Ask A Denver Expert: How To Start Your Dream Garden

April 18, 2014 7:00 AM


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Spring is right around the corner, and that means it is time to start planning your gardens. Whether you’ve been an expert gardener for years or you have never done any gardening before in your life, there are plants, flowers and vegetables anyone can learn to grow. Colorado’s climate is unique with the bright sunshine, cool evenings and crisp altitude, so there are a variety of vegetables and flowers that truly thrive here. As you are planning your gardening for the season, here are some great tips from Mike Spencer from Spencer’s Lawn and Garden Center.

Mike Spencer
Spencer’s Lawn and Garden Center
1430 S. Tejon St.
Colorado Springs, CO 80905
(719) 632-2788 

Spencer’s Lawn and Garden Center is a true family-owned local business. Mike Spencer’s grandfather opened Spencer’s Produce in 1934, and today that business has grown into a successful lawn and garden shop with two locations in Colorado. Spencer was also the local Garden Editor for the ABC affiliate in Colorado Springs and for CNN for 15 years. Spencer is one of the best resources for gardening tips to help you this spring.

Get Your Garden Ready: Incorporate Organic Material

“As soon as your garden thaws out enough that you can actually start filling the garden up, you’ll want to add anywhere from an inch to two inches of organic material to fill that in,” Spencer explains. “You will use a manure-based, organic material. You want to make sure it is well-aged though, because manures tend to retain salt and you don’t want any salt in there.” If you are looking for a good product to use when you fill in your garden, Spencer recommends Acidified Cotton Burr, “It works very well in the garden because we are so alkaline here.”

Start Your Seeds Inside

For a successful garden, Spencer recommends that you start your seeds inside, but not too early. “You want to time your seeds so you are not more than four weeks out when you actually transplant your gardens. Your cold crops will be able to go out around the middle to the end of April, so you don’t want to start before the 15th of March because they get weak inside. Your tomatoes, peppers and those kinds of plants shouldn’t be set out until the middle of May, so you won’t start those until mid-April inside.”

Related: Top Garden Centers In The Denver Area

Let Them Adjust To The Outdoors

A lot of people will start their plants inside and then just take them outside and plant them in the ground. This can cause a lot of loss because the plants don’t have time to adjust to the change from the indoors to the garden. “You’ll want to set up something outside your front door where they can still get some shelter from the wind. Put them outside during the day, but take them in at night,” Spencer offers. “I try to move them four or five feet further out every day, so they are more and more exposed. I have very little loss that way.”

Use The Calendar

The calendar can be a great guideline for knowing just the right time for planting. “I always use St. Patrick’s Day as my guideline of when I plant my potatoes, radishes and those types of plants. That is a great time to go straight in the garden with that. Hopefully we’ve been able to till the garden and have it all ready by that point. The sooner we get started on getting the garden ready, the better.”

Related: Top Gardens In Denver And Colorado

Use A Grow Light For Flowers

The same procedures for starting your vegetables can apply to your flowers. The one difference is that you’ll need some extra light for those flowers when they are inside. As Spencer explains, “Especially for flowers, you’ll need to add a little artificial light when they are started inside. Whether that is a T5 fluorescent light or an actual grow light, you’ll use the same procedures, and pretty much the same timing. Some flowers can start a little earlier, but not much.”

Deborah Flomberg is a theater professional, freelance writer and Denver native. Her work can be found at