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Sustainable Garden Practices at Master Gardeners Fall Tour


Sustainable Garden Practices at Master Gardeners Fall Tour 

By Karen Felker

In the July issue of the Sonoma County Gazette, we announced the upcoming Bloomin’ Backyards Garden Tour, hosted by the Master Gardeners of Sonoma County. As trained and certified University of California volunteers, Master Gardeners are committed to providing environmentally sustainable, science-based agricultural information. With the theme “Warm Autumn Days…A Time to Plant, A Time to Harvest,” the tour of West County gardens emphasizes how our California climate influences the plants we put in our gardens and the best time to plant them. 

In addition to five unique gardens, the tour features demonstrations of practices you can adopt to conserve our natural resources as you beautify your garden. In this article we give you a preview of the presentations on the tour.

Provide Habitat for Beneficial Insects

One principle of sustainable home gardening is to protect and encourage wildlife. By encouraging you, the home gardener, to provide habitat for bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects, we are working to eliminate or reduce the need for chemical pesticides. As you tour the gardens, you’ll encounter Master Gardeners offering presentations on gardening to provide habitat, integrated pest management (IPM), and backyard beekeeping. 

Nurture the Soil

By recycling organic matter to make compost, you can add nutrients to the soil that support healthy plant growth, eliminate the need to use synthetic fertilizers, and in the process, improve water quality. Master Gardeners will be on hand to discuss two ways to decompose food and yard waste, by creating a compost pile and by using worms to create compost. 

Garden with Water Wise Plants

You’ll find succulents have been planted in more than one of the gardens on the tour, for their drought tolerance and attractive appearance year round. In one garden, you’ll learn about attractive succulent arrangements you can plant in a container or in your yard. In another garden, you’ll find a Master Gardener presentation on California native plants that have adapted to Sonoma County’s arid summers. In a third garden, you’ll find Before and After pictures that illustrate garden design principles you can apply to make your own garden more appealing. 

Grow Your Own Food  

For backyard food gardeners, Food Gardening Specialists will demonstrate seed saving and seed balls, straw bale planting, and container gardening. They’ll also offer a demonstration of the Three Sisters, or companion planting, another sustainable agriculture practice based on Native American traditions. 

If you’re struggling to protect your plants from tunneling invaders, be sure to talk to the knowledgeable Master Gardeners who will discuss gopher and mole control. 

Save Water in Your Garden

You may have read that over 60% of water billed to residential areas is used outside, on landscaping. If you’re trying to cut down on water use at your house, a representative of the Sonoma County Water Agency will tell you about local and state rebate programs offered for turf removal and gray water system installation. 

If you’ve already removed your lawn, the Master Gardener Garden Sense program provides a list of water-wise plants ideally suited to Sonoma County. You’ll find many of these plants as well as edible plants for fall planting – all propagated by Master Gardeners – on sale on the day of the tour. Garden Sense consultants will also talk about sheet mulching and drip irrigation.

And There’s More

For the first time ever, we will offer paintings of the gardens made by local artists. Allow time to visit our Craft Market with its fabulous selection of garden-themed inspirations created by talented Master Gardeners for both your home and garden. You’ll also be able to purchase plant-themed art prints and gently used gardening books.

Tickets On Sale Now

To purchase group tickets for ten or more, visit, or email Individual tickets can also be bought on the website, or in person at Copperfield’s Books or Readers’ Books.