roses and raspberries; deters Japanese beetle; improves growth and

health; plant liberally throughout the garden to deter pests.

Horseradish Plant at corners of the potato patch to deter potato bugs.
Hyssop Companion to cabbage and grapes; deters cabbage moth; keep away from


Lamb’s Quarters This edible weed should be allowed to grow in moderate amounts in the garden, especially in the corn.
Lemon Balm Sprinkle throughout the garden.
Marigolds The workhorse of the past deterrents; plant throughout garden especially with

tomatoes; it discourages Mexican bean beetles, nematodes, and other insects.

Mint Companion to cabbage and tomatoes; improves health and flavor; deters white cabbage moth.
Marjoram Plant here and there in the garden; improves flavor.
Nasturtium Companion to tomatoes and cucumbers.
Petunia Protects beans; beneficial throughout the garden.
Purslane This edible weed makes good ground cover in the corn.
Pigweed One of the best weeds for pumping nutrients from the subsoil, it is especially

beneficial to potatoes, onions, and corn; keep weeds thinned.

Rosemary Companion to cabbage, bean, carrots, and sage; deters cabbage moth, bean beetles, and carrot fly.
Rue Keep it far away from sweet basil; plant near roses and raspberries; deters

Japanese beetle.

Sage Plant with rosemary, cabbage, carrots, beans, and peas; keep away from cucumbers; deters cabbage moth and carrot fly.
Summer Savory Plant with beans and onions, improves growth and flavor; deters bean beetles.
Tansy Plant under fruit trees; companion to roses and raspberries; deters flying insects,

Japanese beetles, stipend cucumber beetles, squash bugs, and ants.

Tarragon Good throughout the garden.
Thyme Plant here and there in the garden; it deters cabbage worms.
Yarrow Plant along borders, paths, near aromatic herbs; enhances essential oil


Adapted from Organic Gardening and Farming, February 1972, pp. 32-33, 54, and The Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening, Rodale Press, Inc., 1978, pp. 233-235.

Meet the 2023 DUG Corps!

By News

This season, four wonderful 2023 DUG Corps members are here to support DUG gardens and host Micro Network events. Please help us welcome Rayanna, Kourtnie, Christina, and Sarah – and look for them in a garden near you!

Meet Christina

My name is Christina Highsmith. I’m one of the four DUG Corps members this season and am loving every moment of it! It’s a dream of mine to be a part of such an incredible organization.
I’m a backyard gardener and houseplant mom. I graduated in 2012 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Linguistics from the University of California, Berkeley, and have since worn many hats in my professional life, mainly in the field of education, but also finance, dog training, and baking! It’s all about the journey!
My love for nature started when I was a kid growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area. As a kid with anxiety, I remember feeling grounded in the outdoors, whether it was cloud watching for hours, listening to waves at the beach, or getting muddy out in my own backyard.
I’m a huge believer in the therapeutic qualities of nature and hope to incorporate this into my professional life down the road!
When I’m not doing DUG Corps activities, you can find me wandering barefoot around the yard with my three burly rescue dogs, glass of wine in hand, and scheming my next big gardening idea.

Meet Sarah

Sarah came to Colorado, from the San Francisco Bay Area, to earn her bachelor’s degree in Organismal Biology and Ecology from Colorado College. She holds a deeply rooted interest in ecology and earth stewardship and has pursed this in a diversity of ways.

Sarah has studied flammulated owls in the ponderosa pine forests of Colorado and common nighthawks in the sand hill ecosystem of Florida. She has contributed to both longitudinal and short term demographic studies of threatened bird populations with a focus on the impacts of climate change.

Most recently, Sarah worked for Sprout City Farms, growing organic produce on an urban farm in Lakewood Colorado, where she focused, instead, on the ways in which our changing climate is impacting our food systems. She is excited to be member of the DUG team, working to build community around food and earth stewardship.

Meet Kourtnie

My name is kourtnie burse, I’m from New Orleans Louisiana. I enjoy the outdoors especially spring and summer. I love that everything seems to be rejuvenating and coming alive again, which I find to be beautiful.

My education background is in environmental science/Geography, from the University of Colorado.

