A group of dedicated Richmond residents are working hard to beautify their community park called the Solano Playlot.

Located at the corner of 38th and Solano Avenue, the park has been successful in getting the support of the city for improvements.  Gardeners’ Guild got involved earlier this year when we volunteered to develop a plan for them.

I posted on Facebook in early April as we were in the early stages of developing a planting plan for them.  Now that we have a design I wanted to post a photo of it.

Gardeners’ Guild employee Samantha Edwards’ design is for fragrant and edible plants that include Pomegranate, Lavender, Yarrow and a Smoke Tree.

Smoke trees are beautiful, multi-stemmed and turn a smoky pink color from June through August.

If you want to know more about Solano Playlot, see their Facebook page.









New State of California legislation will affect a large number of building owners.

Assembly bills 1103 and 541 adopted by the California Energy Commission December 2012 will begin phasing in this July for nonresidential buildings.

It requires owners of nonresidential buildings to disclose energy consumption through the Energy Star Portfolio Manager  software as part of any sales, lease or financing of the property.

Important dates –

July 1, 2013: – delayed till September*

The first phase begins for buildings with a total gross floor area of more than 50,000 square feet.

January 2, 2014

Buildings with a total gross floor area between 10,000 square feet and 50,000 square feet.

July 1, 2014

Buildings with a total gross floor area between 5,000 square feet and 10,000 square feet.

What happens – building owner or operator inputs the energy information into the Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager system, which generates an energy efficiency rating for the building. Ratings are from 1 to 100, with 100 being the most energy efficient. If a building reaches a score of 75 or higher, owners can apply for an ENERGY STAR plaque. Any building applying for the ENERGY STAR label must have their data certified by a licensed professional engineer.

PG&E is going to provide training on the Energy Star system: there will be free morning and evening classes July 15 and again on Aug. 16 at its Pacific Energy Center in San Francisco on benchmarking of commercial buildings to comply with AB 1103 (pge.com/mybusiness/edusafety/training/pec/classes/index.jsp)

*I just read a post on another website that the above legislation is delayed till September because the technology required for the program needs to be upgraded.






Gardeners’ Guild’s January newsletter I wrote about the California Delta Project –  known as the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP).  Since it effects a large portion of the state and has to do with water I was curious about the why, how and how much.

About the project –

Governor is proposing that we build two state of the art 35-mile tunnels that would connect to the state’s water system and deliver water south to the Central Valley and Southern California.

Currently water is being pumped out of the delta through an aging system that state official say will not survive a major earthquake.  Also the pumping system has been partly responsible for the decline in Salmon and Delta Smelts.  As a result, pumping has gradually been reduced over the years.

BDCP’s plan also includes habitat restoration which  proponents say will not only improve the delta ecosystem, but strengthen the water supply.

Just last week, KQED radio had the most recent update on costs and status.

The initiative is so large and its components so lengthy that parts of it are being released incrementally.  The latest chapters were released last week.

The price tag has ballooned to $25.54, up a billion dollars from the original estimate.

Opposition seems to be either about the cost or environmental concerns.  In particular, some have groups believe that the project may remove too much of the water from the Delta – harming fish.  Others fear that it will economically impact small farmers.

Aquafornia has some links to provocative opinion pieces.



Below are photos of our sheet mulching project on Carlson Blvd, Richmond Annex!










Located between San Pablo Avenue/El Cerrito to the east, Carlson Boulevard is the main thoroughfare through what is referred to as the the annex, connecting downtown Richmond with downtown El Cerrito.

Some sheet mulching basics if you want to try yourself:

It is great for very weedy areas.  Sheet mulching helps soil hold moisture and does not require digging the soil.

Trim any plants close to the ground.  If your soil is heavily compacted, poke holes every foot or so to a depth of 6-12 inches.


Soak the area well with a garden hose.

Add a layer of grass clippings, manure or compost  just to about 1 inch.

Add sheet mulching – this can be a layer of newspaper or corrugated cardboard overlapping sheets by a minimum of 6 inches.  Layers ensure that weeds or grass will not grow through.










Next, add a 1 inch layer of green materials; straw, leaves, tiny branches and soak thoroughly.  Adding another layer of compost will ensure you are introducing enough beneficial bacteria, fungi and other microbes into the sheet mulch.  These beneficial bacteria are what will restore the health of your soil.










A note about the materials we used – corrugated cardboard.

Richmond Annex is a neighborhood in southeast Richmond. It is mostly residential and located between San Pablo Avenue/El Cerrito to the east. Carlson Boulevard is the main thoroughfare through the annex, connecting downtown Richmond with downtown El Cerrito.

This corridor is experiencing a rebirth and Gardeners’ Guild won the bid to install the landscape into brand new medians!

Our part of the project is a complete renovation that includes a new irrigation system and controller; soil preparation, planting, sheet mulching as well as decomposed granite on the medians.

A couple of weeks ago I took my camera and drove out to the site to see its progress.  We are still in the process of building the landscape and it’s very exciting to watch our people in action.  Because the medians are almost a mile long I was able to view the project in its various stages.

We are proud to be involved in this project which will make a difference for the residents who live along this thoroughfare.