In Faces… I presented some of my past photos of Petaluma community volunteers.

The next day I was able to document some of the Rebuilding Together Petaluma (RTP) volunteers at work in Petaluma’s Lucchesi and Glenbrook parks. Their work in the parks was to add mulch to the tree areas.  In addition, RTP volunteers were also hard at work at an East Side home building a new deck and landscaping the yard.

I selected some photos from the day in an attempt to give a sense of the effort at all three locations.

  • As a reminder, an individual collage or photo may be enlarged by clicking on it. Back clicking will take you back to this page. 
  • I also included a slide show at the end of the article. 

In this presentation I mixed photos from each work location in the collages.  Individual photos were selected simply because I liked them.  Hey, what the heck, it’s my blog…  

One with the mulch…

Jane Hamilton, RTP
Photo Slideshow…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.





Summertime in Petaluma…

…”and the living is easy…”*

“The corn is as high as an elephant’s eye”…*

And the Bermuda marches on…
More and more people are converting their residential yards to create gardens and low water landscapes.  Most likely, this is partially due to the efforts of IGrow Sonoma plus the willingness of homeowners to have a little fun with their land.
Unfortunately, local Bermuda Grass firmly resists sheet mulching efforts to kill it.  At times, I think Bermuda Grass is probably the one plant that will survive The Apocalypse. However, if a serious effort is made to dig it out before sheet mulching, then the sheet mulching effort stands a higher chance of succeeding. On this point, I have followed three different locations that used sheet mulching last winter to “transform” residential lawns into low water landscapes. 
If you do not attempt to have it removed, this is what you will get within a few months after the rainy season…
To reduce the risks of this happening, pay the extra money to have the Bermuda removed before sheet mulching. The one location that did so is still Bermuda free.
*Apologies to the Gershwins and Rogers & Hammerstein

St James…Community Garden May Report

By way of a brief update, I can report that the St. James Community Garden in Petaluma continues to “bear fruit”–or, to be more accurate–potatoes!

In addition, volunteers have started work on the two remaining sections of the garden.  (Photos Below)

To view a photo album documenting the work to date, go to Community Garden At St. James

First Potato Harvest

Ground Preparation For The Last Two Sections

City Hall–Gone to Seed? UPDATE!

In my earlier post on the new City Hall landscape (See City Hall–Gone to Seed?) I said: “It was not clear to me who was going to oversee the (ongoing) maintenance of the new landscape.  At the time I thought it might be a volunteer group, but I later learned that maintenance was to be the responsibility of the City of Petaluma.”

As an elaboration on this point, I received an e-mail from Jane Hamilton of Rebuilding Together Petaluma (RTP) which adds further detail. It is included here with Jane’s permission…

“Rebuilding Together Petaluma was to supply the volunteers and event management, Daily Acts was to supply the expertise, training and design input, and Petaluma Bounty was to provide expertise, design input and ongoing oversight and maintenance of the vegetable planter boxes and community garden portion,  while maintenance and completion of the grounds surrounding City Hall was to be the sole responsibility of the City of Petaluma, as is the maintenance of all of their properties. The non-profits involved did their part beautifully. Now that its spring, I am sure the City must have imminent plans to fulfill their part.”

With respect to the last sentence in Jane’s e-mail, I hope that is the case.

City Hall–Gone to Seed?

Last November, I wholeheartedly praised the community effort to convert the turf area around City Hall to a low water landscape. See New Landscape at City Hall–post mortem thoughts 

Without a doubt, it was a major capital improvement carried out by volunteer groups working closely with the City of Petaluma.

But I also cautioned:

…the euphoria and enthusiasm (which I share) generated by the event must be tempered with the realization that the work is not done.  We are starting our third year with a “transformed” sheet mulched (residential) landscape and have no regrets.  Nevertheless, it does require monitoring, weeding and some pruning. From time to time, plants die and have to be replaced.

Going forward, the new City Hall landscape will demand the same attention, albeit on a scale larger than a residential yard. While turf maintenance and turf water demands have been eliminated, there will be maintenance of a different kind requiring different knowledge– and yes, the new landscape will require some water.

It was not clear to me who was going to oversee the maintenance of the new landscape.  At the time I thought it might be a volunteer group, but I later learned that maintenance was to be the responsibility of the City of Petaluma.

To get to the point quickly–The project succeeded. The maintenance has not. In fact, to date, it has been nonexistent…

They may have eliminated the need and expense of lawn maintenance, but the new landscape, while it does not need lawn mowers and chemical sprayers, requires maintenance skill sets of a different kind. 