I absolutely love animals of all kinds and currently have a small backyard flock of chickens . I love to farm, ride horses and grow crops of all kinds and enjoy times with my family and friends.


Meet Rayanna

Hello, my name is Rayanna Schutt. I grew up in Commerce City, Colorado, with lovely views of the Purina Dog food factory and the Suncore Refinery. As beautiful as the surrounding views were – something was missing.

As an early teen, my close friends and I set out on a journey to “re-wild” our blocks, introducing native pollinator plants, and learning about food deserts and the issues that creates in the inner cities.

It is a humble honor to be surrounded by so many like minded individuals, here at DUG – and to share our passions for food justice, Earth Care and heirloom tomatoes!

Strategies to Combat Hail

By Education, Grow a Garden, Spring

To Replant or Not to Replant

Although there is no single solution to mitigate the impact of a severe hailstorm, it’s sometimes helpful to take a few minutes and remember some of the strategies we can pull out of our toolboxes to help promote healing.

  • Gardens, like their caretakers, are resilient and have an amazing capacity to  ‘come back’ in the most challenging situations. For a few days after a severe hailstorm, allow for grieving to occur but don’t concentrate on this aspect.
  • Carefully look for signs of new growth, and realize that given the crop or time in the season in which hail occurs, many plants will have time to recover.
  • After several days, spread about ½ inch of aged, landscape – based compost around all plants, and, using a hoe, hand trowel, or other type of cultivating tool, lightly dig it into the soil, taking care to not dig deeply or damage roots. Hail Storms lead to hard, crusted soil and a light cultivation not only opens air channels but also allows for the slow release of nutrients obtained from compost.
  • Tomatoes have the benefit of producing new side shoots from many of the leaf nodes so watch for this new growth before pruning them back.
  • Prune back damaged tops of eggplants and peppers to an outward facing node.
  • Remove shredded leaves that may be on the soil surface to prevent places for slugs, cutworms and other moisture – loving critters to move in.
  • Use a foliar spray (a spray bottle is fine) with one tsp. of liquid kelp per pint of water & spray all foliage with this solution.  Kelp provides many micronutrients and also compounds known as cytokines that stimulate and strengthen new plant growth.
  • Remove outer leaves of damaged lettuce and squash, to stimulate new growth.
  • Replant seeds of collards, summer squash, basil and beans. There’s plenty of time left in the season for them to flourish.
  • Plant marigolds and zinnias around the edges of beds to attract beneficial pollinators.
  • Consider erecting windbreaks of fallen branches near crops to break the force (next time, of course) of pounding rain, wind and/or hail. Branches can be erected in ‘teepee like’ structures to straddle rows of taller crops. If crops are low enough, a basic cover of several layers of garden row cover (often sold as ‘season extenders’ or frost protection) placed directly over the crops and weighted down with rocks or soil at the bottom may provide some protection.

Most of all, celebrate you! Realize that you play an essential part in the garden’s recovery. Hail is a natural part of our Colorado landscape—but so are the incredible blue skies, relatively few problems with disease-causing organisms and smiles we gain from noticing that first new shoot that seems to stand out so strongly as a survivor—a testament to the caring spirit of you—that special person working in partnership with the earth.

Hands holding a handful of dirt with red wriggler worms

Basics of Vermicomposting

By Education

Composting is a natural way to take organic material like food scraps and garden materials and turn them into a natural soil amendment called compost.

Vermicomposting is the process of using worms to turn these materials into a specific type of compost called castings, or worm poop.

Here are some basics of vermicomposting at home, which our Master Composters explain in depth at our vermicomposting classes the first Saturday of every month during spring, summer and fall.

Here are some basics of vermicomposting at home, which our Master Composters explain in depth at our vermicomposting classes the first Saturday of every month during spring, summer and fall. 

Follow these guidelines and watch this video to get you started in your journey with worm composting.

What is vermicompost
Vermicompost, or ‘worm castings’, is worm manure, the end result of worms eating food scraps and garden waste, digesting it and turning it into a soil-looking material with high levels of nutrients and beneficial fungus and bacteria that allow plants to easily access nutrients, making it a great soil amendment to improve the health and growth of your plants, indoors or outdoors. 

What kind of worms should you use?
The most commonly used worm for home vermicomposting is the Red Wiggler worm. This is different from an earthworm, which does not thrive in captivity.  

