Benicia Sustainable Backyard
Food Forest Keepers: Sandy and Peter
My family has a legacy of loving dirt. Both my parents grew up under impoverished post war conditions and thus growing their own food was a necessity for survival. My mom jokes that back then all farming was “organic” because they didn’t have pesticides or herbicides. My father is an avid gardener with both ornamentals and edibles. He loves to grow food not only for himself but always to share with friends and family. After getting married, my husband and I also gained an interest in gardening. For many years, we lived in homes without much land until we moved to Kansas. There we owned a home on 1/3 of an acre, grew a lot of food in raised beds, started composting and learned a lot from local home farmers.
When we moved to Benicia in late 2013, I saw the Avant Garden while driving on 1st St. I inquired as to how to get a box and immediately filled out an application. Through my involvement with the BCG, I heard about this program. At that time, we did not own a home so I just tucked the information away in my mind for another day and visited some of the installations as I received news of them through the BCG emails. Once we bought our house, the opportunity was mine to seize!
I didn’t have too many expectations going into this program except that I knew I would receive a number of fruit trees and have a laundry to yard grey water system installed. That was enough to motivate me to apply for the program. It turned out to be much more than just that and even though our home wasn’t able to put in a grey water system, I got so much more out of the program than anticipated. In particular, I learned a lot about permaculture, both through the program leaders and my own research after hearing about it.
1600 square feet
Number of Swales:
Laundry-to-Landscape Greywater System
Roofwater Diverted to Swales
Total annual water impact: 102,973
Asian Pear, Bartlett Pear, Lemon, Lime, Peach, Plum, Pomegranate, Tangerine
Butterfly Bush, Chilean Guava, Ceanothus, Goji Berry, Lavender, Lilac, Raspberry, Salvia
Asparagus, Echinacea, Gallardia, Sorrel
Gallardia, New Zealand Spinach, Strawberry, Thyme
The experience of the installation was fast and furious. Our installation was done under specific circumstances with the first permaculture internship class and a limited time span so the pace of the whole process was faster than usual and involved a lot more people in the planning process than perhaps it normally would have, which lent to a unique experience.
The installation was done over a weekend and then another half day to finish the job. It was one of the hottest weekends of the fall which made it particularly challenging but everyone who came to work was a trooper and had great attitudes. We started around 9:30am, broke for lunch and enjoyed mini permaculture seminars here and there throughout the weekend during breaks.
Vision for the Future:
In the future we hope to continue to add to the food forest and maximize our food production as well as having a beautiful space to host guests for meals. We have already added in some aloe vera and cone flowers in various spots. This summer, we plan to put in a raised bed or two for additional space to grow food. Eventually we want to put in an arbor and raspberry trellis to add to the aesthetic value of the food forest. Ultimately, we hope to produce a lot of crops that we can share or barter with friends and the community.