Around 20 people gathered at a Rio Vista home on Saturday, Oct. 5, to learn about what goes into creating a sustainable, edible, water-wise yard, starting with laying the foundation to capture rainwater in the ground and nourish plants while limiting runoff from the property.

“The first day was filled with community magic,” said Nicole Newell, sustainable landscaping program manager at Sustainable Solano, the organization behind the workshop and garden. “Residents of Rio Vista and surrounding counties came together to meet like-minded people, learn about permaculture and see it in action!”

Newell said participants ranged in age from teenagers to seniors. The homeowners made a taco meal with meat and vegan options.

“One Rio Vista resident said it was truly beautiful to see everyone working together as one,” she recalled.

The day-long workshop was the first of three that will install Sustainable Solano’s first food forest in Rio Vista through the Solano Sustainable Backyards program. Called “Fortune’s Garden,” the food forest will show what can be created from the blank slate of an empty yard in a new development.

Participants Saturday learned about the concept of permaculture, a sustainable design system stressing the harmonious interrelationship of humans, plants, animals and the earth. Designer Lauren Bennett of Bay Wise Gardens talked with the group about food forest gardens and then led them in digging water-capturing swales, moving wood chips onto the site to build healthy soil and hold rainwater and planting trees.

The next workshop will be this Saturday, Oct. 12. Participants will learn how to install a laundry-to-landscape greywater system that diverts water used in each load of laundry to mulch basins around trees and plants in the yard, saving water costs for the homeowner while keeping water on-site and creating a vibrant garden.

The program and the series of installations in Rio Vista are made possible by the generous support of the Solano County Water Agency.

Rio Vista Demonstration Food Forest Installation

10 am-4 pm on Oct. 12 and 19

The address will be available to participants upon registering. Lunch will be provided by the homeowner at each workshop. Please bring hats, gloves, reusable water bottle and sunblock. 

For more information and to register, visit

(More details and direct registration links included below)

Saturday, Oct. 12 – Laundry-to-landscape greywater system

Greywater Action will be leading the workshop to teach hands-on how to install a simple laundry-to-landscape system in your own home. You will learn how to install a simple three-way valve in your laundry room, connect the pipe from your washing machine to your landscape, and how to prepare your landscape to receive the greywater. This installation day begins with a lecture about greywater.

Saturday, Oct. 19 – Learn to install a water-efficient in-line drip irrigation system and plants

We will add plants to the ecosystem as well as drip irrigation, and have an opportunity to see a dead, barren backyard transformed into a customized food forest based on permaculture design principles. This installation includes a short lecture from Lauren Bennett, owner of Bay Wise Gardens, on selecting plants and creating a custom design. 

Topics Covered:

  • Planting a community of 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.

About Sustainable Solano

Sustainable Solano is a countywide nonprofit organization that is dedicated to “Nurturing Initiatives for the Good of the Whole.” The organization, now in its second decade, brings together programs that support and sustain one another and the Solano County community. Initiatives include sustainable landscaping, local food, resilient neighborhoods, sustaining conversations and community gardens. 

For more information, email or visit


Photos below should be credited as courtesy of Sustainable Solano. Larger files available upon request.