SmartGarden Update


Construction on the first two phases of the SmartGarden is almost complete! Shortly after the May 2015 groundbreaking, installation of the two rain gardens and a dry creek located in front of the library was completed.  The rain gardens will help to slow water runoff and allow the water to infiltrate efficiently into the surrounding area.  Members of the public helped with part of the garden installation during the June 13 Rain Garden Workshop.  The nine volunteers filled the garden with a compost/sand mixture, laid down river cobble in the creek, and planted the area with drought tolerant native plants.  After the whole garden was planted (some plants donated by Green Jeans Garden Supply and CNL Native Plant Nursery), a drip irrigation system (donated by John Ossa on behalf of Rain Bird Corporation) and rain gutters were installed.

Within the next few weeks the 500-gallon rain tank will be delivered and connected to the rain gutters on the back of the building so we can begin collecting water for use in our upcoming garden projects. This coming September new signage will be installed in the garden. Various signs will provide information on the different design elements incorporated in the garden and assist visitors on self guided tours. The final phase of the SmartGarden installation will be to complete construction of an ADA compliant pathway, a bioswale to direct water through the garden, and expansion of the existing crescent-shaped rain garden area.

Over the course of the summer many great classes and workshops are available to help you become a better gardener! Summer classes include:

Sheet Mulching Workshop: Build Healthy Soil, Kill Weeds and Save Water | Saturday, July 18th, 10:00am

Learn the basics for sheet mulching: cardboard, compost and mulch. A technique designed for replacing lawns, covering up dirt or just a weed patch. It builds healthy soil, saves water and recycles resources.

GardenSmart: Water-Wise Gardening 2.0 | Saturday, July 25th, 11:00am

Come and learn how you can meet the challenges presented by new water restrictions and still keep your garden going. Claire Splan, author of California Fruit and Vegetable Gardening and California Month-by-Month Gardening, will discuss watering techniques, drought-tolerant plants and hydrozoning, lawn alternatives and more.

GardenSmart: Worms – The Hardest Working Pet You Will Ever Have | August 15th, 11:00am

Have a lot of food scraps? Live in an apartment? Worm composting is for you! This hands-on workshop will teach you the benefits and uses of worm compost. Class members will set up their own bin and learn about harvesting and best uses for this garden fertilizer.  Everyone will go home with a worm bin full of worms.  Registration is limited to 20 so sign up now!

Gardener’s Exchange | Saturdays at 10am

Do you have too many beans and not enough tomatoes? Bring your garden bounty to the Peter Dreyfus garden at the Library on Saturdays at 10am and exchange produce, seeds, seedlings and garden stories with your Mill Valley neighbors.

Check out some new books added to the collection this month highlighting various gardening methods that you can utilize to make the most of your own backyard.

Compost City: Practical Composting Know-how for Small Space Living by Rebecca Louie

Thinking about composting? Then this book is a must read! Louie makes the somewhat complicated subject of decomposing organic materials accessible for even amateur gardeners. Compost City provides detailed information on various methods of indoor and outdoor composting. From worm bins to tumblers, this book will help you choose the best composting system for your space and lifestyle.

Biodynamic Gardening: Grow healthy plants and amazing produce with the help of the moon and nature’s cycles by Monty Walden

While biodynamic gardening sounds complex, it is simply the process of creating healthy soil and plants by “reconnecting with seasonal cycles and natural rhythms.” This book clarifies the different techniques that make up biodynamic gardening and beautiful color photographs accompany the step-by-step instructions.

Hydroponics for the Home Grower by Howard M. Resh

There are many benefits to growing hydroponically, principally the ability to grow plants year round with a higher yield per unit area. With Hydroponics for the Home Grower you will learn about the numerous hydroponic systems, the nutritional demands of plants, selection and care of various crops, and much more. 

The Complete Guide to Companion Planting by Dale Mayer

The Complete Guide to Companion Planting is the perfect resource for a beginning companion planter. Companion planting will help you make the most of your garden space while improving the quality of your plants and soil. Mayer provides detailed information on which plants are considered companion plants, how to attract and repel insects, feeding your garden, and an extensive bibliography useful for additional research.

The Intelligent Gardener by Steve Solomon

If you already have a successful garden and are interested in fine-tuning your technique, this book is a good choice. The Intelligent Gardener explains the scientific process behind the re-mineralization of soil to help your garden reach it’s maximum potential and grow nutrient dense foods.

Groundbreaking a Big Success!

