In many ways, Yerba Buena High School in East San José is like any other school: a public, four-year high school with a big, sprawling campus and plenty of green lawn. This fall, something wonderful and unusual is happening on the campus: a quarter-acre of that lawn adjacent to a parking lot is being transformed into a sustainable living teaching center, complete with chickens, aquaponics, food scrap composting, wind turbines, solar panels and more. A grant from the California Department of Water Resources and funding from the Santa Clara Valley Water District is helping with the low-water use ornamental/habitat landscaping.

This is Project TERRA, which stands for Teaching Environmentally Responsible and Respectful Attitudes and teaches students ecological sustainability, environmental awareness, and responsible agricultural practices. Students will use this space to create an outdoor classroom that will inspire as well as give first-hand knowledge of food production and the principles of sustainable farming and landscaping. Just how special is this project? Here are a few features:

Students have been involved every step of the way, from helping to design the landscape and features to helping to build the structures to collecting the eggs from the chickens (and selling them to the teachers and staff on campus for – you guessed it – chicken feed).

“I’ve never worked with a more motivated and hard-working group of students and teachers,” said Sherry Bryan, project manager from Ecology Action, the non-profit that led the area’s transformation including the landscape conversion and irrigation system installation.

Collaborative effort with the community. Project TERRA is a collaborative effort between students, clubs, classes and a wide variety of community stakeholders, including the Santa Clara Valley Water District, the California Department of Water Resources, Ecology Action, Orchard Supply Hardware, Our City Forest and others.


Sustainability: What was once a heavily-watered, difficult to maintain turf area is now a shining example of sustainability, reducing the use of potable water by approximately 70 percent by planting low-water using plants, mostly California native species, and permeable hardscape, such as the decomposed granite pathways through the site. The fruit trees lining the front area of the project? Those were donated by Our City Forest, and they are irrigated with recycled water.

The school is planning to be certified as a habitat garden through the National Wildlife Federation by including water and food sources for birds, butterflies, and native bees.

Additionally, composting will convert yard waste from the campus and the pre-consumer food scraps from the school district’s kitchens into usable compost for the organic gardens.

Charm: there’s just no other way to put it. This is an enchanting area. On a lovely fall day recently, the chickens quietly clucked in their chicken run while butterflies and bees visited the newly-planted flowering native plants. This area combines the best of our community coming together to create a very special area that students will be able to enjoy and learn from for many years to come.

PlantRight - your guide to garden friends and foes

Have you been dreaming about what to plant this coming spring?  If so, have we got a resource for you!  

Our friends at PlantRight have a wonderful website full of information about plants - what to plant and what NOT to plant!  They have some amazing lists, which you can check out here:  

PlantRight is a project of Sustainable Conservation, a California-based environmental nonprofit. Sustainable Conservation helps our Golden State thrive by uniting people to solve the toughest challenges facing our land, air, and water.

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Bringing Back the Natives Garden Tour’s Fall Native Plant Extravaganza!

Save that date!  Saturday, October 28, from 10:00-4:00 is the Bringing Back the Natives Garden Tour’s Fall Native Plant Extravaganza!  Purchase native plants from select nurseries, and a percentage of the sales will go to support the Tour.

This full-day shopping opportunity will offer native plant fans a good selection of native plants at the best time of year to plant them. The Extravaganza provides the opportunity to purchase unique or hard-to-find native plants that are not normally available in most nurseries. Knowledgeable staff will be on hand to help shoppers select the best plants for their gardens.

To find out about participating nurseries, click here.


2018 Master Composter Training

The Master Composter Training program is a multi-week intensive training for community members interested in gaining an advanced level of knowledge and experience with composting. Upon graduating from the program, Master Composters will be required to serve the greater Santa Clara community by providing educational opportunities, site based demonstrations, technical assistance and event tabling. In exchange for 50 hrs of advanced training, Master Composter will be required to volunteer 50 hrs in the first year.

If you have questions about the program please call:  408-918-4641


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Landscape for Fire Prevention

Fall weather - hot, dry and often windy - plus post-drought conditions often equals prime conditions for fire.  This is a good time to think about how you can create a landscape that reduces the risk of fire at your property.  

Our friends at the University of California have put together a wonderful page full of information to make your home safer from fire - just click here.


Maintaining Native Gardens and Leak Detection Class in Palo Alto - FREE!

Interested in learning how to maintain your native garden?  How about learning about how to detect leaks in your irrigation system - and how to fix the problem.  This workshop is for you!

Instructor Sherri Osaka will teach you abouthow maintenance of water-conserving landscapes differs from that of traditional landscapes. Lecture topics will include the care and maintenance of native and drought-tolerant plants, soil, and irrigation devices. The lecture will also include a brief discussion on detecting irrigation system issues such as possible leaks and clogs as well as how to clear simple clogs and fix easy leaks.

Sat Sep 30, 9:00 am - 12:00 pm - Open to the Public
Registration Closes Sat Sep 30, 8:45 am - Sign up today!!

Rinconada Library [Embarcadero Room] 1213 Newell Road Palo Alto, CA 94303

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Lawn Removal and Native Garden Installation Seminar on Saturday, October 7th

In this half-day seminar, receive practical advice from an experienced landscaper, and view step-by-step pictures on simple ways to change your lawn into a lovely and low maintenance native garden. Learn a few important design principles, see before and after pictures, and receive a select list of go-to native plants for sun or shade. Sheet mulching will be demonstrated, along with instruction on improving soil and plant health. A power-packedpresentation!

Horticulturist Deva Luna has been removing lawns for a decade, working for the Sustainable Landscape and Design firm, EarthCare Landscaping. She is a Bay-Friendly Certified Design Professional as well as a Greywater Installer and lives on the East Side with a huge garden and 75 chickens!

Plus: Book Sale • Refreshments • Freeparking

Saturday, October 7th, 8:30am-12:30pm

Evergreen Valley College, Sequoia Lecture Hall 3095 Yerba Buena Road, San Jose