CO-Horts Blog

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Looking Forward to Fall Gardening

Posted by Sarah Schweig, Broomfield County Extension

With the relentlessly hot weather lately, this post is devoted to gardening in that magical time that’s just around the corner - daytime temperatures are less severe, nights are cool, the soil has been warming all season, and (hopefully) we receive some rainfall. Early fall is a great time for establishing many plants, and a particularly pleasant time to be in the garden. At the top of my list are moving around some perennials, getting spring bulbs in the ground, and doing some much needed overseeding of the lawn. We’ve still got some time before these fall gardening tasks, but now is the time to prepare!

Planting Perennials
A window of opportunity for perennials opens once the hottest temperatures of the summer have subsided. If you stroll your favorite garden center around this time, the inventory may be low, but the prices usually are, too. It’s also a good time to divide and transplant many perennials. For overcrowded or overgrown plants, dividing every few years can support plant health. A general rule of thumb is not to divide plants when they are in bloom. For fall division, focus on plants that bloom from spring to early summer. Whether new plantings, transplants, or divisions, allow 4-6 weeks for plants to establish in their new homes before the ground freezes.
What to do now
Take some time to assess your spaces and plants while your garden is still in its full glory. Do you see overcrowding? Gaps in the landscape? These are your targets for division and transplanting. If (like me) you're just not feeling your original design anymore, that's also a good reason to change things up.

Fall-Planted Bulbs
What’s better than a gift you give your future self to open when you most need it? Enter crocus, squill, daffodils, and all the other hardy bulbs and corms that provide the first flush of spring color. On the Front Range, the ideal time to plant spring-blooming bulbs is late September into October. If planted after this window, roots may not have time to establish before the ground freezes, which is key to survival into the next season. If planted too early, the shoots may begin to develop this year. This takes valuable energy away from root establishment, which similarly reduces chances of success in the spring.


What to do now
Shop! For the reasons above, it’s important not to be hasty with planting, but you’ll find many bulbs have been bought up by the ideal planting time. If you buy bulbs before it’s time to plant, store them in a dry location out of direct sunlight with good air circulation (net bags work well for this).

Seeding Cool Season Grasses
Whether you’re overseeding a few bare spots or planning an overhaul, you can seed cool season grasses like fescue, bluegrass, and ryegrass into the fall. Cool season grasses can even be seeded now, though higher temperatures mean even more diligence (and water) will be needed to maintain the moist conditions needed for seed germination and seedling survival. 

Bare spot in lawn

What to do now
Remember you’ll need to complete some pre-planting steps like choosing your seed, killing existing vegetation if needed, raking away debris, and aerating to prepare the seed beds.
Set yourself up for success by first asking why new grass is needed. Is the current grass species appropriate for your site and needs? Are irrigation issues contributing? Make adjustments now to avoid repeating the process next year.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Smoke and Ash on Plants

 By Carol O'Meara, CSU Extension Boulder County

Go outside and look at your car – see that dirty grey coating covering it?  Fires in Colorado have been blanketing communities across the state with smoke and ash, with soot and fine particles falling hundreds of miles from the flames.  The grey-and-white layer covers everything from cars, patio furniture, even plants.  

Ash from forest fires near Grand Junction, CO.

Plants can withstand a bit of dirt and dust sitting on their leaves, but once the ashfall gets slightly thicker, it can interfere with photosynthesis, according to Dr. Mark Uchanski, Specialty Crops professor with Colorado State University. “ I do think it will interfere with normal photosynthesis due to the physical shading of small ash particles on the leaf surfaces. Some shading (e.g. tomatoes in a high tunnel) can be a good thing, but ash was not likely part of anybody’s gardening plans this summer."

Ash from Forest fires gathering on tree leaves. Photo credit: Susan Carter

Ash gathering on pumpkin leaves. Photo Credit: Susan Carter

 "So I would suggest removal as long as it does not waste water,” noted Uchanski. Many residents in the foothills and mountains don’t have water to spare and some well permits don’t allow it for outdoor use. Do the best you can to get the coating off of leaves if it’s one-eighth inch or deeper; if it’s very bad and piling up towards one-quarter inch, the plants will be set back by the difficulty in having sunlight strike the leaves.  

