Former CSU horticulture specialist still researching, teaching others the ways of greenhouses, container gardening | TheFencePost.com

Former CSU horticulture specialist still researching, teaching others the ways of greenhouses, container gardening

Whitney Phillips | Greeley, Colo.
Photos courtesy of Kenneth Goldsberry

Kenneth Goldsberry has spent most of his life around plants, from his first job pulling dandelions to his 34 years spent researching horticulture as a professor at Colorado State University.

And even now, in his 80s, there's no sign he'll be giving up his love of learning about plants and teaching others.

"You can't take research out of your blood after you've had it for 34 years," he said.

Goldsberry, who holds a PhD in plant physiology and horticulture from Iowa State University, helped develop CSU's W.D. Holley Plant Environmental Research Center, over which he was director until he retired in 1991.

But the research and teaching aspect of Goldsberry's job is something he can't give up, and he carries on by conducting research on seeds used for container gardening, by showing anyone who's interested how to keep a thriving greenhouse, and by staying active with agriculture extension projects.

"My goal since I left the university has been to acquaint society with the role horticulture has in their lives," Goldsberry said.

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A native of Colorado Springs, Goldsberry joined the United States Air Force in 1954 — service that would take him to active duty in the Pacific and later to brief stints in Alaska, Korea and Vietnam before he retired as a lieutenant colonel in 1992.

Goldsberry, his wife, Phyllis, and son, Jeff, began their Donath Lake Farm Nursery and Greenhouse business, which today the family focuses on container plants, flowers and greenhouses. The retail greenhouses, where customers can purchase fruit, vegetables and flowers to transplant, open April 1 and close July 4.

Walking last week among his container village — made up of container pots that hold nearly 100 different vegetables and plants, from peanuts to watermelons — Goldsberry said plant breeders will send him seeds, which he starts and then sends home with people who he knows are avid gardeners. Those gardeners test out the plants and rate them on a scale of one to five, fives being the plants that Goldsberry will sell as transplants in his shop.

The plants, many of which wouldn't grow in Colorado's native soil, grow in round containers in nutrient-rich peat moss, not soil. Goldsberry said container planting has many advantages, including being able to control water and nutrients more easily, being able to quickly move plants from one place to another, and even being able to speed up the growing cycle in many cases.

Goldsberry said it's the teaching aspect of his container village, which is always open to the public, that keeps him going. He said he enjoys watching gardeners come back to his shop and tell him their successes.

"Some things in life 'get into your blood,'" Goldsberry wrote in an email. "Research, teaching and extension aspects are in mine."

Greenhouse gardening, a subject on which Goldsberry focused his research while earning a master's degree, is certainly an area where he has a great deal of knowledge to share. Goldsberry holds classes each spring to help people get more acquainted with all the ins and outs, which include proper watering, heating and cooling systems.

A successful greenhouse also depends on knowing which plants need what, Goldsberry said, and he's always happy to help people learn more.

According to a recent United States Department of Agriculture Weekly Radio Update, experts are seeing a 12 percent to 15 percent increase annually in the occurrence of indoor farming. Goldsberry said he's also seen more people interested in greenhouses, especially as the economy recovers.

"When the housing market stopped, no one had (money) for a greenhouse," Goldsberry wrote. "Now some are thinking about one again. They don't come cheap. Natural gas and electrical costs will go up and it is gardening year around and one can not go on a week's vacation unless automatic watering is installed and a friend or relative check on things often."

Goldsberry also grows Smooth Brome grass hay for horses on the land adjacent to his business, and he plans to keep working on farming, on research and on teaching. He said he welcomes any curious residents to his container village, and he's willing to help anyone with a curiosity for horticulture.

"I want to keep passing my knowledge on to my son and his employees and even the volunteers that come around," he said. ❖

Growing Green

Kenneth Goldsberry, former Colorado State University horticulture head and now owner of Donath Lake Greenhouses in Fort Collins, said he’s seeing more and more people interested in greenhouses.

That seems to be the case across the county.

According to a recent United States Department of Agriculture Weekly Radio Update, experts are seeing a 12 to 15 percent increase annually in the occurrence of indoor farming.

Donath Lake Greenhouses

For more information on classes or Goldsberry’s Fort Collins business, contact Donath Lake Greenhouses at (970) 663-6636, or stop by 8420 S. Larimer County Road 13. To subscribe to a newsletter, email GOLDSDLF@yahoo.com or call (970) 227-5091.