Earth Month Celebration- Global Teach-ins
Smart Yards Co-op
Smart Yards is an ecological landscaping co-operative based in San Jose,
We design, install and manage gardens with a focus on non-toxic, reusable
and local materials, native and drought-tolerant plants, and rainwater and
Our goal is to create sustainable urban spaces that are regenerative and
cost-effective for residents in Santa Clara County and beyond.
We regularly collaborate with nonproﬁts and socially responsible
organizations to organize campaigns to promote environmental awareness.
Ecological gardening and Permaculture design
This Year, SYC celebrated the Earth Month with a series of hands-on workshops on Ecological
Landscaping and Permaculture Design.
Workshops are divided in three parts:
Workshop I, March 29
Introduction and details of the project
Education class on- Ecological Landscaping & Permaculture Design.
Workshop II, April 14 & 15
Angie Thomas’s Yard Conversion- Hands on
Workshop II, April 20, 21 & 22
Juan and Pam Gudiño’s Yard Conversion
Workshops are designed to provide hands-on ecological gardening education based on
During the series of workshops we learned and worked together on the following:
• How to design and practice permaculture principles step by step
• How to plant and care for California native gardens / plants
• CA native plants and water relationship, why they use little to no water ones established
• The various beneﬁts of having native plants with edible gardens
• How to install a drip irrigation system
• How to capture rainwater and install a rain
• How to design and install a gray water system
• How to install a weed barrier and prevent weed from taking over your garden
• How to plant plants to insure success
• How to install a pathway using recycled materials
• How to build and install a raised bed
• How to plant and care for fruit and vegetable plants
Our focus is to engage a group of low income and under represented area of East San Jose
and to invite them to work together in a step-by-step garden design, installation and
maintenance process s well as building a resilient community .
All families work together on the installation of each other’s garden until all gardens are
During the program we replaced 2050 sq. ft of water thirsty lawn into beautiful, sustainable
and habit supportive gardens. In order to do this, we engaged over 40 people, including
families, their neighbors, volunteers, community leaders, organizations, water resources
management agency and elected ofﬁcials.
We thank our sponsors:
Synod of the Paciﬁc for believing in us and the funding opportunity for this project.
Also thanks to our co- sponsors: The ofﬁce of Assembly Member-Ash Kalra, D-27,
Human Agenda, Sacred Heart Community Service, Stone Church and Santa Clara
Valley Water District.
We also thank our interns, volunteers and Smart Yards Team:
Angie, Doug, David, Jacqueline Rivera, Juan Gudino, Damian and his brother Eric
(both young kids), Lisa Landry, Lidia, Margarita, Salvador, John, Jesse, Pam, Rita,
Delma, Shay, Clarissa, Joel, Rebecca, Jorge, Ada, Kenneth, Gloria, Ashley, Jose,
Francisco, Horacio, Jacquline, Mamta, Mario, and Rob.
We hosted our ﬁrst educational workshop at Sacred Heart Community Service in San Jose on
March, 29. We started the event with a presentation by Elizabeth Sarmiento, Smart Yards Co-
op founder and member Mario Tapio.
Following are the topics covered:
California Biogiographical Landscape Design, Flora and Fauna
What is Permaculture Design principles and Eco-gardening
State of water resources (availability and conservation) in CA
Plant, water and soil relationship
Gray water, rain water capturing and ground water recharge
Energy and water nexus
Beneﬁts of a Co-operative
Using recycling materials and conservation
Working together and building community
IPM (Integrated Pest Management)
Workshop 1, March 29
starts with a ﬁlled
The class started with a organic meal
fresh from Elizabeth garden followed by
presentation from Elizabeth Sarmiento,
our founder and Mario Tapio, our long
Served was a sustainable and healthy meal that included mixed organic salad, Quinoa with
broccoli, organic blue corn chips, walnuts and a fresh lemonade to welcome spring.
Elizabeth brought a collection of native plants to as example of the type of California
beauty that would be planted in each garden and to showcase their beauty and beneﬁts.
I was born in Chile
and during my
childhood spent a lot
of time in nature. Now I
principles and working
with the community.
Mario introduced everyone with the
principles of permaculture philosophy and
the beneﬁts on environment and people.
He talked about the beneﬁts California’s
native plants on our garden and
Elizabeth discussed how
can we apply
and convert a yard into
an ecological garden.
She explained the steps involved in
converting a yard with a lawn into a CA native
garden. She also covered topics such as:
protecting and preparing the soil, choosing
native plants, creating home composts, using
rain and gray water systems, using recycled
materials, water conservation, habitat
building, people and healthy foods,
community building and working together.
We had an interactive session for question & answers. Everyone in the group shared their
stories and their own connection with nature as well as their interests in gardening.
They all became members of the gardening conversion project and agreed to volunteer in the
effort of the upcoming hands-on workshops.
I have a yard and it has a few plants. My grand kids love playing in it. I would love to grow
fruits, vegetables, and get rid of the grass to save water. I love the idea of ecological garden.
I have been thinking about landscaping for a while. This is a perfect time for me! ~ Angie
Nothing goes to waste in my home. I use organic waste in my garden and it helps my plants
a lot! Spending time with nature has helped me a lot in coping with depression. I am happy to
get help remove the lawn and plant native plants ~ Lisa
I’d like to learn how grow vegetables in my garden. I am interested in learning ways to save
water to protect environment ~ Juan
I want to know learn how to to do the type of work you do and perhaps I can get a job doing
Ecological gardening. ~ Lidia
for the formal hands-on
Smart Yards Team collects and reviews
application for the workshops. We invited
all the members of the group to participate
and the next steps. Requirement included
that each member have a front yard with a
lawn and are willing to work with the group
on the transformation.
