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.



Spring Into Gardening Now

On March 4th, the Parks and Recreation Commission approved the SmartGarden design. We are very excited to break ground on the garden and look forward to a busy spring/summer filled with activity. Installation of the first two phases of the garden will start in early May.

Here are five great ways you can help us grow the SmartGarden!

Consider making a donation: Concerned about the drought? Want to help protect our creeks? Help us realize the full potential of this educational demonstration garden. The SmartGarden will teach people how to make small changes at their homes that collectively can have a huge impact on our environment. If you are interested in making a donation to the SmartGarden project, contact Kristen Clark at
Garden Shed construction: The program needs a handy person with experience in building a small shed to house all of the garden’s tools and other supplies. Many of the building materials will be provided by local sources if we supply a cut list. Now all we need is a community member to lend a hand!
Spread the word: The buzz is in the air about the SmartGarden and you can help keep it going by sharing news about the SmartGarden with your neighbors today. Let’s grow together! New classes on gardening tips are added to the Library calendar every month. Updates on the progress of the SmartGarden will be available frequently on this website.
School participation: (elementary – high school): There will be many exciting opportunities for kids in our community to get involved with each phase of the SmartGarden and beyond its completion. For more information on how your school can participate, contact Laurel Hilton at
Classes/workshops: We are looking for experienced instructors to lead classes on gardening; water conservation and management; and native plants. Contact Kristen Clark at for more details.

SeedSmart Seed Sharing Program: Its springtime, time to plant seeds for summer and fall blooms and harvest. Did you know you can borrow seeds from the Library, just as you borrow books? If you are ready to start your own garden now, you can browse the seeds available here. Visit our SeedSmart page to learn how to get involved.