In your vegetable and perennial beds, without water, you could try fanning the plant vigorously. An added benefit of this technique will be entertaining your neighbors who stare as you move through the landscape waving air across your plants. Stay downwind with this technique or wear a mask so you don't breathe in the ash.


A gentle sluicing off with water is all you need; avoid hitting the plant with a strong jet of water. That would do more harm than good. If you can't hose off your trees due to their height, that's ok. Hope for rain and thank your Firefighters when you get the chance.

Monday, August 17, 2020

As Busy as a Bee: Life as a CSU Extension Intern

Posted by: Sarah Viders, CSU Extension Intern, Arapahoe County

"They won’t sting you,” my friend said, shaking me as a bee crossed her forehead and another one stared straight at me from her cheek. There were so many bees. Flying all around me on a hike through the woods. I screamed and ran back to the car vowing to stay as far away from bees as possible. After this experience, I then proceeded to sit on a bee less than two weeks later, making my fear tremendously larger.

Everyone has a fear right? I have always known bees are pollinators and are necessary for the planet but whenever I see that stinger, my nails dig into my hands and I beg the buzzing to grow distant.

Pollinators are important to human health and ecosystems, as pollination provides the most nutritious parts of our diet. Pollination services by bees contribute 1.2-5.4 billion dollars to American agriculture, “bringing us one of every three bites of food.”  Native bees pollinate up to 180,000 different plants and reflect immense impacts on the ecology of the world. However, their populations are declining for many reasons due to habitat and nutrition loss due to urbanization, parasites and disease, pesticide and chemical use, and climate change. Everyone can help pollinators by planting flowers and providing habitat

Fast forward a year later, I accepted an internship to work for the Native Bee Watch Citizen Science Program at CSU Extension looking into the biodiversity and abundance of bees affected by urbanization. My parents looked at me and wondered “who replaced Sarah with an alien?”  I decided to take a chance and conquer one of my fears. I could learn about something that is the foundation for the breakfast I eat every morning. 

I am originally from South Africa but now my Mom and Dad have settled into a home in Lone Tree, Colorado. I am studying ecosystem science and sustainability and I am starting my junior year in the fall at CSU. During the school year, I work at a research lab on campus in the Forest and Rangeland Stewardship department. My career goals include going to Seattle University School of Law and focusing on environmental law. My interests spread far and wide however, as I also take classes in human anatomy and political science. 

Filming virtual programming on location at Silo Park. Photo: Sarah Viders

Taking this internship has been one of the most rewarding and educating experiences. Not only did I learn to identify the different types of bees down to the eight morphological categories and genera, but I stopped running away from them. Did you know there are over 900 species of bees in Colorado? The honey bee is just one of those species. I have now become the “bee girl” to my friends because I’ll take any opportunity to happily and ecstatically show them photos of a striped sweat bee (Halictus spp.) on a prairie coneflower from more angles than I can count.

My role in the Native Bee Watch (NBW) Citizen Science project was to work closely with Lisa Mason, Horticulture Agent in Arapahoe County, to help volunteers with bee and plant identification, data entry questions, and to create a sense of community while providing education online. I coordinated communication with the volunteers through Zoom meetings, emails, and Facebook questions. We created a private Facebook group for the volunteers, allowing them to have a safe space to ask questions, interact with one another, and learn more about different native bees and natural resource sustainability. 

COVID-19 changed my internship plan, and the entirety of it moved online. NBW also moved to an entirely virtual program this summer. While in the past NBW had the capacity to educate approximately 10 -25 volunteers each summer, the capacity has largely increased since it moved online with upwards of 200 volunteers attending the training and about 150 volunteers entering data to ArcGIS. The project consists of training volunteers to identify groups of bees on flowers in their yard, and enter that data electronically. 