We selected two gardens from the group to convert
Our next step was to do a site visit / assessment for each family interested
in a garden
To draw up the Landscape design plan and outline the work required
Draft a list of materials and tools needed
Number of people needed from the start to the end of the project
Food and beverages requirements for the workshops
470, Meadow Dale Ct. San Jose, 95136
Yard Area: 950 sq. ft.
On Saturday, April 13, 14 & 15
Elizabeth met with homeowner to plan
weekend work, ﬁnalized design and gather
materials. Elizabeth started by thanking
Angie for hosting and the volunteers for
their participation. She explained process
of converting the yard and factors such as
safety tips to consider before starting the
After a few hours working on the removal of the lawn, weeds and a host of
unwanted material and waste, we pruned existing trees and started preparing
the site for the new garden.
We removed the lawn
Setting up a
We set up a raised vegetable garden
with reused wood and other materials
in the center of the yard, which home
owner wanted as part of her project.
Raised garden beds are not just a
good way to grow vegetables but have
many beneﬁts. They keep pathway
weeds from garden soil, prevent soil
compaction, provide good drainage
and serve as a barrier to pests.
Elizabeth inspecting irrigation system and making sure that everything is in
place and in working condition.
Lay Out Cardboard (aka sheet mulching)
Cardboard is used in eco-gardening instead of plastic (used in conventional
landscaping) to prevent weeds. This also helps in retaining moisture in the soil.
Another beneﬁt of cardboard is that it adds organic matter to help build the soil
Mario and Juan ﬁxing a broken pipe from previous irrigation system
foundation before converting it into a drip irrigation system to reduce
water use. This broken pipe was one of the sources of big water bills
that the home owner was concern about. She was happy that we
found the problem and ﬁxed it.
Planting the ﬁrst plant.
Group is engaged in type of plants we’ll be planting, their beneﬁts and needs.
What to plant?
What to replace the lawn with is the most
asked question among people interested
in converting their lawns into a
sustainable garden. Smart Yards uses
local native plants in the mix to make sure
garden look green, healthy and beautiful
throughout the year. We also use edibles
such as fruit trees, herbs, and vegetables.
After applying cardboard, planting the plants and making sure every plant had a drip
irrigation system to get establish, we completed the project by applying a 3” layer of
wood chips. This also is a system that not only improves the appearance of the
landscape but provides many other beneﬁts such adding nutrients to the soil, reduces
erosion of topsoil and retains moisture.
The New Eco-Garden
New garden features are: a stone pathway, various
decorative boulders, a raised bed for some spring
veggies, a system of native plants verge or mounds,
and a few fruit trees.
Our ﬁrst Earth Month workshop was a success!
Thanks to: Angie Thomas, Doug, David, Jacqueline Rivera, Juan Gudino Damian, Lisa
Landry, Lidia, Margarita, Mario Tapia, Rob Yanagida and Salvador for your love and
Our next workshop was held at the Gudiño's resident. An 1,100 sq. ft of grass,
weeds, trash, and dead plants was transform into another beautiful
permaculture garden within three days and Elizabeth’s time working with home
owners and preparing for it during the week.
Pruning all the plants that are going to be part of new landscape.
Clearing the ground by removing excess weeds and lumps of grass from the soil.
Elizabeth and Mario took out the sprinklers and installed a brand new drip
irrigation system. They also prepared a greywater system to install a special
irrigation system and valves to divert Laundry Water to the new landscape.
We have cleaned the yard and installed the drip irrigation.
Our next step is to remove excess lumps of grass and weeds from the soil
before laying cardboard.
Let’s get started!!
The 3rd day, Saturday Earth Day, 10 more volunteers joined us today and
made this event more fun and special with music, positive energy, laughter
and the spirit of celebration while working hared. Two of the families kids
(Damian and Eric) also join the team.
Volunteers clearing the ground by removing excess grass lumps before
moving forward with next steps.
Elizabeth built a beautiful paver pathway joining the
driveway and front doorway
After planting the plants and installing the drip irrigation
system, the team laid the cardboard and ﬁnish by spreading
an even layer of 3 inches of wood chips delivered on site.
We also cleared the hillstrip and pruned all the plants going to be
part of new landscape
Assembly member D.27 (District 27, where the projects are held) Ash Kalra joined
us and planted the ﬁrst plant along with the help of the two younger members of the
team. 11 year-old, Damian shared with the group that planting the plants was the
most exciting and his favorite part of the project.
Like the previous workshop we discussed about choosing native plants and
how to care for them.
Our Earth Month workshop is a success!
Thanks to: Angie, Margarita, John, Jesse, Juan, Pam, Lisa, Rita, Delma, Shay, Clarissa,
Rob, Joel, Rebecca, Jorge, Jose, Francisco, Mario, Horacio, Jacquline, Mamta, Maria,
Damian, Eric, Chris and Doug.
Note: Not all involved during the course of 3-day workshop are on this group picture)
Again the credit goes to volunteers
who have this project successful. All
the participants came from different
gardening skill levels, but most with no
skills or experience in the area of
ecological gardening. However,
energy, a positive attitude and desire
to learn. For everyone it was a new
and exciting experience. A sense of
camaraderie, community building,
connection with the land and team
work made the hard physical work
enjoyable. Kudos to you all!
Wow. My new garden looks so beautiful. Can’t wait to see all the plants grown. Thanks Smart
Yards for this wonderful work. I really appreciate all the things I have learned in this workshop…..
I have no experience in gardening. Working with soil and tools is so fun. I love it.
Thanks for sharing this wonderful experience….
I am so happy to be a part of this.I have learned so much here. Not just that. I have made new
friends in these workshops. I am really looking forward to more of these. Next is my garden!…
Thanks For Watching!
Visit Us: www.smartyardscoop.com