Meet Designer Michael Wedgley

Michael Wedgley is creating the designs for both of the pilot sites at Hampton Bay HOA, and will be working with the HOA’s landscaping company to coordinate the installation of the designs. Michael will also build the soil biology of the sites to create healthier, more lush environments in which the plants can thrive.

Michael is a Bay Area native and a Permaculture Designer who specializes in edible and native landscapes, as well as applied microbiology for the elimination of pesticides and fertilizers. He is a certified Soil Foodweb Lab Technician assessing the microbiome of soils to help growers and gardeners understand the biological needs of their soil, and operates under the business name Soilogical BioSolutions and Designs.

He also is the founder of the nonprofit organization Transformative Soil and Landscapes, which operates primarily in Contra Costa County and organizes the community around installing regenerative food forests in people’s yards and in community gardens. His love for nature and food are often brought together in residential homes to help people design their landscapes into foodscapes that provide the best quality food available while integrating rainwater catchment, aesthetics, nature, and biology.

The photos in the slideshow below reflect how Michael’s design work and focus on healthy soil can create a thriving ecosystem in a garden design that attracts and celebrates pollinators. (Photos of this garden in Martinez provided courtesy of Gina Casey of GMC Photography and Video)

Winter in the Milkweed Garden

By Annina Puccio, co-founder and co-director of the Monarch Milkweed Project

Annina Puccio and Ann Whittemore started the Monarch Milkweed Project out of Benicia, CA, to increase the supply of milkweed available to Western Monarch butterflies as they make their way along their migratory path. We partnered with the Monarch Milkweed Project for an informative talk on Monarch butterflies, their population decline and how you can help! You can watch the video from the talk at the bottom of this blog post.

It has been a very successful spring and summer here in Solano County, spreading the word about how to support the Monarch butterfly population locally and spotting many of these iconic insects floating through our yards this year. Winter is the season to clean up the milkweed garden, as the last few caterpillars pupate in the fall and the final Monarch butterflies take flight for their over-wintering sites. It is also the time to begin preparing the garden bed for next year!

With shorter days, and chillier nights, native milkweed begins naturally to yellow and collapse. The roots continue to store energy for next year, so keep them watered and your plants should come back bigger and stronger than ever in the spring.

Native narrowleaf milkweed

However, if you have been growing tropical milkweed (asclepias curassavica), it is recommended that you remove it and replace it with native milkweed now. At the very least, cut the plants back almost to the ground.  This variety of milkweed remains evergreen and even may flower through the winter, which allows the protozoan parasite Ophryocystis Elektroscirrha (“OE”) to build up in the plant. This disease affects the Monarch butterflies’ overall fitness, reduces their ability to reproduce successfully, and can interfere with their migration. Instead, look for seeds of native milkweed. In our local area, showy milkweed (asclepias speciosa) and narrowleaf milkweed (asclepias fascicularis) are the recommended varieties to grow, so collect seeds to sow now or in the early spring.

When planting milkweed, the seeds need “stratification,” which is the process of breaking down the seed coating with moisture and cold temperatures. If you plant seeds directly outdoors now, the rains and winter cold will stratify the seeds naturally, and they will develop strong root systems by spring.

A very good resource for fall planting instructions can be found on the Monarch Butterfly Garden website, at https://monarchbutterflygarden.net/fall-planting-milkweed-10-steps/

Alternatively, you can store moistened seeds in the refrigerator for a few months throughout the winter (lay them out on moistened paper towels in layers in a large flat container), and then start them indoors in the spring in small pots or starter cells. Keep them warm and watered, and when they have 3-4 sets of leaves, plant them outdoors after the last frost has passed.

While you are planning your milkweed garden, do not forget about nectar plants to attract and nourish the butterflies. You can find a good list, tailored to California, by the Xerces Society at: https://xerces.org/publications/plant-lists/monarch-nectar-plants-california

While you are looking ahead to next year, a fun and educational winter activity is to visit a Monarch overwintering site. The most well-known and largest are at Natural Bridges, Pacific Grove (those are pictures of the Pacific Grove Butterfly House above), and near Pismo Beach, but they also have been spotted nearby on Mare Island and at Point Pinole. Use the map from Western Monarch Count here to find a site: https://www.westernmonarchcount.org/find-an-overwintering-site-near-you/

Thank you to everyone who has worked so hard in Benicia, Vallejo and all over Solano County to support the Monarch Butterfly. The overwintering population numbers are WAY up! A 3500% increase in Pismo Beach alone.

