Community Gardeners are getting ready for the summer season at First Street’s Avant Garden, which means the kale and chard are coming out and tomato starts have been planted. Maggie Kolk, who runs the garden along with her husband Jack, says, “The tomatoes are just beginning to blossom. We’ve got lots of fresh basil and peas, and the eggplants are coming up. We have a very prolific artichoke plant, and someone just planted cantaloupe.”


Maggie is excited about a gift from a former Sustainable Solano permaculture landscaper who moved away: a large tool trailer, which is parked on site and full of garden tools—tools that are also being used for the first Resilient Neighborhood design and build in Vallejo, made possible by a grant from PG&E.


Also on site at Avant Garden are 43 garden beds, an outdoor education area, a shed, a picnic area, and a “community share plot,” where volunteers grow food for donation. All soil, provided by Benicia’s Harmony Organics, is rich and organic, and gardeners must adhere to strict organic gardening and low water usage guidelines.


Avant Garden was the second addition to Benicia Community Gardens (after Swenson Garden, located at Military and East Second), founded as a nonprofit twenty years ago, a seed that has taken root across Solano County. Now called Sustainable Solano, the organization and its many members and volunteers keep 18 gardens throughout the county.


According to its website, “Sustainable Solano has grown to encompass a diverse group of initiatives that all work together toward nurturing the whole… Today, we are involved in programs that promote sustainable landscaping, building a local food movement, driving new conversations about the world we live in and bringing together neighbors to create a more resilient way of living.”


There are numerous ways to get involved, including joining Sustainable Solano for $85 annually and signing up to care for a garden plot, showing up for a community work day, attending one of Sustainable Solano’s many evening educational events at Avant Garden or other locations, or participating in a weekend permaculture installation, where volunteers learn by helping build permaculture infrastructure on an actual property.


Marilyn Bardet, a longtime environmental advocate and a “root” of Sustainable Solano, is particularly excited about a $440,000 reallocation of settlement funds to be used for a community and water caretaking program, that will include ways to encourage lawn removal, create water-wise gardens and use alternative landscaping, and to train young people in sustainability practices.


Maggie, who is a new board member at the organization, says, “I feel really lucky to have come on the board at this time because there are still lots of opportunities to expand the depth and breadth of what we do.” has instructions about how to join, a full rundown of initiatives and an events calendar. Or, stop by Avant Garden at 400 First Street and see what’s blooming.


Title Tag: = Benicia community garden, Sustainable Solano

Teaser Title: = Avant Garden Grows with Sustainable Solano

Summary: = Bountiful community garden educates with edibles