Seeking Suisun City, Fairfield & Vacaville Residents Interested in Yard Transformation

By Gabriela Estrada & Nicole Newell, Program Managers

Do you live in Suisun City, Fairfield or Vacaville? Are you interested in working with your neighbors and community to install a demonstration food forest garden or other sustainable landscaping elements in the coming months at your home or a community site, like a place of worship or school?

Sustainable Solano is currently looking for private or public sites and residents that are interested in working with their neighbors to transform these properties to grow food, create habitat and build healthy soil, while using water efficiently. The search for these sites is targeted in specific neighborhoods that are vulnerable to flood and fire.

We envision neighborhoods better equipped to adapt and thrive in the face of environmental, social and economic changes. The need for strong communities where people know and care for their neighbors is more apparent than ever, and projects such as these through our Resilient Neighborhoods and Solano Sustainable Backyards programs can help to build resilience in our neighborhoods as we connect with one another.

Suisun City and Fairfield

We are looking for residents in Suisun City and Fairfield (in the areas outlined in red in the map below) that are interested in working collaboratively to transform their neighborhoods into robust regenerative urban ecosystems that mimic nature in performing valuable functions like producing food, filtering air and cycling water. We are looking for sites to create beautiful and productive gardens that build healthy soil while using water wisely.

Vacaville

In August 2020, the LNU Lightning Complex Fire affected many Vacaville residents. We are looking to identify a private property in Vacaville that was damaged by the fires to begin to restore the ecological health of the land through the installation of a demonstration garden that would incorporate best practices for designing in a fire zone.

All of these projects will be done through public, educational installations that share knowledge and techniques used to address flooding or fire risk as well as sustainable landscaping principles. If you live within the highlighted areas of the map of Fairfield and Suisun City or your yard was damaged in the LNU Fire and you are interested in creating waterwise, edible food forest gardens, please fill out the Sustainable Landscape Interest Form or contact nicole@sustainablesolano.org. Once we receive the form, we will be looking to schedule site assessments for properties that suit the programs. By February, we hope to select multiple sites for yard transformations.

We are looking forward to hearing about your vision for your neighborhood!

4th Annual Demonstration Food Forest Tour a Reimagined Success

By Nicole Newell, Sustainable Landscaping Program Manager

Permaculture expert John Valenzuela shows the roof water outlet at Living & Learning garden in Benicia during the video tour

Our 4th Annual Demonstration Food Forest garden tour was very different this year, but still brought people together in new ways around the concepts of permaculture and creating waterwise, edible gardens. Permaculture expert John Valenzuela gave a talk over Zoom to nearly 100 people that included a Q&A session and a pre-recorded video tour with John in one of our 27 demonstration food forest gardens.

What also made this year unique was it opened up the opportunity for people from all over the country to be able to attend, even people from the UK and Canada! It was comforting to see all of the familiar faces and exciting to see new people as we are all adjusting to this new way of interacting through video conferencing.

We had to rethink the annual tour this year due to the pandemic and social distancing. The big vision is a community day of local people gathering to tour the gardens, get to know each other and learn about permaculture concepts that can be applied to their landscapes. The original plan was to begin the tour at Avant Garden in Benicia with John’s talk and then 14 demonstration food forest gardens would be open in Benicia and Vallejo for a self-guided tour. These gardens are open annually to educate the community on how to create beautiful and productive gardens that build healthy soil and use water wisely.

Knowing we needed to bring the tour to life in a new way this year, our Sustainable Solano team got into solution mindset. We found David Avery, a videographer that made the video of John touring Living & Learning food forest in Benicia. Then on April 25, John gave his live talk over Zoom and answered many questions on plants and fruit trees. For those who couldn’t make the live event, you can view the talk and Q&A in the video below.

 

View the Living & Learning tour video below.

 

Stay tuned for more! In May, we will record Lydia Neilsen touring The Ripple Effect and The Enchanted Cottage garden in Vallejo. At a later date, Lydia will present her Rehydrate the Earth talk in a live Zoom call. We are also creating a series of short videos on the elements that go into creating your own food forest garden. To stay on top of the latest, subscribe to our newsletter here.