Not only did I learn about the different characteristics of bees, wasps, and flies, I also learned about native plants, pollinators and how the biology of pollination works. Learning about identification differences was very interesting to me. A few identification tips I learned include: 

  • Wasps and bees have longer antennae than flies
  • Fly eyes are typically larger and extend to the top of the head versus bees that have eyes on the sides of their head
  • Wasps have more visibly cinched waists
  • Bees are typically fuzzy and have hairs on their bodies 
  • Different bees carry pollen different ways
    • Many solitary bees carry pollen on their hind legs.
    • Bees in the Megachilidae family (or the morphospecies called “Hairy Belly Bees”, have pollen collecting hairs on the underside of their abdomen. 
    • Honey bees and bumble bees have pollen sacs on their legs called corbiculae.
    • Bees vary in color. Even honey bees have color variation from a very light color to almost black.
    • Bees can see blue, yellow and ultraviolet. 
    • Check out this field guide for more tips
A bumble bee (Bombus sp.) on a purple prairie clover, a native plant to Colorado. Photo: Sarah Viders

I developed and conducted a research project on social science pertaining to the citizen science project and an ecological project on bees at Carson Nature Center. The social science aspect consisted of monitoring how participants are using social media. How does the interest and participation in this group change over the summer? How many of the volunteers are participating in the Facebook group and what types of posts they are making? The project and research question are based around how participation in the Facebook group develops and changes. For the ecological piece I collected observational data, based on the type of bee and the competition I observed at South Platte Park and Carson Nature Center. While walking along the transect, I watched a plant or group of plants for 2-minute intervals and recorded the bees from each morphological category. This method is a modified Focal Plant Sampling Procedure (Altmann, 1974; Mason and Arathi, 2019).  I am now analyzing this data from both of these projects.

Through CSU Extension in Arapahoe County, I also delivered programming in the online format and the topic I chose to focus on was sustainability. I developed weekly videos titled “Sarah’s Science-Based Sustainability Secrets” discussing natural resource sustainability in the home and landscape, and ways for citizens to save energy. I encourage you to check out the videos! Some of the topics I talked about included water conservation, mulching, composting, recycling, reducing fossil fuels and urban trees. One thing I learned about programming is the importance of visuals and how important simplicity can be when sharing education information in a video setting. I filmed at Hudson Gardens, Carson Nature Center, Eco-Cycle, my own backyard and at the CSU Extension Arapahoe County Office.

Pollinators are extremely necessary and important to our environment. Learning about the different categories and identification pieces has allowed me to look at my environment in a completely new way. I learned what inspires people to take part in science and what keeps them interested in collecting data. My next steps will focus on sharing more sustainability and pollinator information with the public, not just to those with an interest in pollinators and gardening. I will take all that I learned this summer and apply it specifically to my career goals. Becoming an environmental lawyer requires that I am well versed in the knowledge of how different ecosystems work and how each character plays an important role. I am grateful for this opportunity to work closely with so many experts, the volunteers, and the bees! Now that my internship is coming to an end I can happily say I have received no stings and happily welcome the sound of buzzing.

Thursday, August 13, 2020


The Top Ten Vegetables to Plant in August

Posted by:  Patti O’Neal, Horticulturist and Urban Food Systems Coordinator, Jefferson County


There is still time and August is a great time to get another round of crops into the ground for a bountiful fall harvest.  The first average frost date along the front range as been around the 2nd week of October for most of the past decade.  This gives you nearly 90 days of growing time.  In that time, you can have a bounty of vegetables to enjoy all through fall. 


Here are some of easiest fall crops to grow. 


Lettuce- An easy vegetable to grow.  Leafy varieties are well suited to fall gardening.  The seeds need to be kept moist and the soil temperature mitigated.  Once the seedlings are up mulch the soil to retain moisture.  Lettuce does not appreciate a little frost like its other leafy green cousins and must be protected from frost with frost blanket.   And the varieties are beautiful, colorful and endless!  Red, green, spotted, ruffled, with names like Trout Leaf and Drunken Frizzy Headed Woman. 

Photo Courtesy of Farmers Market Foray

Radishes – One of the fastest, easiest crops to grow.  They can be eaten raw for spicy crunch or roasted or sautéed.  The tops can be made into a pesto.  They like well drained, fertile soil.  Mulch and thin once germination occurs.  They mature in 25 to 30 days.  There are Cherry Belle, Easter Egg, Watermelon, Black varieties and more.

