Bay Area Butterfly Festival Lands May 19

By Annina Puccio, executive director of the Monarch Milkweed Project

The Monarch Milkweed Project and the Vallejo People’s Garden are hosting the inaugural Bay Area Butterfly Festival on May 19!

Join us and experience the beautiful view of the Carquinez Strait from the boardwalk on Mare Island while learning about the importance of protecting our pollinators. This is a family-friendly community festival!

On two stages, fantastic performers and live bands will delight you with their talents. Children’s free games and hands-on activities will entertain young ones throughout the day. Musical performances will fill the air — dancing is not required, but it is definitely recommended! Artisans and small businesses will sell their art, wares, and many fantastic sustainable goods.

On a third stage, community groups will lead pop-up workshops on a wide range of exciting topics, which will include a talk sponsored by Sustainable Solano by Heath Griffith of Grow With The Flow on how to turn your lawn into a native garden. Food vendors and food trucks will offer a variety of cuisines, including vegan and gluten-free options.

We will be hosting over 100 vendors/exhibitors from various organizations and nonprofits at the event. There will be a focus on sustainable living, clean water practices, and environmental education.

This festival is a low-to-no-waste event focusing on commemorating the historic monarch overwintering site on Mare island, as well as the importance of sustainable practices and saving our pollinators — especially the iconic monarch butterfly and our various native bee species.

Learn more about attending here

On Facebook: https://fb.me/e/3uncrnQqk

Register on Eventbrite: www.bit.ly/BABF2024

Volunteer here

All volunteers get the following: free food and drink, a volunteer festival T-shirt and two free classes at the Vallejo People’s Garden.

Sign up here: https://forms.gle/o3Bx27kFusyriu2P6

2024 Benicia & Vallejo Demonstration Food Forest Garden Tour: April 27

By Nicole Newell, Sustainable Landscaping Program Manager

Loam Sweet Loam garden in Vallejo

Sustainable Solano’s annual tour of demonstration food forest gardens in Benicia and Vallejo returns on April 27 for its eighth year. Join us for our largest tour of some of the longest-established food forests in the county!

The day will include speakers and activities to keep you inspired and engaged. Register here!

We will start at 9 am at Avant Garden in Benicia with a talk about the many roles mulch plays in supporting a water-efficient garden with Heath Griffith from Grow with the Flow. Learn about:

  • What is the difference between wood chips and bark?
  • Why is mulch one of the superheroes of permaculture?
  • Does mulch increase or decrease fire risk around houses?
  • How does mulch support a water-efficient garden?

Attendees will pick up the itineraries from 9-11 am at Avant Garden for a self-guided tour of the Benicia and Vallejo gardens. This year’s tour will continue to provide education on topics related to sustainability and highlight the amazing organizations and ways people are involved in uplifting the community. In addition to education, we will also have music, an adventurous scavenger hunt for our youth, two inspired gardens and a special guest that will be present to chat about calming calendula.

The Benicia gardens will be open from 10 am-1 pm, and the Vallejo gardens will be open from 1-4 pm. Attendees who can only participate in the afternoon can pick up the itineraries for Vallejo at the Pollinator Pathway garden on Mare Island from 12-1 pm.

You can learn about each garden and the special events going on at the gardens here.

To prepare a garden tour event that is in service to our community is a gift. As I learn what inspires our food forest keepers to live, grow and contribute, I am inspired in return. Spring brings new possibilities to discover what seeds we want to plant, in our garden and in our life. Each garden serves so many functions that support an abundant, healthy life. I invite you to explore these gardens and gain your own inspiration for your gardens, your communities and your lives.

This program is made possible by the generous support from the Solano County Water Agency.

How It Will Work

You can choose to tour for the whole day or for half a day.
Benicia Demonstration Food Forest Gardens will be open 10 am-1 pm
Vallejo Demonstration Food Forest Gardens will be open 1-4 pm

Register here

Itinerary pickup and special events:

9-11 am: Itineraries will be available at Avant Garden in Benicia (400 First St.). This itinerary will include all of the demonstration food forest gardens in Benicia (open in the morning) and Vallejo (open in the afternoon). Families can pick up a scavenger hunt sheet that will make the day more fun!

9 am: Heath Griffith of Grow with the Flow will talk about the importance of mulch at Avant Garden.

12-1 pm: Itineraries for the Vallejo garden sites (open in the afternoon) will be available at the Global Center for Success (1055 Azuar Dr/BLDG 733).

Throughout the day: Special speakers, activities and information will be available at various gardens.

Goodbye Grass

By Tereasa Christopherson-Tso

Tereasa is a Solano County-based artist who is working with Arts Benicia on an “artivism” exhibit focused on water conservation. Tereasa reached out to SuSol about visiting one of the demonstration food forests established through our Solano Sustainable Backyards program, and visited “Living and Learning” in Benicia, where she beautifully captured the garden in spring. She has given us permission to share her painting and artist statement, which we feel encapsulates why these gardens are so important.

You can visit “Living and Learning” and other demonstration food forest gardens during our annual Benicia & Vallejo garden tour on April 27. Learn more and register here!