In short, it needs the regular supervision and maintenance by someone who knows how to care for a variety of plantings and who knows…

  • When to irrigate and in what amounts
  • When to prune
  • What to prune
  • When to harvest the vegetables
  • When to replenish the mulch layers
  • When to replace the dead plants

On March 17, 2010 I toured the new City Hall landscape with camera to document the current state of the landscape since its completion in October 2009. It was not a pretty sight. For a complete photo album, see City Hall Landscaping…A Neglected Project?

Normally I like to offer suggestions, but in this case I am not able to do so. I seriously doubt there are any funds in the City budget to secure this service.  That leaves volunteers as an alternative.  But I really think it is unfair, not to mention unrealistic, to expect volunteers with the required skills to take on the regular management of a landscape of this size.

In the meantime, the weeds continue to spread.

St. James Community Garden In March

Rainy weather notwithstanding, work continues at the new St. James Community Garden…

I happened to catch another harvest for the Petaluma Kitchen yesterday morning…

According to Lois Pearson: “We picked 11 bags of veggies…to deliver to the Petaluma Kitchen. We will be trying to implement a regular weekly harvest schedule as follows: Sundays 10 to 11 and Wednesdays 10:30 to 11:30. We will then deliver to the kitchen on Monday mornings and to St. Vincent de Paul on Wednesday afternoons. We will be looking into other groups that might need our help as the garden continues to grow.”

In addition to the garden workdays, there are two upcoming events this month in support of the new community garden.


Mary’s Pizza Shack Fundraiser

March 15, 2010 

Mary’s Pizza Shack in Petaluma is sponsoring a “Dine & Donate” fundraiser on Monday, March 15–20% of  all purchases on that date will be donated to the garden. 

To secure the donation, a flyer needs to presented at the time of the order. And, as luck would have it, I have a flyer available for download and printing!  Simply click on Mary’s Pizza Flyer St James 


Mosaic Tile Workshop

March 20th & 21st between 10 & 3 pm

Make a stepping stone for the Community Garden or take one home for your garden!

  • Fee: $15 for 1 stone or $25 for 2 stones
  • All materials and stepping stones included
  • Checks should be made payable to St. James Community Garden

E-mail  Lois Pearson at  for mailing information or if you have any questions.

The workshop will be conducted by Mari Philo, a credentialed art teacher. Some of the mosaic tile projects Mari has worked on include a project with children building a stone fountain for a school auction and a  mosaic wall at Bahia Vista school in San Rafael working with Bay Area professional mural artist, Josef Norris.

 Photo Courtesy of Mari Philo

That Pesky Bermuda Grass!

It has been an excellent rainy season for lawn conversions and sheet mulching. Susan Garbert (Petaluma’s Duchess of Mulch) recently alerted me to another residential project on the East Side she had just completed…

Sheet mulching is an effective and economical way to transform a turf landscape. I have written about this technique to a veritable fare thee well.  (See Journal Of A Lawn Junkie)

However, there is one situation where it is a somewhat problematic solution–lawns with a significant amount of Bermuda grass are not amenable to traditional sheet mulching. And so it was for the one remaining patch of turf in our back yard–the secret turf stash held back by this Lawn Junkie –half of which was Bermuda!

Nonetheless, there are some ways of dealing with the Bermuda problem and we took on the challenge last December.

The approach recommended by Susan was to remove as much of the Bermuda as possible before sheet mulching. 

In anticipation of the project, I made the traditional last cut…

Then, I placed the last remaining piece of lawn equipment in the driveway with the usual Petaluma Disposal Sign…

Within the hour, the neighborhood mail carrier claimed the lawn mower.

A few weeks later, Susan Garbert showed up with her crew to begin digging out the ubiquitous, persistent Bermuda grass… 

In short order, the ground was ready for cardboard and mulch… 

A few months later…February 2010 to be precise…a new landscape ready for Spring…

So far, there are no signs of any new Bermuda grass. However, we will keep an eye out for attempts by the Bermuda interloper to return.*

The next few months will be spent “planning & planting” the new landscape.

*NOTE: From time to time a question comes up about sheet mulching over sod lawns. Lawn sod has plastic netting in its base and a few people have asked me whether it has to be removed before sheet mulching. According to Susan Garbert: “You still just sheet mulch it. The plastic from the sod is there, and you have to tear through it when you plant. As the soil texture improves, it is not that much of an issue at all. Remember that all perennial plants are put in. It’s not like you need to have it clear for roto-tilling and planting rows of corn.”
For additional information on sheet mulching over Bermuda lawns…

Presidents’ Day–St. James Community Garden

DATELINE: St. James Catholic Church Community Garden, Petaluma, CA February 15, 2010

On this foggy morning, several volunteers showed up  to plant, perform maintenance, and conduct a first harvest of spinach and bok choy from the winter garden for the Petaluma Kitchen.