Hands holding vermicompost (worms and lettuces and dirt)

The Ideal Home for Red Wiggler Worms
Worms prefer a temperature range between 55-77 degrees fahrenheit (13-25 celsius) and a moist environment. You can build a home vermicomposting bin to suit these needs with simple materials:

  • A shallow wide tub – drill holes all around the container to allow air flow
  • A bottom liquid catcher – worm bins produce ‘worm leachate’ that settles at the bottom of the bin. You can dilute this and use it to water your plants. 
  • A lid – Keep the lid ajar to allow air flow

Bedding: the ideal bedding is made of ‘brown materials’ like newspaper (non-glossy), brown recycled paper, unbleached paper, dried leaves, cardboard, or egg cartons, wet like a wrung out sponge but not soaked that could drown the worms because they breathe through their skin.

What do they eat?
Red wiggler worms have a wide plant-based diet. No meat or dairy products, the only animal product they eat is eggshells. They also stay away from citrus fruits, garlic or onions, spicy peppers, all of which irritate their skin. They also eat unbleached paper, dried leaves, and the different materials used to make their bedding. 

You can feed your worms a pint of food scraps once every couple of weeks, making sure they have consumed their previous meal. Too much food scraps can bring unwanted smells and critters, for that same reason make sure to bury the food scraps under the bedding. 

How to Harvest the Castings
Stop feeding and watering the bin a week before you plan to harvest the castings, to allow it to dry out a bit to make it easy to separate the castings from other material and from the worms. 

  • Build a mount and allow light to hit the worms, they will scurry down to hide from the light making it easier to leave them behind.
  • Use a colander or similar tool to sift through the castings leaving behind large pieces of food scraps or bedding.

How to Use the Castings
Castings are nutrient-dense, heavy on nitrogen that can burn your plants if added in high amounts. It is a great fertilizer used in small quantities:

  • Top dressing: sprinkle a small amount of castings at the base of bushes or around vegetable plants and lightly work into the soil
  • Casting tea: in a 1:3 castings to water ratio, dilute the castings and let the mixture rest overnight. Apply directly to the root base of the plants.
  • Soil amendment: Add worm castings directly to the soil where you are planting, about 10% of the soil mass.  

Keep your fully-dried castings in a container in a cool-dry area, and use it throughout the growing season for outdoor plants. Apply to indoor plants every couple of months to boost their growth throughout the year.

Learn more about our composting classes here.

Guide to Container Gardening

By Education, Grow a Garden, Spring

Container gardening refers to the gardening practice of cultivating plants in pots, tubs, or other containers instead of directly in the ground or in raised beds. Container gardening allows for food, flower, and herb production in locations where traditional gardens are not possible or accessible, including patios, balconies, decks, and sites with poor soil quality. They are a great option for renters, individuals with limited mobility, gardeners seeking to extend the growing season, and beginner gardeners looking to start their gardening practice gradually.

The portability of containers allows gardeners to choose micro-climates for each plant based on their preferred temperature and level of sunlight. Please refer to the instructions on the back of your seed packets for more information about the preferred micro-climate of your plant varieties. 

Keep in mind that containers are more susceptible to high temperatures and moisture loss than traditional gardening arrangements. You can mitigate damage to your plants by watering the base of the plant only, checking water level daily, covering the soil with mulch, and, if necessary, using shade cloth to lessen the sunlight’s intensity. 

When growing plants in containers, pay special attention to the type of soil that you use. Soil from garden beds or your yard is generally too dense for container gardening. Instead try a lightweight potting mix.

Most garden centers will carry general purpose potting mixes or mixes specifically designed for container gardening. Or create your own soil substitute for container gardening by mixing 3 parts organic compost, 3 parts peat moss or coconut coir, and 1 part vermiculite.

Plants grown in containers often need additional nutrients since potting mixes don’t provide the same nutritional profile as garden soil. Use an organic based fertilizer several times during the season.

Remember to always add mulch (such as straw, not wood chips) on top of your soil in containers to reduce moisture loss from intense Colorado sunlight.