Keep an eye out for a special exhibition that brings together Arts Benicia and Vallejo Center for the Arts for “Stewarding our Water Resources: Solano Artists Create, Collaborate & Educate” from May 25 through June 23.

Goodbye Grass, Acrylic, 18”x24”

I have always been a lover of pure nature where I find joy in exploring landscapes in their wildest forms and where nature alone stewards the land. The arresting beauty of the forest and the awesome vastness of the ocean have never ceased to stir my soul with creative inspiration. This past year, however, I began exploring what it means to not only be an admirer of plants and bodies of water but how to better steward them. I began attending numerous workshops held by Sustainable Solano and touring gardens they had installed for people’s yards and community gardens. This inspired my garden efforts this year and the desire to create a garden as Monet did to inspire his paintings but also one that takes into account the high value of water as a limited resource here in northern California.

I found inspiration for this painting from a front yard garden in Benecia that Sustainable Solano installed. I had the pleasure of working with their Program Manager Nicole [Newell] to tour gardens I was interested in painting for this project. Here drought tolerant plants are seen throughout the landscape, a pathway of wood mulch provides a protective layer over the dirt, and native golden poppies have sprouted up in all their super-bloom glory. By excluding grass and using more sustainable garden practices this yard requires very little water yet does not sacrifice beauty.

-Tereasa Christopherson-Tso
Take a tour of the “Living and Learning” garden in this video, and join us for the Benicia & Vallejo Demonstration Food Forest Garden Tour on April 27!

Rebates for Residential Greywater Recycling

By Ainslee Shuemake

Ainslee is a graduate student specializing in water resource management in UC Davis’ Environmental Policy and Management (EPM) Program and wrote this op-ed piece as part of a class project. We wanted to share her insight with you and also let you know that we are currently looking for sites to host laundry-to-landscape educational workshops. If you live in Solano County and are interested in hosting a public workshop that installs a laundry-to-landscape greywater system in your home, then fill out the interest form here.

Community members help install a laundry-to-landscape greywater system during an educational workshop at a Vallejo home

As California pushes to make “conservation a way of life,” we should ask, who is going to bear the cost and responsibility to change the way we live? Well, it might be you. The State Water Resources Control Board has proposed regulations that would require conservation efforts from more than 400 cities and would raise about $13.5 billion dollars between 2025 and 2040. This new legislation would require counties and cities to limit outdoor water usage or pay a fine, and there’s a good chance that burden will be passed onto individuals. Enter: Greywater.

Greywater is produced in areas of your home such as sinks, washing machines, and bathtubs, which together account for almost 60 percent of indoor water usage. In addition, landscape irrigation accounts for almost 70 percent of all urban water usage and is the perfect candidate for greywater. How can we tap into this supply of greywater and use it for urban irrigation? Laundry-to-landscape systems are currently the most common and easy to install but there are many other options depending on budget and technicality. Providing incentives for homeowners who install these greywater recycling systems could encourage more people to use greywater in a way that would benefit both counties and individuals when it comes to mitigating rising costs of water. California has shown that green incentive programs are successful, so why not apply that strategy to water conservation and more specifically, greywater?

The good news is, about 40 percent of the money from proposed regulations would go to incentive programs geared towards conservation. Some counties in California are already offering some small rebates and even some tips and resources for installing your system. Counties that have already implemented small rebate programs are showing us that it is possible to make greywater recycling a reality throughout California and that there is real demand for incentives and rebates to make conservation and water savings more accessible.

Greywater recycling is a fairly new idea to bring into the residential sector and isn’t without its challenges. Currently, laundry-to-landscape systems are mostly do-it-yourself and require that your house have the correct layout if you choose to install it yourself. Although California is ahead of most states in the greywater game, all counties have guidelines for using greywater, so it is always important to make sure your system is both safe and healthy for you and your landscaping. Even though there are organizations out there that provide help and resources, incentives would make this process a whole lot easier and more appealing to the general public. Rebates that include the cost of having a professional install this system would encourage many homeowners that previously may not have been interested. Like any other new system or idea, it will take time for greywater recycling to gain traction, but incentives are the fastest way to get there. In the face of continued water shortages, we need that push to make sustainable water usage accessible.

Water conservation regulations are coming sooner or later and installing a greywater system in your home will help you live more sustainably now and save more money in the long run. If you are curious about greywater and how you can take action, look into your existing local rebate programs and let your local and state leaders know that greywater recycling is an integral part of conservation efforts. It is time that California invests into greywater recycling if we truly want to make conservation a way of life.

Sustainable Solano offers Laundry-to-Landscape Greywater installation workshops in partnership with Greywater Action to help get more of these water-saving systems into local homes.

A laundry-to-landscape greywater system is a simple system that runs the wash water from your laundry out to the yard to water trees and other plants in your landscape — saving water and saving your trees! These systems do not require a permit in California, and include a valve you can use to direct water out to the landscape or back to the sewer if you need to.

You can watch this informative video for a quick overview of laundry-to-landscape greywater systems.

To determine if your site might be a good fit for a greywater workshop, please fill out this survey.

Help us Shape Our New Doing Good Business Awards Program!