More than 75 people gathered last Friday, May Day, to celebrate the beginning of an exciting journey for our SmartGarden. Kristen Clark, Library Operations Manager and Project Lead for the Smart Garden, set the tone for the celebration, quoting from Cicero “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”

Notable officials such as Mayor Kenneth R. Wachtel, Supervisor Kate Sears, and City Manager Jim McCann mingled with library patrons and garden enthusiasts of all ages. In honor of May Day, and in keeping with a long-held tradition on this day, we hoisted a May Pole into the air delighting kids and grown ups alike as purple, white and pink ribbons fluttered gracefully through the air. What better way to capture the day than the wonderful photos shown below.

We broke ground on May 1st, construction began May 5th and we now offer SmartGarden classes of all kinds. Click here for new classes.

Breaking Ground on a Groundbreaking Idea

The celebration of spring, May Day, is the perfect occasion to break ground on the Mill Valley Public Library’s innovative SmartGarden. The groundbreaking ceremony will take place on Friday, May 1st, at 5pm in the small redwood grove adjacent to the Library (the entrance to the Amphitheater pathway). The event is free and open to the public.

Mayor Kenneth R. Wachtel will be present with shovel in hand to help break ground on this momentous occasion. There will be plenty of fun for everyone, including activities for kids with a May Day theme. Refreshments will be served including lemonade and cookies.

The SmartGarden is a demonstration garden that teaches the importance of native plants and the necessity of water management. The SmartGarden should inspire the local community to take advantage of the benefits of harvesting water and creating a sustainable native garden. Small changes in people’s backyards can collectively have a huge impact on the preservation of our local environment.

The initial response to the project has been overwhelmingly positive. Many people have already contributed their time and ideas to the project. Geoff Hall and Kamala Bennett of Sentient Landscape, along with local water expert Apryl Uncapher designed the SmartGarden using the principles of sustainable gardening.  Iris Landscaping from Novato was chosen to install the garden.  Installation will start the first week in May and be completed by the end of June.

The SmartGarden is the latest in a long list of sustainability-related efforts from the City of Mill Valley.

“The SmartGarden on the grounds of the Mill Valley Public Library exemplifies a true community partnership,” City Manager Jim McCann said.  “From promoting the importance of native plants, sustainability and water management to working with school groups and gardening enthusiasts of all ages, the SmartGarden is an opportunity for the entire community to participate.  We are enormously proud of the Mill Valley Public Library and the staff for their leadership and cutting edge work in creating the SmartGarden.”

The project is the vision of Kristen Clark, the Library’s Operation Manager, and is partially funded by a Pitch an Idea Grant from the California State Library Association. The grant, along with some private donations, is helping to fund the first two phases of the project. The Library is seeking additional contributions and in-kind donations to complete phases three and four, which would include more garden beds, showcase a wider array of native plants, and demonstrate additional features like flow forms.

For more information about the SmartGarden, including how to get involved with or contribute to the effort, contact Kristen Clark at  Residents are also encouraged to visit to subscribe to the SmartGarden blog as well as to see a full list of gardening-related events at the Library.

What’s Happening in the Garden This Week

With spring in full swing, there are so many great community-wide events to get your green thumb on. Here are a few to check out this coming week.

  • Come learn how to turn your food scraps and yard waste into “gardener’s gold” at the Library’s GardenSmart class “Compost Happens Compost 101.” This hands-on workshop on Saturday, April 11 will teach you to make, harvest and use this valuable soil amendment in your garden. The program will be held from 11:00 am to 12:30 pm in the Library’s Peter Dreyfus Garden. Click here for more details and to register.
  • The Marin Chapter of the California Native Plant Society celebrates California Native Plant Week April 11-19 by sponsoring a variety of events. A week of FREE gardening activities are planned including plant sales, workshops, hikes, tours, volunteer opportunities and more! Click here for more details on the day-by-day event offerings.
  • The Annual Marin Master Gardener Tomato Market and Information Exchange is on Saturday, April 18 between 9am-12 noon at the Bon Air Shopping Center in Greenbrae and Pini Hardware in Nave Center in Novato. The Market will feature prized heirloom and hybrid tomato plants selected for their exceptional taste, superior growth habits, disease resistance and their performance in Marin’s microclimates. The plants are all organically grown from seed by Marin Master Gardeners at the gorgeous Falkirk Greenhouse in San Rafael. This is the sole fundraising event produced by Marin Master Gardeners each year, so be sure to come out and support their programs, and bring home some versatile and succulent tomatoes to enjoy. For more information about the Marin Master Gardener Tomato Market and Information Exchange, click here.