The natural beauty of the Tri-Valley has drawn visitors for centuries; the remarkable weather and fertile soil of the Tri-Valley gave birth to the world-famous Livermore Valley vineyards. Spring in the area is a wonder to behold. While people throughout the nation may be struggling with snow storms still, local residents can enjoy the dogwoods in bloom and other seasonal reminders of the Tri-Valley’s largely Mediterranean climate. That makes it a paradise for gardeners as well as those who simply enjoy a view of gorgeous gardens and lush landscapes.
Gardening offers a host of benefits. Considered moderate-intensity exercise, working outdoors can help gardeners lower their blood pressure, reduce stress, and strengthen their bones as sun exposure prompts their bodies to make Vitamin D. The activity can also improve mental health. Those who garden with others may improve their sense of community and have better self-esteem and general health compared to those who do not garden, according to a 2016 study published in Journal of Public Health.
Both new and established gardeners can find support from one of the many groups devoted to gardening. The Livermore-Amador Valley Garden Club (LAVGC), for example, is a non-profit educational service organization that serves Dublin, Livermore, Pleasanton, San Ramon, and Sunol. It is the largest gardening group in the region. LAVGC’s mission is to encourage interest in all phases of home gardening, promote better horticultural practices, promote civic beauty, and promote the conservation of natural resources.
Members garden for fun and purpose “while working together to share knowledge and promote environmental responsibility,” according to the organization, which includes special interest groups in the areas of Edible Gardening, Floral Design, Garden Tours, and Seed Sharing. Members take tours to see outstanding gardens, nurseries, and to attend horticultural events. Until members can meet in person, monthly meetings are held as videoconferences.
Tri-Valley Gardeners is a private Facebook group for passionate gardeners, both new and established, who are willing to share their experience and knowledge to help others. Member Selina Simpson, who lives in Livermore, has traveled broadly as part of a military family. “I've lived in several climates,” says the life-long gardener. “This Mediterranean climate is amazing. Even with a North-facing garden, I grow most of our vegetables.”
Zone 7 Water Agency, the agency that works with the cities of Livermore, Pleasanton, and the Dublin-San Ramon Services District, sponsors an amazing gardening website called Tri-Valley Waterwise. The website shows visitors any rebates available for irrigation controllers as well as for homeowners wanting to transform a water-thirsty lawn to a beautiful, low-water landscape. The website highlights climate-appropriate and drought-tolerant plants, trees, and grasses that thrive locally. Several gorgeous photo galleries showcase native plants in inspirational designs used for commercial and public spaces as well as home gardens.
Gardening opportunities are available throughout the Tri-Valley, even for those who have no space at home. To thrive, many public gardens depend on outside horticultural help. One example is the Sensory Garden, next to the Pleasanton Senior Center, which was created by volunteers from LAVGC. Plants in the Sensory Garden have been selected for their appeal to one or more of the five senses, including sound, to delight visitors.
For more than 10 years, the Eden Organic Garden in Livermore has provided fresh, organic food for those in need and given volunteers a hands-on opportunity to learn about growing food. A project of the Crosswinds Church, Eden Canyon donated a record 6,446 pounds of produce to food banks in 2020 thanks to more than 1,240 hours of work by volunteers.
Other local gardens that rely on volunteers include Granada Native Garden, Fertile GroundWorks, and Sunflower Hill Garden. Volunteer gardeners are especially welcome at the Granada Native Garden in Livermore. This demonstration garden for native California plants began as a desolate plot of land that has been transformed through hard work over many years into a vibrant and appealing landscape.
Fertile GroundWorks is a charitable and educational nonprofit in Livermore. The Garden of Grace, the group’s main teaching garden, is located on land provided for that use by Asbury United Methodist Church. Working with local community kitchens and food pantries, the group operates year-round to provide produce that helps feed the hungry in the Tri-Valley. In 2019, Fertile GroundWorks educated more than 1,900 volunteers about organic gardening. Fertile GroundWorks also provides education and support to local schools, corporations, and other community groups to help them create and sustainably operate their own gardens.
Located at Hagemann Ranch in Livermore, the Sunflower Hill Garden broke ground in 2015 with the mission to provide educational and vocational horticulture opportunities for adults with developmental disabilities. Each year the garden produces thousands of pounds of fresh, organic produce, which is planted and harvested by program participants. Over 70% of the produce is donated to local nonprofits. The remainder is donated to program participants and community volunteers as well as sold to the public at the group’s Harvest Stand.
Tri-Valley cities that offer community garden plots for rent include Pleasanton, Livermore, and San Ramon. Pleasanton’s community garden is located at Val Vista Community Park and is home to 40 patches. The Livermore Area Recreation and Park District offers 70 garden plots at Sycamore Grove Park. San Ramon’s Crow Canyon Gardens are located near San Catanio Creek on the south side of Crow Canyon Road. Each city has its own rules regarding rental of its gardening plots.
Many local gardeners look to the UC Master Gardener Program of Alameda County for a wealth of expertise. The program is also a source for vegetable plants. This year, the Incredible Edible Plant sale opens for online orders on March 28. Orders should be placed through the program’s online order site. Plants ordered will be available for low contact, fully masked pickup the second weekend in April at Alviso Adobe Park in Pleasanton.
Of course, not everyone wants to garden; going outside also contributes to good health. Simply looking at trees, for example, lowers blood pressure and reduces stress-related hormones, according to some research. That is good news for busy people who work or live at Hacienda, where it is easy to take a quick nature break among flowers, trees, and a pleasant environment.
For more information about the Livermore-Amador Valley Garden Club, please visit www.lavgc.org.
For more information about Tri-Valley Gardeners, please visit Facebook at www.facebook.com/groups/1745412719051551.
For more information about Tri-Valley Waterwise, please visit www.trivalleywaterwise.com.
For more information about the Eden Organic Garden, please visit www.crosswindschurch.org/garden.
For more information about Granada Native Garden, please visit www.granadanativegarden.org.
For more information about Fertile GroundWorks, please visit www.fertilegroundworks.org.
For more information about Sunflower Hill Garden, please visit www.sunflowerhill.org/programs/garden-program.
For more information about the UC Master Gardener Program of Alameda County, please visit www.acmg.ucanr.edu.