How to grow more and use less

This guest blog post from Denver Urban Gardens is part of our Transforming Landscapes series, introducing fresh, new ideas for upgrading your lawn to a more water-efficient landscape. To help you think outside the box when planning for your landscape transformation next spring, also check out:

How to grow more and use less

Denver Urban Gardens is a nonprofit organization that builds and supports food-producing community gardens throughout metro Denver. Founded in 1985, the DUG network now includes 125 community gardens, plus an additional seven gardens owned by DUG.

Denver Urban Gardens only owns a small percentage of the gardens in our network. Working with partner agencies to secure land for community gardens allows DUG to keep the cost of establishing a new garden low, while providing urban gardening space to residents in important community spaces like parks, libraries and schools. One of DUG’s largest landowner partners is Denver Public Schools, which provides land and programmatic support for more than 30 DUG community gardens. As one of the largest landowners in Denver, DPS sites often have turf to spare. DUG works with DPS and school communities to transform many of these highly irrigated, but underused turf areas into productive, educational gardens for schools and communities alike. DPS supports these school-based community gardens for multiple reasons, including educational opportunities, community support, access to fresh produce and reduced water bills.

Garden benefits

Community gardens use less water than an area of turf of equal size. Based on water use during the 2010 growing season at seven of DUG’s gardens, we know that hand-watered community gardens use an average of 9.16 gallons per square foot of water each growing season. This is half of the 18 gallons per square foot that Kentucky bluegrass requires. When a community garden replaces turf, it supports water conservation goals and saves money. For this reason, some landowner partners cover the cost of water in community gardens, which frees annual gardener plot fees to be used for the upkeep of infrastructure and educational programs for children.

While water conservation is a great perk to turning turf into gardening space, most people garden for the vegetables, and for the opportunity to spend time outside and get their hands in the dirt. They soon realize, however, that the benefits of a garden extend even further. A community garden is a common ground where people of all ages and backgrounds can gather, learn and grow, while eating healthy food together. Over and over, we hear from people who say their garden has created personal connections they otherwise never would have established.

A young girls working at Fairview Gardens.

A girl planting at Fairview Gardens.

Converting grass to garden

Home gardeners experience many of the same benefits as community gardeners. Gardens bring people outside of their homes and spark conversations between neighbors about favorite dishes, their grandparents’ gardens, or the best way to get rid of aphids. And because a typical garden plot produces way more food than one family can eat in a season (more than 170 pounds), gardeners share their produce with friends, families, neighbors and local food pantries, deepening their connections to the community and contributing to the health and food security of fellow community members.

Interested in joining a DUG garden, or replacing your home turf with a vegetable garden? Visit or check out the horticulture workshops offered by our friends at the Denver Botanic Gardens.

Other DUG resources:

Jessica Romer

Jessica Romer, DUG Community Initiatives Coordinator, supports the school leaders and educational programs at DUG’s school-based community gardens, in addition to coordinating related school district policies. Romer also coordinates DUG’s intergenerational mentoring program, Connecting Generations, and the Free Seeds and Transplants Program.

Abbie Noriega
Abbie Noriega, DUG Development and Communications Coordinator, is responsible for coordinating the organization’s fundraising, development, marketing, public relations and Web and social media activities.

2 responses to this post.

  1. […] How to grow more and use less. […]


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