Grow Your Gardens and Knowledge Through Our Compost Classes

By Jazzmin Ballou, Program Manager

Compost happens all around us in real time. We see leaves, branches, and fallen fruit decompose back into the soil. In the winter the Earth’s energy is focused on breaking down that which is no longer alive or of use to plants, so that in the spring our soil can be nutrient-rich, and ready to use those nutrients to support the biggest production season of the year.

Soil health is a big focus for Sustainable Solano this year. This March through May, we’ll be offering classes for all levels of composting to build healthy soil. This series will consist of three classes, with a beginners composting class in March, an intermediate class in April and an advanced composting class in May. You are invited to attend the class of your choice or join us for all three to build your composting knowledge and connect with the different gardens where each class will be held.

Composting 101 – A Beginners Guide to Composting will be held at the Peace of Eden Community Garden at City Church in Fairfield. A brand-new three-bin system has just been built as an addition to this community garden, so this class is for folks who may want to compost but don’t know where to start. We’ll learn about composting basics: green waste vs. brown waste, what food scraps are compost-friendly and which aren’t, turning your pile, etc. Depending on time, we may weed or harvest from the garden so that participants can contribute to the compost bin. This class will be led by Lori Caldwell, who is not only a very experienced gardener and composter, but a very experienced teacher on those topics as well!

Composting 101 will be followed by Intermediate Compost Skills – An Introduction to Worm Composting, also taught by Lori Caldwell. This class will go over compost mishaps and how to troubleshoot bin repair, pests, etc. The time will also be used to introduce worm composting, discussing the benefits of worms, worm castings, and this compost method that is very friendly for those who want to compost but have less space to work with. The Vallejo Project Unity Garden will be hosting this class, with a worm bin and a three-bin compost system that has been paused due to pest issues and repair needs. This class will be interactive and potentially hands on, as we hope to show examples of bin repairs and give their compost system a bit of TLC.

Our final class of this series will be an Introduction to Advanced Composting Methods- Thermophilic Composting at the Vallejo People’s Garden on Mare Island. Michael Wedgley, owner of Soilogical, will teach this class, using his advanced understanding of soil biology to cover the thermophilic method of composting. As a more maintenance-intensive compost method, thermophilic composting creates an end product that is much higher in nutrients than traditional compost, as the goal is to heat up every inch of the organic matter being composted to a much higher temperature than we normally see for compost. This means it is turned much more intentionally and often, which is why after hosting this class, we will be offering opportunities for people to come back and support with the maintenance of this pile for the entire duration of time that it takes for it to break down (about six weeks).

We look forward to this ongoing process of learning about soil health and compost with you and encourage you to come ready to learn but also ready to teach! Every question asked, idea shared, comment made, in these open learning spaces feeds our own internal soils for when we are ready to harvest that knowledge and offer it back into the world, be that in our own backyard compost bins, or during a volunteer workday at a local community garden.

How to Compost at Home

By Patrick Murphy, Program Manager

Backyard composting often feels like a hobby reserved for those “in the know.” Like sourdough starter and beer brewing, the process seems both too simple and too complex to get started. How do you get from wheat and water to become bread? How do you turn yard waste and food scraps into compost? The answer is planning and time (and bacteria). With a little preparation and some patience, you too can compost your food scraps at home.

Composting requires a little forethought, some dedicated space, and the diligence to do regular light maintenance. If you can keep a houseplant alive, you should be able to get a compost bin started. The most important thing with backyard composting is to choose a system that will work best for you, which you feel you can sustain long-term. There are two common options for at-home composting, “hot pile” and “vermicompost” (or worm bins).

A stereotypical “hot pile” composting system uses a large bin and regular aeration to convert organic materials (i.e. food scraps) into compost. This system works very well when it receives a regular supply of organic materials, and is turned often. However your pile will begin to work less and less efficiently if the bin ever has less than a full cubic yard of material in it. Hot pile systems require that you maintain a specific ratio of high-nitrogen/high-carbon scraps in order for the bacteria to break down the material. I would recommend these systems for larger families, or organizations looking to get into composting. Learn more about hot pile composting here.

A vermicompost system relies on worms to digest and process organic matter to create compost. These systems offer more flexibility compared to a traditional hot pile system. Vermicompost systems can be made in any size, allowing them to fit into more spaces (some people keep their bins under their kitchen sink). Vermicompost systems do require more careful planning than a hot-pile system. While worm bins do not need to be turned, bins need to be emptied more regularly and the worm populations need to be divided to prevent overcrowding. Worm bins also typically cannot be added daily: worms eat in “batches”, so waste needs to be collected and added all as a single, larger quantity. I would recommend worm bins for smaller families, or people who might lack the space or volume of material needed to start a hot pile system. Learn more about vermicomposting here. 

There are multiple options when it comes to composting at home, make sure you check out multiple methods and choose the one which you feel you’ll be able to maintain the easiest. Consider alternatives to compost like indoor bokashi fermentation, or an outdoor green cone digester. Compost alternatives allow you to avoid most of the emissions created by throwing away food scraps while still allowing you to return nutrients to the soil. Focus less on the total volume of compost produced, and more on ease of use for yourself.

