Sonoma County Fair Demonstration Garden 2018
This year, we created two demonstration gardens; one features a Firewise garden focusing on using low water use plants and features succulents and some California native plants to create defensible space. The second garden features food gardening with tips on sustainable methods of growing food and features the fall and winter crops that should be planted now to continue food production year-round.
Did you know that it’s the law that we create 100’ of defensible space around our homes? In our Firewise demonstration garden, we demonstrate the three defensible space zones.
- The Ignition Zone is the area within 5’ of a structure and is the most vulnerable. It should be well maintained, especially during the summer through fall fire season. Maintenance includes removal of leaves and flammable debris as well as all fire-prone plants (those that are difficult to maintain and/or have low water content). All flammable items such as firewood, wooden outdoor furniture, brooms or flammable doormats should be removed. Any plants in this zone should be kept under 3 feet and be well-irrigated to keep them hydrated. Any tree limbs that encroach in this space should be removed. A fire-resistant mulch such as gravel should be used.
We created an Ignition Zone using gravel mulch for a patio with several varieties of succulents planted in the ground and in pots to provide a beautiful mix of color and texture with low flammability. We installed a water-catchment system to take rainwater from the roof and put it back into the aquifer.
- In the Firebreak Zone, which extends from 5’ to 30’ from the structure, proper maintenance of landscape plants is critical to reducing the risk of fire reaching your home. Maintenance includes pruning and removal of all dead plant materials, replacing any fire-prone plants with those easier to maintain and with higher moisture content, and removal of all tree branches less than 10’ from the ground or from other plants. It is also important to create plant islands separated by non-flammable hardscape, to use fire-resistant mulch, and to water regularly using drip irrigation.
- The last area is the Reduced Fuel Zone which extends from 30’ to 100’ from the house. For those of us whose property may not be that large, it is important we work with out neighbors to make sure we are able to create this last defensible space. In this area, maintenance again is key: this includes removing dead plant material and tall grasses. Reducing the amount of flammable materials helps to slow any fire approaching your home. Grasses should be mowed to a maximum height of 4”. Dead branches and plant litter should be removed. Any fire-prone plants should be removed or replaced with plants that are higher in moisture content and require less maintenance. Branches should be removed to create at least 10’ of vertical and horizontal clearance between trees and shrubs and reduce fire laddering.
There are several elements in the food gardening exhibit that demonstrates ways we can grow our food in the most sustainable way:
- We show a small edible flower and herb garden that creates diversity while drawing in pollinators and other beneficial insects, then showing support of them with an insect water feature and a mason Bee house, plus a birdhouse and feeder.
- We grow vertically to save space and water while providing shade and wind protection and have an espaliered Apple tree which is also appropriate for growing in small spaces and for using as a border.
- We have components in place to show drip irrigation,which is the most efficient, consistent way to keep vegetables and fruits growing while saving water.
- In two interplanted raised beds, we speak to: Right Plant, Right Place, Right Time by showing vegetables and fruits that grow well in Sonoma County, grouping plants with like water and exposure needs and showing that veggies have a specific season in which they can be grown (emphasizing seeds of cool weather vegetables that can be planted now). Container grown blueberries are accompanied by signage that encourages acid planting mix and planting two varieties to get the best crop.
- We have both a compost bin and a worm bin, plus different kinds of mulch which are applied for keeping in moisture and controlling soil temp plus keeping weeds at bay.
There are supporting documents, in both Spanish and English, displayed on a wall facing the exhibit, as well as educational signage within the exhibit for the public to learn from.
And for more information on both these topics, just visit our website! We hope to see you at the fair!