Pollinators Paradise

Food Forest Keepers: Mary and Matt

My husband and I both grew up in Dixon, and have been in our current home for 10 years. When we first moved in, our backyard was a blank slate. Over the years we worked hard to bring it to life, to make it a place we enjoy. Thinking back on our original design plan we knew we wanted to include drought-tolerant plants, but we also included a large lawn area (not realizing how quickly our view of a lawn would change). As we have learned more about gardening, native plants, and water conservation our desire to give up the lawn has increased.

Although the backyard still has lawn, we have added a garden area and fruit trees that have all become a favorite of ours. Bonding with our daughter while teaching her to garden has been far more meaningful than I ever could have imagined. Now we are ready to transition our front yard from a giant lawn to a fruit-filled food forest that we can share with those around us.

Site Details

Installation Date:

May 2020


1,165 square feet

Sun Exposure:

8 hours



Number of Swales:


Secondary Water:

Lawn Conversion


Roofwater Diverted to Swale

Total annual water impact:

61,580 gallons



Designer: Derek Downey

Plant List:


Arctic Babe Miniature Nectarine, Black Jack Fig, Dwarf Southern Sweet Peach, Fuyu Persimmon, Little Cado Avocado, Semi-Dwarf Improved Meyer Lemon, Semi-Dwarf Washington Naveln Orange

Blueberry (Jubilee, Northland, Patriot), Cape Gooseberry, Cleveland Sage, Culinary Sage, Flowering Maple, Lavender, Rosemary

Artichoke, California Fuschia, Comfrey, Elk Blue Rush, Hummingbird Sage, Salvia, Yarrow

Catmint, Okinawa Spinach, Oregano, Thyme

Walking Egyptian Onion

Thornless Blackberry (Prime Ark Freedom)


Our installation was quite unique and not according to plan. The original dates selected fell at a time when California issued stay-at-home orders due to COVID-19. We were not able to bring in volunteers so we were in for far more labor than originally anticipated. Finding plants became a challenge with so many people suddenly taking up gardening, but all in all we are very happy with the installation.

We are so grateful to Nicole and Derek for their tremendous help, and flexibility so that we were able to move forward with completing the project. The only disappointment was not being able to involve/educate our neighbors face-to-face.



Vision for the Future:

Many folks have stopped by and commented on how great our “low-water” yard looks. We don’t believe they know it is a food forest, which makes it that much more exciting. We cannot wait to enjoy the bounty it will bring us, but also bring our community. Most importantly, we enjoy watching our daughter learn the self-sufficiency and connection to Earth that a food forest can bring.

Elements of a Food Forest Garden

Watch the series of videos below to see the creation of Pollinators Paradise, Dixon’s first demonstration food forest garden, and learn about the important elements of a permaculture food forest. The series of six short videos covers Design, Swale & Berm, Healthy Soil & Sheet Mulching, Planting Fruit Trees, Food Forest Layers, and Irrigation.