As the Monarchs move to their over-wintering sites, we are hopeful for other increases in population as well. Keep up the good work raising Monarchs and if you haven’t already, please consider joining our Monarch MilkWeed Project group on NextDoor: https://nextdoor.com/g/our9txeuo/

Learn more about the Monarch Milkweed Project here

Thanksgiving Sauces & Condiments

Photo: Unsplash

Bring out the flavor in your holiday meals with these sauces and condiments: Low Sugar Cranberry Sauce and Thanksgiving Salsa Verde, and Compound Butter.

Download a printable version of the recipes here

Recipes from Chef Laura Doyle

Low Sugar Cranberry Sauce

Ingredients:

1 12oz bag of cranberries
6 whole cloves
wide strip of orange zest
2 cinnamon sticks
1 Tbsp grated ginger
½ – 1 cup orange juice
½- 1 cup honey or maple syrup

Stick the cloves into the orange zest so they are easy to remove.

Place orange juice and honey or maple syrup in a saucepan and stir until dissolved. Add the spices and zest and simmer the syrup gently for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, pick over, and wash the cranberries. Add to the syrup and simmer the berries uncovered, very gently, without stirring, until they are translucent, about 5 minutes. Skim off any foam. Pour into a serving bowl. Chill until firm.

Thanksgiving Salsa Verde

Ingredients:

1 cup sage leaves
½ cup parsley
Up to ½ cup other herbs (thyme, rosemary, cilantro) (optional)
2 Tbsp finely chopped shallot (about half a shallot)
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar (plus more for soaking the shallots)
¼ cup olive oil (plus enough to fry the sage)
Salt

Place the shallot in a small bowl and pour in vinegar to cover. You can use the red wine vinegar since you have it out, or another less expensive vinegar, we will be pouring it off. White vinegar might leave a sharper taste then a more fruity vinegar like red wine or apple cider.

Heat a skillet over medium high heat and pour in enough olive oil to coat the bottom by about ¼ inch. Add the sage and fry until the bubbles die down. Scoop out the leaves and place them on a towel to drain. Once cool, crumble into a bowl.

Finely chop the parsley and other herbs, if using, and stir into the crumbled sage.

Drain the shallots and add those to the bowl as well along with some salt. Pour in the olive oil and vinegar. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Serve immediately or refrigerate. If chilled, return to room temperature before serving.

Serve with anything that could use a bit of bright herbal acidity.

Compound Butter

Compound butter is a great topping for seasonal vegetables, meat, poultry or fish, and it’s so easy! All you need is a stick of soft butter and a few Tablespoons of flavorings of your choice. This could be fresh herbs, dried herbs, spices, chopped veggies, roasted garlic, or even cheese or bacon to make it even more decadent.

Place all the ingredients in the food processor and pulse until very well combined. Scrape out onto a piece of plastic wrap and shape into a log. Wrap it up and chill until firm.

To serve, slice off rounds and melt over any of your vegetables or the turkey. If you would prefer to spread your butter, press into a ramekin before chilling instead of shaping into a log.

Bring to room temperature before serving.

Learn how to make these recipes by watching the cooking class below

 

Sustainable Landscaping Examples

We will provide periodic updates on the process of creating two sustainable pilot sites at Hampton Bay HOA.

Explore different sustainable garden landscapes by scrolling through the photos below. While some of these focus more on edible landscaping, a sustainable approach can be use to create a variety of landscapes, including beautiful pollinator habitat as planned for Hampton Bay HOA’s pilot sites.

Find more examples on the Solano Sustainable Backyards page.

Nov. 9, 2021: Site Assessment Visit

We will provide periodic updates on the process of creating two sustainable pilot sites at Hampton Bay HOA.

This site assessment visit was an opportunity for the Hampton Bay landscaping committee and landscaper Jerry Saitta to meet with designer Michael Wedgley and observe the two sites selected for the pilot projects.

This meeting was the precursor to the initial design and a good way to determine the desires of the HOA members and the needs of the site for swales, plant selection, etc.

The visit involved touring the property, learning about the HOA’s phase 1 landscaping changes and the process for phase 2. Some time was spent examining downspouts to gauge the possibility of capturing rainwater to feed into swales (in-ground trenches that capture and sink rainwater), and discussing some possible plants and design elements.

The next step will be a town hall meeting on Dec. 4 to go over the initial plan and talk about the benefits of this approach to landscaping.