Swiss Chard – Beautiful and versatile, swiss chard can be substituted for spinach in any recipe and offers flavor as well as color with the beautiful stems.  It grows all season long but planting a new crop in the fall gives you a sweeter, tastier addition to sautes, soups, stews or salads.

 Beets – a flavorful, earthy flavored vegetable that can be eaten raw, grated in salads, roasted or sautéed.  Do best if thinned to 3 inches as they grow, but the thinnings are awesome in salads, so don’t waste them.  Plants may be grown for the greens as well as the root and the smaller varieties are great for fall gardens and red and golden varieties thrive here.

 Spinach – Tolerant of many soil types and easy to grow on the plains or in the mountains as it loves a hit of frost and sweetens to a mellow flavor.  Can be harvested as small leaves and it will re-grow between harvests or wait until a more mature size.  At least nine varieties grow successfully here and is a favorite of the fall garden.

                                                 Photo Courtesy of Eden Seeds


Carrots -There are so many varieties but choose those with a shorter-days to maturity quotient.  Carrots tend to take longer to germinate than most other vegetables, so patience rules here.  They like well drained even sandy soil and will require some mulch to make sure the soil does not crust preventing good germination and to keep shoulders from greening as the carrots mature.  Even watering will keep the roots from becoming weirdly shaped. 


Kohlrabi – A fun but unusual vegetable.  Best grown from transplants which are available locally.  Once established, they benefit from a good side dressing of organic matter.  Can be harvested when the stem is 2-2.5 inches in width. 


Parsley – the universal herb that brightens any dish.  It has health benefits you never dreamed of; antioxidants, antibacterial, cancer fighting properties and more.  It is slow to germinate, so keep evenly moist and be patient.  Once it does, you can keep harvested and the plant will produce well into the cold weather and more if protected. 


Asian Greens – Asian Greens are a delectable addition to the fall garden as well as your fall dishes.  They are easy to grow in well aerated soil with a little nitrogen boost. 

Photo Courtesy of Melissa's Specialty Vegetables

Dill, Cilantro – two favorite herbs that love the cooler temps to thrive.  Dill can be a loose canon in the garden, spreading everywhere.  Planting now will give you plenty of delicious leaves for your cooking and pickling without huge flower development which eventually spreads seeds all over.  Then cilantro can be replanted now so you can make all that lovely salsa as tomatoes continue to ripen through the fall.


 Key cultural considerations:

·      Plant varieties that have short days to maturity to be sure to reach full growth and a successful harvest.

·      Most of these crops are leafy and do not require a full 8 hours of sunlight to grow.  So, if you did not have adequate sunlight to grow peppers and tomatoes, you likely will have a great spot for a pot of spinach, chard or kale.

·      These are cool season crops that you are planting in the heat of summer, so the soil is warm as well as the ambient temperatures high.  Keep the soil evenly moist and mulch to keep the seeds cool so that they germinate successfully.  Be diligent and consistent with your watering – take care to not overwater!

·      Once seeds germinate and begin to grow, the cooler temperatures these plants thrive on will begin.  As a matter of fact, these plants are designed to take a hit of frost which concentrates the carbohydrates and makes these vegetables sweeter than their spring counterparts. 

·      Insect pressure can by heavy in the high temperatures of August.  In addition to good cultural care, you may employ season extenders to cover the beds or pots and help young seedlings get off to a good start. 

·      If you are new to season extenders, they can be purchased locally under the name “floating row cover,” “plant protection blanket,” “frost blanket.”

For seedlings, these can be applied directly over the soil until germination occurs and seedlings are up several inches (thus, floating row cover) and if you need deep frost protection later in the fall, it is easy to install hoops from wire or electrical conduit or other re-purposed materials to spread the frost blanket over. 

Photo Courtesy of WI Master Gardeners

 For additional help:

This is a wonderful guide to growing Vegetables in Colorado by Colorado Extension Horticulture agents.  There are tips on specific crops as well as with hints for mountain gardeners.


Monday, August 10, 2020

Operation Kentucky Bluegrass Eradication!

