Many people have started their own gardens this year as a way to get out of the house and grow their own food.
If they did their research, they discovered that it is better to start small and get an idea of what it is like. Then, after getting your feet wet and your hands dirty, it's time to think about expanding.
But what should those who want to grow in next year's garden consider?
Colorado State University's annual flower testing garden, 1401 Remington St. in Fort Collins, is a great place to get ideas. The main focus is annual flowers, those that live their lives in a growing season. Annuals attract pollinators, making them a great benefit to a garden. The test garden also has vegetables, perennials, ground covers, grasses, shade plants, container plants, and more.
Every year new entries come from companies that develop new varieties of flowers and plants. The test garden is used for research purposes by companies that want to test their new varieties, as well as by consumers looking for plants that thrive in the Colorado climate.
This year there are around 1,100 different entries in the annuals section and around 100 new entries in the perennial section through Remington Street near the CSU Center for the Arts. There are around 300 in total in the 3-year perennial test and around 500 containers, according to Jim Klett, coordinator of the test garden.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Klett had fewer helpers than usual to plant all of those entrances. Companies primarily send cuttings for Klett and his team to grow and care for in a greenhouse, and then move outside in good weather. He and a team of 9 other people started using the containers in May and finished planting and labeling all the entrances last week.
The test garden covers a large outdoor area, making it a safe place to walk during the pandemic. Klett says that visitors are encouraged to keep safe distances and wear a mask. It is open to visitors during the day, when you can really see how well the plants are growing.
Klett said containers planted in May are filling very well, but the garden should peak in mid-July through September. That's when you will see the flowers in full bloom, the ripening of the vegetables and the ground covers really filling the spaces they occupy.
On August 4, there will be an evaluation day for professionals who enter the tests to see how well their varieties are growing. They learn valuable information from the test garden that they can use as they develop more varieties. They classify plants to determine the best winners.
Consumers will have the opportunity to vote for their favorites from 9 a.m. until noon on August 8. Klett said there will be hourly prizes to encourage participation. Knowing what consumers like is useful information for ticket submitting companies.
If allowed, Klett said they will organize group visits, but that depends on the social distancing requirements at the time. Larimer County currently allows up to 175 people for outdoor gatherings, depending on the size of the venue with restrictions such as masks, registration, and social distancing, according to Larimer County Public Health.
If they can't meet those requirements, Klett said they will have consumers conduct self-guided tours and people will spread out across the garden to answer questions.
Owners and gardeners can go to the garden anytime between now and winter.
Use the garden to see how well the different varieties grow in this area. The signs in front of each section tell people how much water each variety receives.
This is useful when you want to add great pops of color to a flower garden that doesn't need a lot of water. Klett said a common myth about annuals is that they drink a lot of water, but that's not always true.
He said the gardens are watered with non-potable water and given liquid fertilizer through the irrigation system approximately once or twice a week. They also add a slow-release fertilizer to the soil.
There are posters posted in front of each variety that you can take photos of in case you want to search for plants next season. The plants that are rated the best will be the most likely to appear at independent garden centers next year. Once the best plants are chosen, some are replanted in the large raised circular bed in front of the shadow plant gazebo.
There are also leaflets printed and found in the garden to help consumers find out which plants are in the test.
The garden is also a beautiful place to walk and an excellent setting for taking photos. Klett said it is one of the main tourist spots in northern Colorado.
So put on your mask and head over to see what new wonders await you and your garden.
For more information on CSU's Annual Flower Trial Garden or for the Best Results from previous years, visit http://www.flowertrials.colostate.edu.