Tour the Nursery

Every year, the Nursery grows millions of tree and shrub seedlings at our facility on the foothills campus of Colorado State University in Fort Collins.

The Colorado State Forest Service Nursery in Fort Collins, Colorado. A field of Colorado blue spruce seedlings. Blue spruce, Colorado's state tree, makes an excellent long-lived windbreak.

Outdoor Production

In addition to outdoor production, the CSFS nursery has 18,000 square feet of greenhouse space. We produce most of our evergreens here; history has shown that container grown evergreens offer improved survival over bare root seedlings.

As you can see from the photos, a potential benefit of all this seed collecting is great jams and jellies! Many shrubs we raise are fruit bearers, valuable not only for wildlife, but we humans can enjoy them too.

Gathered seed is sown in beds outdoors. With most of the deciduous or broadleaf trees, it is necessary to seed in the fall because most woody plant seeds have some type of over-wintering requirement. Physiological or mechanical factors prohibit the seeds from germinating without the right conditions. Frequently, the best way to overcome this dormancy is to plant in the fall. At the CSFS nursery, seeds are sown in early October.

The sowing process starts by finely working the soil to form seedbeds. Each seedbed is about four feet wide and contains four to seven rows, depending on the crop. The seeds are sown with a specialized machine very similar to a farmer's grain drill. After sowing, the seedbeds are mulched for over-winter protection. Two styles of mulching are used: on the left is the old method using alfalfa hay; on the right the seedbeds are covered with a "frost fabric." The fabric allows the seedlings to emerge in spring under the protective white blanket. This fabric keeps temperatures five degrees warmer than external temperatures. This small difference can make a major impact in cases of late spring freezes.

After the danger of frost has passed, the mulch is removed. The newly sprouted seedlings are carefully grown for one to two growing seasons. The result is a beautiful crop of approximately two-foot tall vegetation such as the cotoneaster shrubs above.