The Grand Junction Parks and Recreation Department Horticulture Division is increasing the number of flowers and other plant material it can plant around the city this spring while reducing the cost thanks to an innovative in-house growing system.

The city will grow about 10,000 flowers and plants, which will go to city parks and along Main Street, mostly from seed, Parks and Recreation Director Ken Sherbenou said. Last year they planted about 5,000 plants in the city, but only grew about 1,800, which cost in total around $16,000. This year they will be able to plant twice as many for half the cost, Sherbenou said.

“It is more staff intensive to grow our own, but we’ve really been expanding our systems and we’re able to get more economies of scale, especially this year with the partnership we have with Grow Fresh who is a sustainable agriculture firm that we’re renting out space from,” Sherbenou said.

Grow Fresh Aquaponic Farms, which operates in Grand Junction, has rented the city around 600 square feet of growing space. The city is using the aquaponic system, which utilizes fish waste to fertilize the plants as they grow hydroponically.

“It’s really exciting with that partnership and the available budget we have,” Sherbenou said. “We can just stretch it so much further than we ever have. The end result is less expense overall and more flowers and plants for the entire community to enjoy.”

When the plants go in this spring, Sherbenou said people can expect to see more plantings in familiar locations, but the department is filling out new park space with plantings as well. “I think we will be able to provide more plant material in the places people are accustomed to seeing plant material and then also in additional areas as well,” Sherbenou said. “We have taken over the planter bed maintenance over at Las Colonias. So there is a lot more square footage that we have for planter beds with Las Colonias and soon Dos Rios will also be in that same boat.”

In addition to providing more plantings this year, Sherbenou said the city’s ultimate plan is to expand the Western Colorado Botanical Gardens at Las Colonias, which would include a demonstration garden and greenhouses, as well as more plantings.

“We have in our Parks, Recreation and Open Space (PROS) Master Plan some very ambitious plans to expand the Western Colorado Botanical Gardens,” Sherbenou said. “There is some content in there about expanding the gardens and connecting the existing footprint of the Botanical Gardens that’s operated by STRiVE and tying it to the small amphitheater that is there as well as building some greenhouse in the area near the Edgewater Brewery.”

Sherbenou credited his staff with finding innovative ways to increase their capacity, especially Horticulture, Irrigation and Turf Parks Supervisor Joe Brown, who has experience growing plant material for the Denver Botanical Gardens, Denver Zoo and Denver parks. He said finding ways to provide more for less is something they pride themselves in.

“I love it because I think it really epitomizes what we’re all about,” Sherbenou said. “We’re about stretching our resources as far as possible to provide the best service to the community.”

For more information on the Botanical Gardens plan, Sherbenou said to visit where the PROS Master Plan is available.