El Jardin Alegre (Happy Garden)

Food Forest Keepers: Michael & Simon

My husband, Simon, and I moved to Rio Vista in December 2020. Our neighbors welcomed us and immediately we felt at home there. We loved our established back yard, but dreamt of future plans to remove the 1,600 sf of bermuda grass lawn in front of our house. We were very interested to learn of the Solano Sustainable Backyards program last year from a flyer at our local library. From our first site visit with Nicole and Heath we prayed that our home would be selected for renovation. As an educator I had worked to develop education gardens in various school sites. I eagerly welcomed the opportunity to transform our lawn into an educational food forest in our new community.

Simon and I learned our love of gardening from our fathers. They both grew up on rural farmland helping provide food crops for their families and communities. Sadly, they were both called home to heaven in the last year. However, their presence was greatly felt by us during the progression of our renovation. In their hoor we chose to name our garden “El Jardin Alegre,” which is Spanish for “The Happy Garden.” This truly reflects both of our dads’ personalities.

Site Details

Installation Date:

November 2023


1,475 square feet

Sun Exposure:

6-8 hours



Number of Swales:


Secondary Water:

Lawn Conversion


Roof water diverted to swales

Total annual water impact:

67,146 gallons


Designer: Heath Griffith


Plant List:


Lemon, Persimmon, Pomegranate, Strawberry Tree

Boysenberry (thornless), Ceanothus, Manzanita, Rosemary, Silver Bush Lupine, White Sage

Artichoke, Bachelor Buttons, Blue Flax, Calendula, California Fuchsia, California Poppy, Chamomile, Comfrey, Fleabane, Friendship Sage, Hummingbird Sage, Mint, Naked Buckwheat, Parsley, Penstemon, Tree Collard, Yarrow

Alyssum, Micro clover, Nasturtium, Oregano, Thyme, Woodland Strawberry


Roger’s Red Grape


Learning from Nicole and Heath about how to transform our front yard from a water-thirsty lawn to a permaculture garden helped us realize our dream of being good stewards to the ground God has provided for us. The plant selection encompassed all levels of plant materials from ground covers to trees. Heath designed a space that reflected our preferences for native plants as well as fruits and herbs that will provide seasonal interest year-round. We learned how to develop a food forest that not only is aesthetically beautiful, but also provides food for our community and nourishes and restores the soil, allowing it to hold water and nutrients for the plants growing in it. Learning how to move water from our roof to our soil will help us capture water for our new plants that would otherwise run off into the stormdrains.

Vision for the Future

In my 30 years of landscaping and educating, I have sought to have a positive impact on our planet. I believe we all can actively heal the earth from the greenhouse effects of global warming by simply caring for the gardens and land surrounding our own homes. We can have a positive impact that lasts into the future by teaching the next generation to care for the open spaces in their communities as well. With that heart we are so thankful for the local high school students who came out to help us with this project. As new food forest keepers we look forward to sharing the fruits of our labor with our neighbors and friends. Our ultimate goal is that our Jardin Alegre will be a place of love, learning and happiness for all ages in our community.