Monday, August 29, 2011

2011 Master Gardener Garden Tour: Home Grown by Georgina Kokinda

Photo by Janet Shangraw
It was the last day of July, a perfect commonly sunny summer day with temperatures hovering close to the century mark, when the Jefferson County (Jeffco) Colorado Master Gardeners (CMG’s) held the HOMEGROWN TOUR. The event, which focused on home/community food production, was organized and orchestrated by a team of Jeffco CMG’s led by Janet Shangraw. Featured were six luscious gardens, including: a community garden in Golden; the home garden of CSU Extension Research Associate, Curtis Utley; three home gardens of Jeffco CMG’s; and the Horticulture Research and Demonstration Garden at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds.

The CMG’s and CSU staff who offered to show their own gardens along with volunteers who helped them, worked tirelessly preparing, planting, weeding, watering, sweating and stressing, as crazy monsoon weather in the preceding weeks brought almost daily threats of hail and other severe weather. Their efforts paid off (and of course those daily monsoon rains didn’t hurt), as approximately 200 people toured the productive lush gardens. All monies raised for the event were donated to the Colorado Master Gardener Fund, which provides scholarships for horticulture students at CSU.

In the ‘workshop’ garden (pictured below) outside the CSU Extension office at the Fairgrounds, Extension staff and Jeffco CMG’s plant and evaluate vegetable varieties and growing methods, as well as teach children involved in 4-H and other after school programs. Among the fruits and vegetables being grown there are tomatoes, radishes, broccoli, beans, peppers, onions, garlic, herbs, corn, cabbage, kale, wheat,  apples, and peaches. Many tour participants were interested in the blueberry experiment, in which plants are being grown in bags of peat moss, since the soils along the Front Range are generally so alkaline. For more information on growing blueberries in Colorado, see the Winter2011 issue of the Front Range Sustainable Small Acreage News here:

(photo credit: G. Kokinda)
CMG’s Ellen Goodnight and Vicky Spelman-Lang assist the children in planting tomatoes after school.

(photo credit: P. Luzetski)
 Mary Small, Jefferson County CSU Extension Agent, stops briefly in the shade for a quick photo-op during a rare quiet period during the tour on the near-100degree Sunday.

photo credit: P. Luzetski)          
Raised beds with concrete reinforcing mesh ‘structure’ provide quick cover if needed for vegetables and herbs at the Horticulture Research and Demo Garden at the Jeffco Fairgrounds in Golden.
 Though not focused on food production, the Plant Select® Garden at the Fairgrounds was recently awarded a Showcase Garden Award for the region, was also on display during the tour. Plant Select® is a collaborative effort with Colorado State University, Denver Botanic Gardens and regional and national horticultural professionals. “The purpose of Plant Select® is to seek out, identify and distribute the very best plants for landscapes and gardens from the intermountain region to the high plains”. Learn more about Plant Select® here:

Trial plants Coral Canyon Twinspur (left) and Sea Foam Artemisia in the Plant Select® garden.

(photo credits: G. Kokinda)
VERMILION BLUFFS® Mexican Sage (Salvia darcyi 'Pscarl') was a 2007 Plant Select® choice.

For more on Herbaceous Perennials that are best adapted for Colorado’s lower elevations, see:, and Flowers for Mountain Communities:

Several visitors asked questions about Paulownia tomentosa, which had been a trial plant for the program a few years ago (pictured below center with large leaves).


According to Curtis Utley, the plant usually dies back to the ground each year, though some top growth managed to survive this past winter because it was a fairly mild one. It was pulled from consideration for the program, as it is not reliably hearty along the Front Range.
(photo credit: J. Shangraw)
Visitors tour the garden of CMG Vicky Spelman-Lang, which, at the foot of a hillside, integrates beautifully into the other backyard landscaping, featuring a xeric south-facing slope, pictured below.