Roof Water Harvesting

By Erik Olsen


Today we are talking about catching the abundance raining down from the sky! Where I live we get 3 to 4 months of rain per year and a long 8-9-month dry spell. During the dry time of year water becomes scarce and here in California drought has been prevalent for years. This is why capturing the rain from the roof of houses, barns and other structures can be an incredible way to catch in store some of the resource of the rainy season’s abundance.

In this video, I’ll take you through my home rainwater catchment right after it was set up. We will follow the path of water from where it gets collected off the roof, to the conveyance system, to a transfer tank, and finally pumped to a 10,000-gallon storage system high on the landscape. I can’t tell you how good it feels to have that 10,000 gallons of water security at the height of summer. 

Catch your rain!


Holiday Waste Management Solutions for Solano County

Did you know that during Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, household waste increases by 25 percent, adding an additional one million tons of waste per week during this season? And what should you really do with your Christmas tree? When the time comes to face holiday clean-up, keep in mind these Earth-friendly resources and tips for how to dispose of your holiday waste.

Solano County Recycling Guide: Click Here offers a very handy Recycling Search to search for locations to take your recyclables! Simply type in the item that you are looking to recycle in the search bar and your zip code. Get instant results that indicate which local municipality disposes of this items and how they prefer you dispose of it.

Christmas Trees:

Most cities in Solano County have curbside pick-up on specific dates in early January. Find your town’s dates and give them a call to schedule your pick-up. To prepare your tree for collection, remove all tinsel, ornaments, lights, and stands, including wooden stands. Trees sprayed with artificial snow, unfortunately, cannot be composted and must be placed in your black bin or left curbside to be collected as trash.

Several Boy Scout troops will also be picking up trees this year. Check your local cities’ troop website for individual tree collection schedules.

Holiday Lights:

Check your local hardware store, like Lowe’s or Home Depot who also offer Christmas light recycling for their customers.

Visit to see which recycling center near you in accepting Christmas lights as e-waste this year.

Wrapping Paper:

This may come as a surprise but wrapping paper isn’t entirely just paper and does not go in your recycle bin! Many standard rolls are coated with a thin, glossy plastic coating rendering it unrecyclable. Instead of scooping up crumbled piles of this stuff into your already overflowing garbage bins, consider re-using it for package stuffing to protect your holiday gifts in transit. Click here for 20 Ways to Reuse Gift Wrap.

Christmas Cards:

We all love receiving them but many cards are decorated with sparkly, festive materials like glitter glue, jewels and foam décor making these cards unrecyclable. Here are some alternatives to simply storing your Christmas cards in a shoe box or bin never to see the light of day again or having them end up in the trash:

  • Re-use the front of the card! Cut in half, still saving your personalized message if you wish, and simply paste the card front on a blank card for re-use.
  • Cut out your favorite images and pieces and attach them to a holiday gift box or wrapped gift for an extra festive touch!

Local Efforts:

Republic Services’ Reuse Round-Up: On Saturday, December 16th from 9am-1pm, drop off your gently used clothing, housewares, bicycles, toys, games, and costume jewelry at Benicia High School, 1101 Military West, (at main steps to office) and help a local charity. Donations will go to “Faith Food Fridays,” a nonprofit serving the less fortunate of Solano County. Please, NO mattresses, large furniture, electronics, stuffed animals, or overly worn items. For more information, contact Marie Knutson at or (925) 671-5814.

Locals Turn Their “Waste” into “Want” at our Home Composting Workshop

Attendees of our June home composting workshop learned great tips on how to turn yard trimmings and kitchen scraps into rich, healthy soil for their gardens using simple composting methods, including the use of earthworms. The class gathered at one of the beautiful and productive Benicia Demonstration Food Forests where there were plenty of inspiring surrounding examples of the roll that healthy, live soil plays in a flourishing and thriving garden.

The workshop was led by local permaculture and landscape expert, Kathleen Huffman,who helped connect the dots between soil health, plant health, and human health through an informative presentation and hands-on demonstration for creating various types of small composting areas in residential environments. A study of soil conditions at various stages within the garden and solutions to common concerns about space constraints, rodents and foul smells were addressed. Attendees learned directly how to best manage soil health, the easy way, and how healthy soil should look like for best results in the garden.

This workshop is part of Sustainable Solano’s “Healthy Soil, Healthy Planet” educational series offered in partnership with Republic Services. Republic Services will be sponsoring three additional soil workshops this year. The next one is September 9th.  Please visit our calendar for details and future dates.

Solano County Water Sources


Water nourishes our landscapes, keeps us hydrated and powers our wind turbines but have you ever wondered where our local water comes from when you turn on your faucet? Our state’s water storage and delivery systems are actually quite complex. Its system of reservoirs, aqueducts, and pumping plants are a result of the California State Water Project (SWP) and allow us to enjoy clean water every day. One of Solano County’s key water suppliers is the Solano County Agency (SCWA), a wholesale water supply agency providing untreated water to cities and agricultural districts in our county. Roughly 83% of Solano County’s water comes from Lake Berryessa with the remaining 17% being diverted from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Our North Bay Aqueduct pipeline delivers water from Barker Slough in the Delta to Solano agencies, like the SCWA for water supply.

As we reach for the hose and cranked our faucets as things heat up this summer, let us consider the tremendous human efforts and engineering behind the systems that bring us access to these precious drops and continue to embrace wise water use as a daily habit. When you conserve water, you conserve life.

For more information about where your water comes from, visit:

Solano County Water Agency
Water Education Foundation