From ACES to Dandelion Day, gardening events are sprouting in the Valley
Winter may not be surrendering its hold on the valley just yet, as recent snow storms have proved. But local gardeners are already digging deep and getting plots ready for our high altitude growing season.
Whether you have a backyard garden of your own, a community garden space, or you just want to get your hands dirty, opportunities abound at upcoming events throughout the valley.
At the Aspen for Environmental Studies (ACES) on Tuesday nights through June 11, you can volunteer to help weed and seed the garden at Hallam Lake. The group gardening session kicks off weekly at 5:30 p.m.
Built by Jody and Tom Cardamone when they lived on the property in the early 1980s, the organic garden consists of raised beds in concentric half-circles and bordered with rocks. Last Tuesday night the garden, like most around the valley right now, was looking rough — weeds and little else sprouting as the soil awakens from its winter freeze.
It was the second in the series of seven days of ACES’ Spring Garden Volunteer Series, bringing together a small but eclectic mix of families, ACES staffers, and locals looking to work the soil. Kids marveled at the discovery of worms, adults traded recipes for spring greens, and the garden itself made some progress.
The volunteers’ mission was to pick out dandelions from the garden beds — digging down to get the tap roots out and make room for new plants. They gathered the dirt-crusted dandelion greens in bags, split up the bounty at the end of an hour’s work and brought them home to make spring salads.
“This is a teaching garden,” said ACES volunteer coordinator Olivia Siegel. “We want people to come out and learn a little bit, and maybe get to take home something as a reward.”
Over the coming weeks, they’ll be planting lettuce, radishes, kale and carrots, while harvesting perennials like rhubarb and onions.
ACES also opens the space for its Garden and Me series, aimed at introducing the joy of gardening to kids aged 1 to 3. The three-week series consists of sessions on “Preparing the Garden” on May 31, “Plant Time!” on June 7 and “Grow, Grow, Grow” on June 14. Sessions start at 9 a.m. and run for an hour. The whole series is $45 ($30 for members of ACES or Aspen T.R.E.E.).
In Carbondale, plants and trees take over Sopris Park on Saturday, May 11, for the annual Dandelion Day. The full-scale festival honors the official town flower and is hosted by the town’s Environmental Board. Among the festivities is the annual “Parade of the Species,” with revelers dressing as their favorite flora and fauna and parading down Main Street at 10 a.m.
There’s also an all-day seed and plant swap, with local planters trading their extra seeds, bulbs and plants. And, for those who are truly proud of their dirt, there’s a judged compost contest running from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. with awards and prizes going to the healthiest compost.
The festival also provides separate demonstrations on tree planting and pruning, a biodynamic farming seminar by a representative from Soil Academy, and one by Permascapes Unlimited’s Scott Levine on building a bed.
Also in Carbondale this weekend, on Saturday and Sunday, the Colorado Rocky Mountain School (CRMS) hosts its annual plant sale, offering organically raised vegetables and perennials from the school greenhouse. The traditional sale runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and usually has loyal gardeners lining up outside the school greenhouse well before the sale opens in the morning.
The sale benefits CRMS’s garden program, which guides students through all phases of the process from planting to harvesting. The kids work on the plants for months before the annual sale and serve their produce in the cafeteria.
This spring also brings a significant change to upper valley gardeners, as this is the first planting season since Planted Earth Home and Garden Center closed up shop on Highway 82.
The Aspen gardener go-to still has its Carbondale location open. But the closest retailer of plants and gardening needs for Aspenites is now Basalt’s Mountain Greenery. Run by green thumb guru Jillian Kops since 1987, Mountain Greenery is home to everything from flowering plants to ready-to-plant 20-foot-tall trees. Kops and her team pride themselves on their expertise in high altitude plant life, and guiding valley gardeners into a successful growing season.