Posted by Nancy Klasky, CSU Extension, City and County of Broomfield

The title refers to what I’ve been calling the efforts my partner, Jim and I have been doing to transform our four-thousand square foot, corner lot, turf yard into something that I’m pretty passionate about, Xeriscaping. Some people think this mean “Zero-scaping” but it is anything but.  The word xeriscaping comes from the Latin xero, meaning dry and scape meaning landscape or view. There was a trend not long ago where people would remove turf and have a rockscape. The problem with rockscapes is that they are heat sinks. They just absorb the suns heat raising temperatures around your home and aren’t very attractive. They also accumulate organic debris and eventually just become a weed breeding ground that is challenging to manage. I experienced much of this during my many years of landscaping work . Xeriscaping, on the other hand is creating a garden that relies on your natural climate. I live in a neighborhood where daily I hear sprinklers going off and lawns being mowed, including our own.  A good portion of Colorado’s population moved here from parts of the country that receive a lot more annual moisture than we do.  What people need to realize is that Kentucky Bluegrass is aptly named, and is not suitable for the Colorado’s semi-arid climate where the average annual precipitation is 17 inches.  Compare this to Kentucky who receives between 42 and 52 inches of annual precipitation.   

Raised bed garden 
We started removing turf by solarization to put a raised-bed garden in the backyard two years ago. We did this by laying down plastic and weighing it down around the edges and in the middle. This process takes about 1 to 2 months depending on how warm the weather is. We had some black plastic which worked well, but since then I’ve learned that clear plastic is actually more effective.  We then built our raised beds and surrounded them with mulch. We live in Longmont where city residents can go get free mulch at the city’s limb diversion center. This works great for this type of area. We add more every year since mulch breaks down and actually will improve the soil composition over time.  The next area we removed the bluegrass from was the other side of our backyard where we are installing a patio. We opted for the plastic solarization method here too.  These two areas eliminated approximately 1/3 of the grass in our backyard. We converted our sprinkler system to drip lines for our vegetable and flower gardens which greatly reduced our water usage. 

This summer we started working on the front yard. This area faces southeast with no shade. The grass has to go! I was a bit daunted just thinking about starting this endeavor because we live on a hill and our front yard has slopes in two directions. There is a 3 foot grade going up to the house, and another slope that is not quite as steep going down the length on the street side. I was worried about drainage and how we would create level gardens.  This hasn’t stopped me however because I’m determined to be an example of a low-water yard in a sea of thirsty Bluegrass! 

Future pea gravel border garden. 

I had drawn up plans based on the square footage and what we want to do. Like many Colorado neighborhoods we do not have any yard between the street and sidewalk, so the heat from the asphalt and cement make this area even hotter. We have finished a 5 foot wide section bordering the sidewalk where we have created a pea gravel garden. This is what we did. After the grass was sufficiently dead we tilled the area and mixed in good garden soil to around a foot deep. Then we added a rock sand mix to add much needed drainage for this area. The top has a 2 inch layer of pea gravel and some bigger rocks for interest. Our plan is to include the most drought tolerant plants in this space such as Ice plant, hens and chicks, yucca, agave and cactus.  I had some hens and chicks that I’d kept in a plastic container for over a year and they are the first addition to our new space.  Hens and Chicks thrive on neglect and do not like a lot of moisture.

Pea Gravel Garden Completion and next levels on the way!

My objective when planting in the front yard is to use all native and water wise plants. Plant Select© is a non-profit initiative that was started by Colorado State University, Denver Botanical Gardens and horticulturists to find the very best plants for our intermountain and high plains regions. I’ve been inspired by the many Plant Select© plants that the Broomfield Master Gardener Demonstration Garden has.  Another important piece to my planning is to benefit the native pollinator populations, and the best way to do this is by using native plants. There are some great books and guides to Colorado and western native plants, and the Plant Select© website also offers many great plant ideas for our climate.

One last area we have started transforming from turf to garden is an area of the side yard. We have removed a lot of soil from the areas already mentioned and this is another very sunny and hot area where the grass was struggling and had to be removed. I wanted a large space to plant gourds and so we

Future Pumpkin Patch 
cut the grass as short as possible and laid down cardboard. Then we just started piling all that soil we’ve been removing from garden and the patio areas. We capped the sprinkler head which will be changed to a drip line and by next spring we should be ready to plant some pumpkins and other fun autumn gourds!   