(photo credit: P. Luzetski)
For information on xeric plant choices, see Plantalk Colorado:

(photo credit: J. Shangraw)
The charming garden of CMG Carol Burks featured chickens, bees, herbs and vegetables, and fruit with perennial beds tucked in between and connected by well-tended paths.
photo credit: C. Burks)
Succulent raspberries in the Burks garden.
   To learn more, see ‘Raspberries for the Home Garden’ here:, and in the Spring2011 issue of Front Range Sustainable Small Acreage News:

(photo credit: J. Shangraw)
A tiny tour-goer enjoys a cool quiet spot in the Burks garden.

(photo credit: P. Luzetski)
A large healthy Elm tree highlights the Burks backyard.

(photo credit: E. Goodnight)
CMG Patti Douglas in her garden before the tour begins.

(photo credit: J. Shangraw)
Overheard by CMG volunteers at the garden of CMG Patti Douglas were comments by guests such as “I love this garden. I want one just like this,” and “is she really going to eat all of that garlic and all those onions?”
(photo credit: P. Luzetski)
Hostess Patti Douglas (center) chats with guests.
photo credit: J. Shangraw)
Other comments were “Everything is so beautifully labeled” & “Patti is so knowledgeable, helpful, and giving.”
(photo credit: J. Shangraw)
Curtis Utley poses behind a poster describing intensive and vertical gardening methods in his own lush garden in Wheat Ridge.

(photo credit: P. Luzetski)
A few of the 60-some chickens in Utley’s chicken coop.
(photo credit: P. Luzetski)
photo credits: J. Shangraw)
Curtis stayed busy throughout the day explaining to many grateful tour-goers how he grows food for his own family, especially on Training and Pruning Fruit Trees
  Find more info on the subject here:,
on Fertilizing Fruit Trees:,
Drip Irrigation for Home Gardens:,
and Operating and Maintaining a Home Irrigation System:     

(photo credit: J. Shangraw)
The entrance to the Applewood Community Garden features a beautiful and prolific trumpet vine embellished gate, designed and hand crafted by community member Christina Forsythe.
The Applewood Community Garden in Golden was started with the help of Denver Urban Gardens, in 2007 by 100 volunteers on Earth Day with land donated by a local church. Each plot owner pays $25 per year for fees. Gardeners meet for winter sign-up and a planning dinner.

photo credit: J. Shangraw)
Butterfly bush and Aquilegia chrysantha, DENVER GOLD® Columbine embellish a bench in the Applewood Community Garden.  

(photo credit: J. Shangraw)
Common areas include raspberries (recently nibbled by deer), cutting flowers, herb garden, squash, and a pumpkin patch.
(photo credit: J. Shangraw)        
Many people at garden asked questions about the Leonotis leonurus,, aka Lions’ Tail or Wild Dagga, which, according to CMG volunteer EJ Bennet, “looks just like a Dr. Seuss creation”.
(photo credit: P. Luzetski)
Tour highlights from the Applewood garden included a tasting of raw okra by CMG volunteers, offered by Zachariah, a local community gardener.   
 Overall, the feeling by CMG’s is that the tour was a huge success, as we accomplished our mission of sharing research-based knowledge and our enthusiasm for the natural environment. “The Colorado State University, Colorado Master Gardeners Program volunteer network strives to enhance Coloradans’ quality of life by: ●Extending knowledge-based education throughout Colorado communities to foster successful gardeners, and ●Helping individuals make informed decisions about plants to protect neighborhood environments. We are committed to using horticulture to empower gardeners, develop partnerships, and build stronger communities”. Check out this link if you are interested in learning more about the Colorado State University Extension Colorado Master Gardener Program.

For more research-based information on growing your own food, we’ve listed a few select links listed below, or search the CSU Extension general web site here:

Apple and Pear Insects:
Backyard orchard: Apples and Pears:
Backyard orchard: Stone Fruits:
Composting Yard Waste:
Cucumbers, Pumpkins, Squash, and Melons:
Edible Flowers:
Growing Plants From Seed:
Recognizing Tomato Problems:
Saving Seeds:
Storage of Home-Grown Vegetables: ,
Preventing E. coli From Garden to Plate:

The CSU Extension Small Acreage Management website also has information on managing your land, controlling animal and other pests, composting and vermicomposting, creating an heirloom vegetable garden, noxious weeds, and more! Visit