This year’s Climate-Friendly Garden Tour

May 14, 2024

This year’s Climate-Friendly Garden Tour

May 14, 2024

Saturday, May 18, is the date for this year's Climate-Friendly Garden Tour, a partnership between Napa County Resource Conservation District, City of Napa Water Division, and the University of California Master Gardeners of Napa County.

The tour is from 10 am to 4 pm and includes 10 private home gardens plus the Napa County Master Gardeners' demonstration garden at Las Flores Community Center in Napa. At Las Flores, you can tour garden areas devoted to succulents, pollinator plants, California natives and low water/low maintenance plants.

The 10 private home gardens come in all shapes and sizes, and all are within the City of Napa.

Also included in the tour are workshops at several of the gardens. One workshop will address the effect of tilling on soil health and water absorption; another will focus on irrigation conversion. The one I would most like to see is the “Bury Your Undies” display at Las Flores Community Center, designed to show how to measure healthy soil life.  

Also at Las Flores, Master Gardeners will conduct a demonstration of the “Heat Island Effect,” using temperature guns on ground surfaces; a demonstration titled “Bread and Flour,” highlighting the effect of tilling on the soil's ability to absorb and retain water; and another on “Good Bugs, Bad Bugs.” There will also be a free compost giveaway at Las Flores.

What is a climate-friendly garden tour? To the organizers, it is an opportunity to showcase gardens, both residential and commercial, that are climate-smart and water-wise. That means you are likely to encounter gardens on the tour that incorporate drought-tolerant and native plants, or that exhibit good soil-health practices. You may see rain catchment systems, clever use of recycled materials or greywater, smart irrigation systems or model veggie gardens.

I haven't seen all the gardens on the tour, but I have seen the one in the Carneros District. It's my own. The only negative to having your garden featured on the tour is that you can't get around to see all the others. I'll be in my garden, welcoming visitors, all day.

I was probably one of the first gardeners to volunteer my garden for this year's tour. I'm not sure why I wanted to be on the tour as my garden is my personal and private “happy place,” to be enjoyed primarily by my wife, Jeanine, and me. All serious gardeners feel a sense of pride in what they have created, but we are rarely competitive. Instead, we enjoy learning from one another.

My home garden includes flowers and vegetables, of course, but also berries, olive and fruit trees and a vineyard that's currently being replanted. Our 13 goats aren't part of the garden, but they are great at weed control. If we aren't careful, they will nosh on anything within reach. We also have 13 chickens that do a great job of providing manure year-round.

To me, a garden is never complete. Mine is constantly evolving, usually due to my latest whim. A few years ago, I converted part of my vegetable garden to native plants. This year I converted part of my vegetable garden to raspberries and boysenberries. After constructing a fence to separate the goats from the garden and vineyard areas, I was left with a perfect area for four more fruit trees. Also new this year is a rainwater catchment system designed and constructed by Jeanine.

One of the tenets of climate-friendly gardening is using recycled materials. I started doing this years ago when I used scrap lumber left behind by the previous property owner to make raised beds. At a friend's garden, I noticed she planted flowers in many types of old containers. I realized I had a lot of old containers myself, so I followed suit. I began planting flowers in the old blue bins no longer used by Napa Recycling.

Most gardeners in Napa Valley irrigate their gardens, often with fancy gadgets such as timers. If this is smart irrigation, then what I do must be dumb irrigation. I prefer hand watering as it gives me a chance to monitor each plant at least once a week. Fortunately, hand watering requires just one hand, so in the evening, I can use the other for my wine glass.

Although I have not seen all the other gardens on the tour, I do know a little about them. Almost everyone has removed their lawn through the City's Cash for Grass program. Every garden on the tour includes California native plants. Attracting pollinators is an objective of almost every garden, and most of the gardeners have taken steps to lower water use. Two gardens feature apiaries, and one features a rain garden. Another gardener is an avid seed saver.

Tickets for the garden tour are $5 and will be available at the Las Flores Community Center beginning at 10 am on May 18. Don't miss this great opportunity to see what your Napa neighbors have done to make their gardens more climate conscious.

Workshop: Join the UC Master Gardener of Napa County for a workshop on “Worm or Backyard Composting” on Saturday, May 18, from 10 am to noon, at Napa Valley College, Upper Valley Campus, 1088 College Avenue, St. Helena. Learn about backyard composting, hot composting, cool composting, and worm composting—choose your own adventure. Attendees may purchase a discounted backyard compost bin for $20 or take a home a free worm compost toolkit, including the worms. Register here.

Garden Tour:  Enjoy a “Climate-Friendly Garden Tour” on Saturday, May 18, from 10 am to 4 pm, sponsored by Napa County Resource Conservation District. Tour 11 private and public Napa Valley gardens that showcase climate-friendly and water-wise landscapes. Mini workshops will be held at some sites throughout the day. Purchase a ticket to receive the tour map.

Library Talk: Join UC Master Gardeners and Napa County Library for “All About Lavender,” on Thursday, June 6, from 7 pm to 8 pm, via Zoom. Have you ever wondered what you can do with that gorgeous lavender growing in your backyard? Learn what lavender needs to thrive, and harvest ideas for how to incorporate it in your own homemade creations. Register to receive the Zoom link.

Help Desk: The Master Gardener Help Desk is available to answer your garden questions on Mondays and Fridays from 10 am until 1 pm at the University of California Cooperative Extension Office, 1710 Soscol Avenue, Suite 4, Napa. Or send your questions to Include your name, address, phone number and a brief description.