Why go now: Spring is so almost here, and we've mapped out a kickoff to bring it a little closer. A stroll through the spiffed-up botanic gardens, platefuls of just-picked greens, and a buying spree of new plants and flowers should get you in the mood.
Denverites heart their dirt: Denver Urban Gardens broke ground on its 100th community garden last year. Let's hear it for triple digits!
And talk about green cred: NSAs (Neighborhood Supported Agriculture) give locals the chance to donate use of their yards to urban farmers in exchange for weekly produce (eatwhereulive.com).
Bring on the veggies: Head to the nearby suburb of Aurora to walk around what we think is the best CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) in the area at DeLaney Community Farm.
Like what you see?: Sign up for weekly veggie pickups (dug.org)
Don't just look--eat!: Fruition, Z Cuisine, Fuel, Shazz, and Root Down all have chefs who spend as much time tracking down the freshest local food as they do preparing it. Fruition chef Alex Seidel even owns a farm in Larkspur.
Backstage botany in action: $15 mil went a long way at the Denver Botanic Gardens, where a new greenhouse complex means you can now peek inside the massive glass structures for a behind-the-scenes look at horticulturists hard at work. Little ones will love the Mordecai Children's Garden, where they can build forts, splash around in the stream, and explore plant and insect life. $13, 1007 York St., botanicgardens.org
A farm to plate lunch: It's a short walk to the old Lowenstein Theatre for lunch at Encore on Colfax, where you'll enter through the old box office and pick a table in the original green room. Try the mac 'n' cheese topped with pea shoots from Verde Farms, alongside a deliciously bitter dandelion-green salad from Full Circle Farms. Next door at Tattered Cover Bookstore, pore over a hundred garden-related titles. $, 2550 Colfax Ave., 303/355-1112
The photo op of the day: There's one bonus to visiting City Park's more than 300 acres before spring hits in full gear: the quintessential Denver view--rocky mountains, city skyline, even a lake--completely unobstructed. Walk to the west side of the Museum of Nature & Science for the money vantage point. E. 17th Ave. at York St., denvergov.org/parks
A little help with your garden vision: Look for veggies and blooms lining the front of Wild Flowers. This gem of a shop is stocked with plants and fun accessories like Buddha kitsch statues, luxe hand cream, and inspirational lantern displays. 1201 Madison St., 303/333-4050
Take it home: It's worth a quick drive to City Floral, a nursery and garden-supply store that'll impress you with its 72 tomato varieties. They've begun using computer-generated plant labels, but you may still find a few of the endearing handwritten ones shaped like tomatoes, with growing tips on the back. 1440 Kearney St.; 303/399-1177
Now that you've got gardening on the brain...3 stops to amp up your skills
The latest buzz: Learn everything you need to know about starting a backyard beehive at To Bee or Not To Bee, housed in a WWII-era Quonset hut between State 70 and State 25. Drop in for a beginner beekeeping class or to pick up supplies. Call for hours; 725 W. 39th Ave,; 303/728-4422
The free 101: To garden is to compost--or at least it should be. Learn how at the Gove Garden in Congress Park, one of a hundred community gardens operated by Denver Urban Gardens. Live in Denver? Register now--weekly classes start in May. By appointment only; free; dug.org
Take it beyond beginner: Growhaus, in the oft-forgotten Elyria-Swansea neighborhood 4 miles north of City Park, is where to go to hone more hard-core gardening skills. Want to learn how to grow both plants and fish in a tank? Take the Intro to Aquaponics class (10-3 Apr 16; $55). thegrowhaus.com