At present there is quite a variety of vegetables planted or planned for the garden–spinach, cabbage, turnips, peas, potatoes, lettuce, tomatoes, broccoli, herbs, etc. One side of the garden is already planted with fruit trees (apple, pear & apricot) and the plans include another row of  fruit trees on the opposite side.

A few photos from the day…

First Harvest…

Planting bulbs…

Veggies ready for the Petaluma Kitchen…


Additional photos are available on Petaluma 360 (Click Here)

Mary’s Pizza Shack supports the St. James Community Garden. See Mary’s Pizza Flyer St James

Work Continues on St. James Community Garden

Just a quick update…

Despite the rains, volunteers have managed to continue their work on the new community garden at St. James Catholic Church….

The full scope and scale of the project are starting to emerge…

A recent e-mail from Lois Pearson serves nicely as a progress report:

We finished planting the children’s garden and cleared the section going out of the parking lot. The main thing is to keep all the areas weeded right now.
We have plans for the 3rd section now and will be on the look out for free dirt to build up the area. It is retaining a lot of standing water in certain areas. If you know of a source please let me know.
Next Saturday (February 13) we will be sowing seeds for summer planting in our next section. It will be at the garden between 10 and 3. We will move under the over hang if it is raining. They will then be transported to Gatti Nursery to grow.

St. James Sprouts A Garden–Part II


The transformation of 3/4 of an acre at St. James Catholic Church to a food-producing community garden is no small task. Perhaps this photo collage will provide a sense of the physical size of the project…

Coordinating the logistics and schedules for the garden construction and planting is a full-time job. Fortunately, Lois Pearson  (I call her the “Dedicated Dynamo”) and the other members of the St. James Community Garden Committee have been more than up to the challenge.

Lois is also quick to point out that many people in the community have helped bring the project along…

We have had several people donate their services and or supplies for our start-up. Lucas Deniz tilled our field, J.P. Ospital put in our irrigation system, Michael Birmingham built our wood boxes, Carlo Farrina and Jim Gambodini are donating fieldstone, John Shribbs has been an advisory as well as donated many native plants, Pete Bonardi and John Brugaleta are doing our electrical. Rose Zamudio from Tuscan Gardens and Grayson James from Petaluma Bounty have also advised us. Mari Philo is in charge of the Planting Committee and has done a fantastic job.
Tyler Harwood is doing his Eagle Scout project by building us 5 redwood picnic tables and benches. I have a few Casa students doing their senior projects and the Helping Hands Group has also pitched in.

As an aside, I have observed volunteers at many community projects in Petaluma over the years. Without exception, they are always focused, hardworking people. This man, however, went above and beyond, showing up with a walking leg cast…


The St. James community garden will be somewhat different as there will be no private plots.  Instead, the primary purpose of the garden is to grow fresh vegetables for those in need in our community. 

According to Lois…

We will  harvest and give the produce to anyone in need in the Petaluma community– COTS, PEP, Food for Families, etc. We will also grow seasonal flowers to decorate our church altar. 


Many of the seedlings in the photo below were started by volunteers using heirloom seeds donated by the Petaluma Seed Bank. The Gatti Nursery provided space to grow them before planting in the garden….

For more information on the Petaluma Seed Bank see Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co and an article by Chris Sampson of  The Argus Courier.


As with any garden project, lots of mulch and compost are required.  Sonoma Compost stepped up to the plate and donated some of the materials.


Finally, the “buzz” in the air is that the garden will also include at least one bee hive courtesy of  Ettamarie Peterson of Peterson’s Farm 

(Additional photos are available at Community Garden At St. James)


Members of the general public are welcome to come and volunteer to work on the project. You do not have to be a member of the church to participate.

  • Additional workdays are scheduled for January 23 and January 24, (next Saturday & Sunday) from 10 a.m. to 3 pm.
  • For questions or information on upcoming workdays,  contact  Lois Pearson 763-8467, or Stacy Arancio 769-8657, 

Donations and volunteer time notwithstanding, there is an ongoing need for funds to keep the project going forward. Consequently, there will be a “Valentine Social”  fundraiser–appetizers, desserts, wine, music and dancing–on Feb 13th from 7 to 10pm in the St. James Parish Hall. 

  • Tickets are $30.00 per person or 2 for $50.00.  Ticket contacts are Lois Pearson @ 763-8467 and Adele Calkin @ 763-5792.
  • They will also be selling raffle tickets for a three night stay in Palm Desert.