From Airman to Daisies: Suisun Wildlife Center Pollinator Project Draws in Community

By: Nicole Newell, Sustainable Backyard Program Manager

The work at Suisun Wildlife Center was the most interesting and busiest installation yet! As we were learning, working, and getting to know each other, the raptors and a one-eyed coyote were watching us.  Volunteers stopped by to get bottles for the baby squirrels and raccoons that are receiving in-home care and wounded baby possums, squirrels, raccoons and birds arrived as we installed the pollinator food forest.  We saw first-hand the service that Suisun Wildlife Center provides to California native wildlife.  Throughout the three days, city council members, board members, and community members interested in water-efficiency and wildlife visited us.

Andrew Torres, a student from the Airman Leadership School Globemaster class contacted me a few days prior to the installation and asked if we had a community service project available for the class to join.  This healthy crew of young men and women studying to be sergeants delivered 15 yards of tree chips and dug 60 feet of swales in only two hours! Each year 35, 263 gallons of water will be diverted from the roof to the swales.  Suisun City Vice Mayor, Lori Wilson, coordinated lunch with local eateries and McDonalds donated chicken salads (yes they were tasty!).  At lunchtime, we spoke to the Globemaster class and learned about the important role that community service plays in becoming sergeants. The foundation of this garden was completed and the class learned how to harvest water in-ground and build soil by adding tree chips.

The next day, we did not have the help of the Globemaster class, but we did have a few solid participants that have been to our previous workshops ready to wrap up this project.  Kevin brought his nifty drill that helped dig the holes and made planting in clay soil effortless.  We planted over 30 different types of plants to attract pollinators.  Rose from Morningsun Herb Farm recommended Newleaze Coral.  This plant blooms from spring to fall and attracts many different types of bees including native bees.  After we had our pizza lunch donated from Mountain Mikes, the Daisy Girl Scouts arrived to work on their honeybee award.  The girls worked as a team to plant Russian Salvia; this plant attracts butterflies, hover flies and bees.  Then they sprinkled laughter, joy and pollinator seeds all over the garden.  Thank you to everyone that helped get this pollinator food forest installed at Suisun Wildlife Center.  Vice Mayor Wilson supported the Suisun City Sustainable Backyard program from the beginning by introducing us to local organizations, launching our program at Denise Rushing’s speaker event and serving on the Advisory Board to help select both the private and public site in Suisun City.

This demonstration pollinator food forest at Suisun Wildlife Center is a public project funded by the Solano County Water Agency. The garden will serve as a community asset where people can learn simple techniques to design a resilient, water-wise landscape.

Pollinator Food Forest Garden Coming to Suisun Wildlife Center

Sustainable Solano’s Sustainable Backyard program expanded to Suisun City earlier this spring and is now celebrating the completion of a public demonstration food forest garden at a private Suisun residence. The program offers informative workshops and inspiring talks on sustainable landscape design, community resilience and permaculture.

On Saturday, June 9th and Sunday, June 10th, community members are invited to help create a thriving ecosystem for pollinators, such as birds, bees, and butterflies, at Suisun Wildlife Center (SWC). This custom demonstration garden will focus on year-round pollinator plants and habitat for wildlife and will be fed primarily through secondary water sources such as roofwater diverted to swales. SWC is a non-profit volunteer organization dedicated to the rescue of native California wildlife to ensure that birds and animals receive the best possible care.

Attendees will have the opportunity to learn hands-on how to build a proper foundation for a permaculture food forest, how to increase water-holding capacity in the ground, tips for building healthy soil in the garden and basic permaculture design principles that can be applied at home for self-sustaining, food-producing gardens all year-round.

Thank you to Vice Mayor, Lori Wilson, for coordinating lunch with local eateries on both days.

Workshop Dates:

Saturday, June 9th (Installation Day 1:) Laying the foundation: digging on contour swales, making berms and diverting the roof water to the landscape. Register here.

Sunday, June 10th (Installation Day 2): Creating habitat. Register here.

  • Planting a community of pollinator plants with multiple functions that support a healthy, diverse ecosystem.
  • Surface drip irrigation installation: Adding irrigation for young plants and water conservation.
  • Covering the food forest with free woodchips (mulch) to prevent water evaporation and improve soil health.