By Sustainable Solano

We know that there are Solano County-based businesses that make a difference in their communities, and this year, Sustainable Solano plans to launch an awards program to recognize those businesses that stand out in their efforts to support people and planet.

And we’d like your help!

The Inspiration

Sustainable Solano has spent 25 years working to strengthen our communities through urban agriculture and community gardens, supporting the local food system, building community conversations and action around environmental and climate resilience, and youth engagement and empowerment.

Our work is informed by the practice of permaculture, which at its base level applies to creating environments that support a healthy, thriving ecosystem. This can apply to landscapes, but also to people, communities and businesses.

We are inspired to recognize businesses that, in their own ways, embrace the three ethics of permaculture: Earth Care, People Care, and Fair Share.

For businesses, we see these ethics materializing in different ways:

  • Earth Care — A dedication to authentic sustainability practices that comes from direct intent, rather than greenwashing or government mandate
  • People Care — A dedication to outstanding treatment of employees, both in policy and in action.
  • Fair Share — A dedication to giving back to employees or the community.

How You Can Help

We want an advisory committee that will help to guide what this program looks like in our community. We want input from business leaders on how to define meaningful efforts in these three areas, and how to judge which nominees are head and shoulders above the rest. Ultimately, an advisory board will review and select the recipients. 

Help us to envision and shape a program that recognizes, celebrates and supports Solano County businesses that are striving to do good!

Want to help? Contact us at info@sustainablesolano.org. We will start the planning process in early March.

Garden Design Templates Simplify How To Start Your Sustainable Garden

By Sustainable Solano

Want to learn how to apply a waterwise garden template in your own yard? Join Heath Griffith of Grow with the Flow for a Waterwise Garden Design Lab from 10 am-1 pm Saturday, Feb. 24, in Benicia. Learn more and register here.

Creating your ideal garden space can be daunting. Even with piles of garden books, maps of hardiness zones, seasonal planting charts and catalogs spread out on the table, it can take an expert eye to know where certain plants will thrive and how they will work together.

A template can be that little lift needed to get you started on reshaping your yard into something beautiful. (And the perfect activity for this time of the year when cold, rainy days staring out of the window give us an opportunity to think of spring!)

That’s why we reached out to Joshua Burman Thayer with Native Sun Gardens. Joshua is a local landscape designer and horticulture consultant who creates ecological landscape designs, has done extensive work with native plants and organic farming, and community-based work around plants and food. He wrote Food Forests for First Timers, an introductory guide to permaculture in the garden.

Joshua shared these four templates, which we are sharing with you in this blog and will include in our plant resources. These free templates give you a quick way to get started, with the basic layout and selection of appropriate plants for each design.

The templates are designed in 100-square-foot “tiles” that can be combined in various ways to create a larger design.

Joshua shared four approaches: desert, edible, Mediterranean and tropical. The desert and Mediterranean designs are waterwise and drought-tolerant, which is appropriate for Solano County summers. Below each design, Joshua offers a brief description of each as well as where in the county these options could thrive best.

Desert

Desert: For those gardeners wanting to try their luck with only minimal hand watering and no weekly irrigation, desert plants can provide a robust plant palette. These plants can acclimate in 2-3 years and then get by on 1-2 waterings by hand per month in the dry season by year 3. Desert plants evolved to withstand great solar intensity and can thrive in sunny parts of Solano County. (Vacaville, Dixon).

Edible

Edible: If you wish to maximize food production in your urban lot, the edible template will show you how to prioritize food for humans at each level of the food forest. This system takes a good amount of water and care, but can also reward with the most food per acre if water is not an issue. (All of Solano County).

Mediterranean

Mediterranean: Mediterranean plants generally do rather well here, because both the Mediterranean region as well as California are between 32 and 38 degrees N latitude and have similar marine-influenced climates. As such, expect many of the Mediterranean edibles to thrive with the seasonality of California’s wet and dry seasons. (All of Solano County).

Tropical

Tropical: Solano County residents near sea level have the blessing of being able to grow food frost-free 12 months of the year. Some winters do test that ability, but generally low lying areas near bodies of water will allow for a microclimate perfect for growing tropical crops. Try the tropical template for fun varieties to your garden. (Suisun City, Benicia, Vallejo, Rio Vista, Fairfield).

If you are interested in learning how to apply a waterwise template to your own yard, join us for the Waterwise Garden Design Lab taught by Heath Griffith of Grow with the Flow on Feb. 24 in Benicia. Registration is free, but seats are limited.
Heath got their Permaculture Design Certificate with Vital Cycles Permaculture, through a course sponsored by Sustainable Solano. Since then, they have worked with Soilogical BioSolutions and Designs, become a Qualified Water Efficient Landscaper, and earned a nationally recognized certificate in Water Harvesting. Heath is driven by a deep passion for reconnecting humans with the landscapes that live and breathe all around us, beginning with water harvesting and sustainable water use.

There are other templates out there. For native plants, we recommend the California Native Plant Society’s Regional Guides, which include plant lists and design templates. You can download the one that suits your environment here.

Have a template you’ve used? Share it with us at info@sustainablesolano.org so we can add it to our list of resources!