So far we have removed around 1,000 square feet of our 4,000 square feet turf yard in the two years since we moved in. We are far from done. My hope is to have three quarters or more of that Kentucky bluegrass gone from our lives and to save thousands of gallons of water every year by eventually having established native and drought tolerant plants surrounding our home.  After that is all said and done maybe I’ll look into replacing whatever grass remains with a buffalo grass alternative to save even more of Colorado’s precious commodity that is water!

For information see:

Colorado Water Wise

Water Wise Landscape Design Steps

Xeriscape Turf Alternatives

Xeriscape Soil Amendments

Learning More About Xeriscaping

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Creating More Equitable Green Spaces

Guest Blog: Micaela Truslove, MS Forest Sciences and Graduate Student, Department of Sociology

For those of us who are tree-lovers, we know trees do a lot of heavy lifting when it comes to making our urban environments more livable. There is growing recognition of their importance, which can be seen by looking at the number of cities that are including urban green spaces—including urban forests and parks—in their city climate action plans. What is less well understood is how equally we all share in those benefits.

I first realized there would be serious social impacts on communities in the wake of emerald ash borer while working as part of Colorado’s Emerald Ash Borer Response Team. While the team toured infested areas in the City of Boulder, we were all left wondering what residents on a limited budget, or cities without adequate resources to treat or remove trees, were going to do when trees began to die in large numbers. It was troubling to think about the implications of losing several large, mature ash trees in neighborhoods with vulnerable populations or those dominated by rental properties.

During this time, a chance encounter with a social scientist who studies the social impacts of invasive species for the UK Forestry Commission (the equivalent of our US Forest Service) inspired me to head back to graduate school for a degree in sociology. Since then, I’ve become more interested in how cities are planning for increasingly severe weather conditions using what are known as nature-based solutions, such as relying upon urban trees to counter the urban heat island effect, remove pollution from the air, or to capture stormwater.

Many have heard of the term “ecosystem services”. These are simply the benefits provided to people by the natural environment. The i-Tree software developed by researchers at the US Forest Service was a game-changer for calculating these benefits provided by trees in cities. In fact, you can do this right now for the tree outside your window by using the National Tree Benefits Calculator based on the i-Tree software. We know how important trees are, but how can we make sure everyone benefits equally from the ecosystem services provided by trees and parks, and how can those of us who support green spaces in our communities make that happen? Below are some ideas to do just that.

Engaging the next generation of green professionals and stewards. Many of us learned to love gardening and natural areas because we were introduced to the natural world by a family member or mentor. Cheesy song reference aside, children are quite literally our future. They will continue to work on the wicked environmental problems we are tackling today. We can ensure there are many future scientists, natural resource professionals, horticulturists, and plant nerds by engaging youth in nature-related activities. A study by Balcarczyk et al. (2015) in the Journal of Forestry found that underrepresented groups, such as women and minorities, perceived more barriers than White males to entering natural resources careers. Some of those barriers included lack of knowledge about natural resources careers, lack of field experience needed to get a job in a natural resources field, and lack of support from families or others in their social networks when choosing a natural resources-related career.

Why does diversity in these fields matter? Research has repeatedly shown that diverse groups working on complex problems (such as wicked problems) produce more innovative results. For instance, Cooke and Kemeny (2017) showed that when it comes to complex problem solving, teams with more culturally diverse members were more innovative. In addition, Wagner and Jonkers (2017) found that countries that foster open, collaborative science produce more impactful scientific papers (meaning they are more widely cited, and thus more influential). Lastly, Nielsen et al. (2017) conclude that gender diversity in science simply makes for better science (an effect they call the “innovation dividend”).

Being a mentor to a young person, especially a young person from a traditionally underrepresented group, and introducing them to the reasons you love natural spaces can foster the diversity in STEM fields we need to solve tough environmental problems in the future.

