Soil and water

Sustainable Solano helps build food forests in Vacaville construction sites – The Vacaville Reporter


Faced with growing problems like inflation and drought, many are thinking about ways to save money on produce and conserve water. One concept to ameliorate these problems is the growing trend of food forests.

Food forests are a low-maintenance form of gardening that relies less on watering and more on plants that depend on each other, as well as natural elements such as the sun, for their growth. They have appeared in the United States in recent years and there are now two in one neighborhood in Vacaville and the installation of a third began last Saturday.

Sustainable Solano, with a grant from the Solano County Water Agency, hosted one of its periodic food forest facilities on Saturday, which used volunteers to turn a decaying lawn in a front yard on Copper Way into a garden of fruit trees and pollinators atop a bed of earth and wood chips.

“This fits naturally with the expansion of the neighborhood,” said Nicole Newell, responsible for the Sustainable Solano program, of the three community food forests. “We’re looking to conserve water, so we have the roof water that is diverted into underground ditches, which are basically just ditches filled with wood chips, to allow all that roof water to spill out and to infiltrate the landscape. “

Newell said the wood chips, which can be obtained from any tree cutting service, help build organic matter. The gardens are also surrounded by fruit trees, bearing produce such as apricots and tangerines, and flowers.

“It’s a group of plants that work for each other,” she said. “The pollinating plants will pollinate the butterflies and the bees, and this will help pollinate the fruit trees, which will provide more fruit. Then there are nitrogen fixers, which fix nitrogen in the soil. Plants need nitrogen, so every plant has its function.

In addition to providing fresh fruit, Newell said the gardens can replace regular lawns, which, she said, can require an average of 70,000 gallons of water for maintenance.

Sustainable Solano project designer Scott Dodson, left, and volunteer Duane Murphy connect a downspout to a ditch to collect water from the roof and pump it into the garden of a newly established food forest in Vacaville. (Nick Sestanovich / The Journalist)

“A mature food forest takes about 20,000 once it is established,” she said. “It’s a huge saving in water.

Newell said Sustainable Solano was contacted by home owner Mike McGuire, who saw a sign for the agency in a food forest in his neighborhood and wanted to do something similar for his front yard. McGuire said his lawn at the time was “ugly.”

“I didn’t see the point of watering in a drought, let alone putting in new sod,” he said.

McGuire also said weeds would sprout whenever it rained, so he started looking for alternatives and liked what he saw in his neighbor Winston’s yard. Until now, he was already impressed with the work of the volunteers.

“It’s much better than the bare ground we had,” he said.

Carla Murphy, who lives one block from McGuire, had her food forest set up three years ago after hearing about Sustainable Solano when she was researching the web about planting in her backyard. This led her to attend Sustainable Solano workshops and apply to truncate her garden in a food forest. It has now become a community garden with free products.

“We eat with it,” she said. “The neighbors know they can come down and they can pick Anything that grows in our garden is available to them.”

The owners are allowed to name their food forests. McGuire named his “Orchid Lily” and Murphy named his “Mangia”, which in Italian means “to eat.” “

An example of a food forest completed on Carla Murphy’s lawn. (Nick Sestanovich / The Journalist)

Murphy said she hopes more people are inspired to replace their lawns with food forests.

“There is food security when you grow your own,” she said.

Newell said food forests are beneficial not only during droughts but also during storms.

“We did a site in Suisun City, and right after we got all this crazy amount of rain, there was standing water in his neighbor’s (the owner’s) yard and his yard had no water. stagnant. These gardens are designed to retain water and not have standing water in the landscape.

The event attracted many volunteers to help spread the wood chips, mix the soil and do other activities. Akilah Tutt from Fairfield learned about it through EventBrite and decided to participate, as she enjoys being off the plantation.

“I hope more people will do something like this,” she said. “Because of everything that has happened with the crown, this is the best time to learn how to plant in your own gardens and replenish the earth. “

Newell also said it was an innovative way to tackle climate issues.

“The world has so many challenges,” she said. “With every installation, there are these moments where it’s like, ‘This is the world I want to leave behind my kids.’ We are working together to build something and do something outside.