 

There will be yearly ongoing workshops and tours of these demonstration food forest gardens on private and public land in each city. This project is made possible by funding and support of the Solano County Water Agency

365 Days of Care!

By: Nicole Newell, Sustainable Backyard Program Manager

I am finding many Solano County treasures as our Sustainable Backyard Program expands. Suisun Wildlife Center is one of the jewels. Last weekend I learned first-hand the many incredible ways that this organization serves California native wildlife and the Suisun Marsh. I was invited on an educational walk through the area with Executive Director, Monique Liguori, leading this walk. She spoke about the Native American Suisunes tribe (also called the “People of the West Wind”), who lived in the Suisun Marsh regions of Solano County around 200 years ago, and the various plants they used.

One of the many diverse plants that was showcased was the tule rush. The Suisunes people built temporary homes, canoes and made clothing out of this plant. Since the tule rushes are biodegradable, every year these items had to be rebuilt. My head was filled with so many new facts about native plants in the marsh. I even got to taste salty pickleweed!

Not only does the Suisun Wildlife Center protect and educate the public about the Suisun Marsh, but they also rescue and care for California native wildlife. The ultimate goal is to release the wildlife back into its environment. Due to the extent of animal injury, resident raptors and a coyote cannot be released and need year-round care. Kris, Monique and many other committed volunteers gently care for these young and injured animals 365 days a year!

Currently they are taking care of:
20 baby oppossums
30 song birds
7 baby raccoons
6 baby squirrels
1 adult barn owl

This spring, Monique has gently cared for nine baby hummingbirds. These sensitive creatures eat every 15 minutes from sun up to sun down and will only eat if the feeder are in a balanced state of mind while feeding them. The dedication of Suisun Wildlife Center has inspired our Sustainable Backyard program to think about the importance of serving wildlife when designing demonstration gardens. In June, we will be installing a food forest that is focused on providing food to our precious pollinators.

Thank you Kris and Suisun Wildlife Center for all that you do!

“A Growing Future” in Suisun City

One private yard in Suisun City has been selected for the installation of a demonstration food forest garden as part of Sustainable Solano’s Sustainable Backyard program offering informative workshops and inspiring talks on sustainable landscape design, community resilience, permaculture, and local food systems. The first of three public installation workshops will be held on Saturday, April 7th, at a private Suisun residence, where community members can help create the foundation of an edible ecosystem fed by secondary water sources such as greywater (laundry-to-landscape system) and roofwater. This workshop will focus on digging swales, making birms, diverting roofwater and planting fruit trees to increase water-holding capacity and building healthy soil in the garden.

Selected homeowner, Cassandra, a resident of Suisun City for over 21 years and passionate about growing food and healthy eating, was looking to replace her lawn with a more sustainable landscape that her family could eat from. This led her to apply to have her yard transformed into a steady, water-retaining food source that would not only increase resilience but catch the attention of lawn owners lining her neighborhood streets. “This project will help secure a source of local food for my family with a surplus to share with the community”, Cassandra said. The family has named the garden, “A Growing Future”.

Through this project, she will be joining a growing family of “food forest keepers” in Solano County that have committed to opening their demonstration food forest gardens for the public to learn about simple sustainable landscape techniques and ways to use water more wisely to grow food.

Her yard was selected among four other Suisun City homeowner applicants. The selection process for these sites are based on criteria such as yard access, greywater feasibility and sun orientation. Sites are assessed and selected by Sustainable Solano’s Sustainable Landscaping Advisory Board made up of dedicated Solano County residents aiming to raise sustainability awareness in Solano County.

The garden will take three full days to complete and all installation events are free and open to the community. There will be yearly ongoing workshops and tours of these demonstration food forest gardens on private and public land in each city.  This project is made possible by funding and support of the Solano County Water Agency.

Registration is required for these FREE hands-on workshops. Visit our calendar to register.

 The Sustainable Backyard and Conversations program will expand to Vacaville in the fall of 2018.  Visit www.sustainablesolano.org and www.facebook.com/sustainablesolano for updates and details about this expansion.