Tips for choosing containers 

  • Use containers at least 8” in depth for all plant varieties other than herbs and lettuces, and much larger containers will be required for many plant varieties. 
  • In general, the larger the container, the better. More soil and space will allow plants to thrive and generate larger harvests. 
  • Always use containers with drainage holes on the bottom or drill drainage holes into containers that do not already have them. 
  • You can increase harvest yield for some plant varieties (such as potatoes) with specialized planters adapted to the unique features of certain plants.

Tips for selecting plant varieties

  • Always select plants based on the amount of light available in your space. Refer to the back of seed packets for this information. 
  • Consider planting more than one plant variety together in a container. Companion gardening is most effective when you choose plants that have physical characteristics that aid each other’s growth. Common companion plants for container gardening include: 
    • Beans, Carrots, and Squash
    • Eggplant and Beans
    • Tomatoes, Basil, and Onions
    • Lettuce and Herbs
  • Companion plants should have a diversity of root depths to limit competition for water. 
    • Common shallow root plant varieties include: chives, lettuce, radishes, salad greens, basil, cilantro, beans, garlic, kohlrabi, onions, peas, mint, and thyme.
    • Common deep root plant varieties include carrots, chard, cucumber, eggplant, fennel, leeks, peppers, spinach, parsley, rosemary, beets, broccoli, okra, potatoes, and summer squash. 
    • Most, but not all, plant varieties are adaptable to growing in containers. Common varieties that are generally not adaptable to container gardening include deep-root plants such as corn or sprawling plants with extra large yields like pumpkins and melons. 
      • Varieties with ‘Patio’ or ‘Dwarf’ in the title are container friendly.

Container gardening can be very resource intensive. You’ll need to acquire large containers and enough soil to fill them. 

Tips for making container gardening cost effective

  • Consider recycling existing containers such as buckets or tubs into plant containers. Make sure to thoroughly clean and disinfect recycled containers using chlorine free bleach before planting.
  • Buy your soil and soil amendments in bulk rather than in bags.
  • Order a seed, seedling, and educational resource kit through DUG’s pay-what-you-can with a free option annual program called Grow a Garden
  • Get your seeds for free from DUG every spring in our office (1031 33rd St. St #100, Denver, CO 80205)!



  • CSU Extension “Colorado Gardening: Challenge to Newcomers” Guide 
  • Dustin Wright of Living Earth Designs

Climate Action One Seed at a Time

By News

Written by Linda Appel Lipsus

DUG is a Climate Organization 

…among other things.

Or is it?

This topic has come up a number of times for me over the past month in various discussions. While I firmly believe DUG is a climate organization, I was shocked to hear so many people say community gardens are not places where we can have climate impact. Why aren’t we making the connection?

Maybe the disconnect lies with size. Gardens are small and we have a cultural obsession with bigger is better. If what you are doing is not a billion of something with a million of something else in one fell swoop, it’s not meaningful. Maybe the disconnect lies with speed. Gardening and growing is inherently slow, intentional work and does not provide instant gratification and instant results, so it must not be working.

Or maybe the disconnect lies with scale. With gardening, you help a tiny seed grow or you sow a mere 10’ by 10’ plot of land while our climate problem is SO big and vast and overwhelming and incomprehensible that these small steps cannot possibly make a difference.

All of this, I believe, is a manifestation of learned helplessness. Making the health of the planet someone else’s problem to fix.

And I get it. It is all so overwhelming. And, in response, I stand firm that DUG’s (unstated) mission is to undo this learned helplessness vis-a-vis our planet.

 All change starts with one step by one person. Growing food and connecting to the soil is something humans were meant to do. We are of the earth. We are dependent on the earth. And the earth is dependent on us acting with care. If we don’t, we get evicted, and that process seems to be underway now.

Each and every one of us has a sacred bond to the land beneath our feet, and that bond can be maintained, nurtured and stewarded by so many simple steps. And, when lots of people take those steps, we do, in fact, create change. When you think of it in terms of billions of people vs. hundreds of corporations, the potential of our collective impact far outreaches that of Fortune 500 CSR goals.

To that end, this earth week I ask you to be curious. Read something. Do something. Talk to someone. Take a minute to set your intention on a new habit you can cultivate that will help heal our home.