Get involved in neighborhood landscaping initiatives. Managing landscapes sustainably means making sure resources going to community-managed landscapes are used to grow healthy, long-lived trees and turf areas that benefit all community members, especially the elderly and other underserved groups that are most impacted by heat waves and least likely to have access to these beneficial spaces.

We could even ask ourselves whether green solutions are best for a location. There is a lot of wisdom in the idea of “right plant, right place”. It can easily cost $500 to plant a single tree. Spending money on a shade structure for a particularly inhospitable area may be a better solution than replacing trees year after year, and those trees may provide more benefit somewhere else.

If you are a plant-lover and interested in educating folks on science-based ways to manage landscapes more sustainably (which is probably why you’re reading this blog), consider taking that passion and knowledge to your local HOA board, community neighborhood association, or other group involved in green space management.

Linking urban green space and community well-being initiatives. If you are not particularly plant-savvy, there are other areas that touch equity and green space. One rapidly growing area of interest is the link between public green space and human health. There is a huge amount of scientific research linking green space to increased physical and mental health, faster healing times post-surgery, greater community resilience, and many more benefits. Because of this linkage, and the fact that there are clear disparities in access, equitable access to urban green space is often considered an issue of social and environmental justice. This research summary from the US Forest Service provides a good overview of the health benefits provided by urban green spaces. If you volunteer or work for a community development group of any kind, there may be a way to connect that work to urban green space benefits.

Ask who is missing and why. Besides getting involved yourself, take a look around and ask who is missing from decision making about community landscapes. How can we make spaces feel more inclusive? How can we engage youth in outdoor education and as environmental leaders? How can we engage community members other than the “usual suspects” in making decisions about communal green spaces? (See the section above about diversity and innovation for the reasons why this is a great idea.)

Something I have learned to appreciate more is the power of story and the importance of listening to the diverse stories and experiences of people. Recently I had the privilege of speaking to Curtis Bennett, Director of Equity and Community Engagement at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, MD and the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion guru for the Greater Baltimore Wilderness Coalition, as part of a case study project. The GBWC is working on several initiatives to create more equitable nature-based solutions—such as creating urban green spaces in underserved communities—to build community resilience to climate change. Bennett is a wildlife conservation biologist by training and, like me, has only recently begun to work on natural resources from a social perspective. One of the many memorable take-aways from my conversation with Bennett is to recognize that people are experts in their own lives.

Asking why there isn’t a more diverse set of people involved in these discussions can reveal powerful explanations and uncover reasons for patterns of inequity in access to green space benefits. Storm damaged trees, something we have all experienced in Front Range communities, may be seen as a hazard. For this reason, homeowners may remove perfectly healthy trees according to a study by Conway and Yip (2016).

In Detroit, researchers found that people’s lived experiences in the city, including a long history of racism against African American residents, led to distrust of city government and tree planting non-profit organizations. This distrust caused people to opt out of city tree planting initiatives in the neighborhoods that are most vulnerable to heat island effect and pollution. The same study also found that maintenance responsibilities that fall upon residents after trees are planted by the city further discouraged residents from taking part in planting programs. Residents in these neighborhoods were not invited to take part in discussions about the implementation of planting programs and, as a result, a host of misunderstandings occurred.  Those of us involved in greening initiatives should all take the time to listen to people’s stories about what they value in a landscape, and why they may not support greening efforts. Which brings me to my last suggestion.

Relevancy is relative. US Forest Service researchers have long recognized that urban forest practitioners and city residents speak two different languages about trees, and to have successful urban forestry programs, both views must be considered. Why we benefit from nature differs for everyone, so it is important to respect everyone’s values for a proposed green space or tree planting initiative. Talk to everyone who has a stake in that space and how they perceive its benefits and costs. This can mean the difference between a thriving green space initiative and one resulting in frustrating misunderstandings, lots of dead plants, and underused spaces. Green et al. (2015) make a compelling case for accepting a diversity of views in conservation work. (And our very own Drs. O’Connor and Koski have taught us that a tree nerd and a turfie can team up for healthier trees and turf.) For an inspiring look at why cultural diversity is good for biodiversity, check out this TEDxCSU talk by Michael Gavin, CSU Associate Professor in the Department of Human Dimensions of Natural Resources.