Category Archives: Grow Local Colorado

Meet the Garden Squad

Meet the Garden Squad is a new blog feature and a way to get better acquainted with some of our CSU Extension Master Gardener volunteers.

Meet Mark Zammuto

Retirement seems to agree with Mark Zammuto. Gardening, biking, hiking and volunteering keep this “recovering attorney” busy. Mark spent about 25 years working as an attorney in the public sector, including the Colorado Attorney General’s office.

Mark Zammuto and Charlotte Aycrigg are active CSU Extension Master Gardeners in Denver. (Photo courtesy of Mark Zammuto)

His work kept him from doing many of the things he always wanted to do, like becoming a CSU Extension Master Gardener. In 2009 his schedule finally opened up to allow time to attend classes and commit to being a volunteer.

He’s taken that commitment to heart. Many of his volunteer hours are spent organizing the plantings at the Harvard Gulch vegetable demonstration garden. For the last several years, he’s worked at the City Park Greenhouse starting seeds and tending more than 450 vegetable plants before they’re moved to the demonstration garden at the end of each May.

That’s when other Denver Master Gardeners and volunteers from Outdoor Colorado and Grow Local Colorado gather to complete a mass planting in the vegetable bed located at the corner of E. Iliff Ave. and S. Emerson St.

About 1000 pounds of produce are harvested each year and donated to the food pantry at the Community Ministry of Southwest Denver, as well as other food banks in southwest and central Denver.

Mark’s interest in growing plants dates to when he planted little gardens as a kid growing up in Illinois. He had older relatives there that gardened, too, but he credits one of his grandfathers as an exceptional garden inspiration.

“He had an incredible green thumb,” Mark said. “He lived in California and when I’d go out in summers to visit, I’d see him graft trees and other things like that. He was an Italian immigrant and grew all kinds of fruit trees, avocados, lemons, plums and many traditional Italian foods like squash, tomatoes, basil and eggplants.”

A path leads through the many plantings in Mark and Charlotte’s garden. (Photo courtesy of Mark Zammuto)

Mark and his wife Charlotte Aycrigg, who’s also a Denver Master Gardener, have a big vegetable garden, a water-wise perennial garden and whatever else will grow in their yard that’s steadily getting shadier. To make up for that, they have a plot in the Denver Botanic Gardens Community Garden at Congress Park.

When he’s not out hiking and biking with his wife, Mark volunteers with the Botanic Gardens answering questions at the Help Desk, working with the Plant Select division for the DBG plant sale and volunteering at the Steppe Garden.

Interacting with other Master Gardeners is what Mark enjoys most about being a Master Gardener. “They’re all pretty nice people,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot because there’s so much cumulative knowledge.”

If he had to offer advice for other gardeners, he’d say to concentrate on planting the right plant in the right place. That advice is especially important when it comes to the long-term consequences of planting trees, he said.

“Before we did the Master Gardener training, we were novice gardeners when it came to planting trees. Looking back, I would’ve made better tree choices but we didn’t know and nurseries were selling trees not suited to this environment.”

If he had it to do over, he said he’d take time to do the research and study what kind of trees to plant for the best results.

By Jodi Torpey
Master Gardener volunteer since 2005

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Grow Local Colorado and the Harvard Gulch Park Vegetable Garden

The Denver Extension CSU Master Gardeners (CMGs) in partnership with Grow Local Colorado have been growing a vegetable demonstration garden at Harvard Gulch Park on the corner of Emerson St. and Iliff Ave. in Denver for several years.  Produce from this joint project is donated to the Community Ministry Food Bank and the Food Bank at the University Church of Christ.

Harvard Gulch Park vegetable garden

Harvard Gulch Park vegetable garden – June 2016

Every year beginning in March while there is still snow on the ground, the CMGs start vegetable plants from seed at the City Park Greenhouses.   They nurse the seedlings until late May when the plants are big and sturdy and ready to be planted at Harvard Gulch Park.  With the help of Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado,  the CMGs plant tomatoes, cucumbers, beets, squash, peppers, cabbage,  lettuce and chard in the demonstration garden.  Over the course of the next several months, CMG volunteers water, weed and harvest the bounty for donation to local food banks.  As of the middle of August, the Harvard Gulch garden has produced more than 440 pounds of produce and the season is just kicking into high gear.

Our partner, Grow Local Colorado is an organization dedicated to promoting local food, local community and local economy.  The Harvard Gulch Vegetable Garden is one of several Grow Local sponsored gardens in Metro Denver including a number of Denver parks and the Colorado Governor’s Mansion.  These Grow Local sponsored gardens are providing thousands of pounds of fresh produce to communities that do not have easy access to healthy food.  The garden partnerships are just one of several projects Grow Local is engaged in to encourage Coloradans to grow and share produce with others in their communities.  Visit the Grow Local website to find out more.

If your garden is producing more vegetables than you and your family can consume, consider donating your garden surplus to area organizations that help those experiencing food insecurity.  The attached link at the Denver Extension website is a guide to organizations in your community that will gladly accept your surplus bounty.

Harvest from Harvard Gulch Park vegetable garden

Harvest from Harvard Gulch Park vegetable garden

The City and County of Denver is working with members of the community to ensure food security for all Denver residents through the Denver Sustainable Food Policy Council.  To learn more about the Sustainable Food Policy Council and Denver’s food system from production to distribution to consumption check out the Denver Department of Environmental Health’s Food Systems Policies website.    Find out how our food system works (or doesn’t) and its impact on the health of our citizens.

If your green thumb was too green this summer, join Grow Local Colorado, the Denver Extension CSU Master Gardeners and others in helping bring healthy produce to all members of our community.

Written by Mark Zammuto, a Denver County Master Gardener