Some gardening hacks:

Heal your Soil – As the earth’s “skin,” soil is one of our planet’s most important resources, and it is being ransacked by conventional farming and ranching practices.

You can help reverse this degradation in your own garden, raised beds and even container gardens. 

✔️ Use natural alternatives to chemical pesticides and fertilizers which kill both the bad and the good bugs, of which there are many. Another option is integrated pest management.

✔️ Add compost to your soil at the beginning and end of each season. Compost is rich in microbial life which is what infuses your soil with everything it needs to grow healthy, nutrient-rich food. 

✔️ Plant fall cover crops to do the work in the cold winter months!

✔️ Opt not to clear your garden at the end of the season. Naked soil is vulnerable and rapidly loses moisture and nutrients. Leave the plants in or cut them down and spread the mulch over the winter.

✔️ Support organic, regenerative producers

✔️ Take action and write to your local lawmakers and offending businesses to stop poisoning our soil and our food system.

Increase Biodiversity – Plant different things every year in different places to serve varying functions and attract pollinators. 

✔️ Plant pollinators – Attract and support your friendly pollinators by adding plants and flowers that welcome bees, butterflies, etc.

Find the space, even in a food garden, because pollinators help the entire ecosystem. The Butterfly Pavilion is a tremendous resource. 

✔️ Crop rotation – Your soil has a memory and each plant gives and takes different things. By rotating what you plant where, you let your soil breathe and reset each season. 

✔️ Try not to monocrop – Just as we hear about conventional agriculture monocropping corn, soybeans, etc. you can fall into the monocropping trap, too.

You might really love a certain variety of tomato or pepper and only want to grow that one. This approach might serve you for a season, but not multiple. Mix it up.

✔️ Plant in guilds / practice companion planting – Certain plants benefit from being planted near each other. They provide support and resiliency. Most have heard of the “Three Sisters” – corn + beans + squash – example.

These life-giving crops each serve distinct and complementary purposes to each other that result in a thriving trifecta.

Go ahead and get rid of your lawn – There are a number of reasons why it makes sense to go lawn-free. As to the “how,” Resource Central can help you figure this out, and Boundless Landscapes has shared some ideas too. 

Compost – You can compost almost anywhere you live using a variety of methods. Composting not only captures food waste to create a rich and productive soil amendment, it keeps organic matter out of the landfill where it emits high levels of methane. Composting means you’re both creating a net positive and reducing a net negative. 

And, as always, if you are looking for a 101 on regenerative practices, please watch the film, Kiss the Ground. Grab some popcorn and invite your friends!

Happy Earth Day. Let’s start reclaiming hope today.

How to Resurface Garden Pathways

By GL Resources

Pathways make walking or rolling through the garden a much easier experience. Here is the process for getting your garden pathways resurfaced.

DUG works with Ewing Landscape for landscaping material, including crusher fines, which they call breeze. Garden Leaders may order on behalf of their garden, giving their name and garden name to ensure Ewing provides DUG staff with an accurate invoice to confirm and make payment.
– There is a 2 ton minimum order for deliveries and a 15 ton maximum.
– Call in at least a week before you need the materials, especially as the busy season gets going.
– Provide address, date, and time for delivery.
– They do not use the term “crusher fines”, so order “breeze” granite color as it’s the standard in DUG gardens.

DUG works with Ewing Landscape (303) 794-5960;

Stone is measured by tons; Ewing will convert our measure of cubic yards into appropriate measure for tons when ordering breeze, just be sure to communicate this need. Garden Leaders may order on behalf of their garden when they inform Ewing that they are with a DUG garden.

  • Garden Leaders must give their name and garden name, for Ewing to send an accurate invoice to DUG staff to confirm and make payment.
  • There is a 2 ton minimum order for deliveries and a 15 ton maximum. There is a mulch truck available to deliver up to 25 yards. Inquire about smaller delivery trucks for gardens with limited space for drop-offs.
Project Materials to order (quantity and measurement)
New Garden ​​Multiply the length (L) in feet, by the width (W) in feet, by the height (H) (3 inches) in feet, and divide by 27.
Resurfacing pathways ​​Multiply the length (L) in feet, by the width (W) in feet, by the height (H) (2 inches) in feet, and divide by 27. 2 inches in height