Sunnyvale Teaching and Demonstration Garden

Project summaries: First Year | Second Year | Third Year | Fourth Year

Our teaching and demonstration garden is located in the southeast corner of Sunnyvale’s Charles Street Community Garden at 433 Charles Street near Olive. Here we teach and demonstrate organic and sustainable methods of gardening in our garden of raised beds, in-ground beds and containers. The garden showcases perennial and annual food-producing plants as well as ornamental plantings selected for their beauty, ability to attract beneficial insects and low water use. The garden’s infrastructure demonstrates use of salvaged materials such as the broken patio concrete, other salvaged materials and timer controlled drip irrigation.

Master Gardeners built the demonstration garden in the spring of 2006 as the community garden was being built. Since then, we have been teaching monthly classes on gardening, covering organic growing methods, integrated pest control, water-wise irrigation methods and other sustainable gardening practices. Check this website for a listing of class topics and schedule.

Except for beds of blueberries and perennial garden vegetables, our growing beds are changed seasonally, growing edibles, ornamentals, cover crops and plants that attract beneficial insects as the season dictates. We grow to demonstrate space-saving, water-saving and low environmental impact methods such as low-till gardening.

Of special note are our landscaped garden beds of California native plants. Plants were selected for their beauty, their ability to attract beneficial insects to the garden and their suitability for home ornamental gardens. These beds require normal care but will require irrigation only once or twice a month, two years after planting.

Our on-going summer tomato irrigation trials seek to help us understand how much water is needed to grow healthy and good-tasting tomatoes in a home garden setting. The first year’s trial showed us that our “standard” tomato irrigation methods used much more water than the plants required to grow well and produce tomatoes. Further, we found that our best tasting tomatoes came from plants that were only irrigated weekly until they had set 1.5” tomato fruits and then grown with no additional irrigation. This method provided healthy tomato plants and smaller, more intense-tasting tomato fruits. These trials will continue over several more summers, as we refine the methods, observations and reproducibility of the trial’s findings.

The garden is open every Tuesday morning, our scheduled project workday, on the days of our in-garden classes and most weekend days. Visitors can learn more about what we’re growing by reading the interpretive signs located at each bed. Additional, in depth information about sustainable, organic growing techniques appears on our bulletin boards in the community garden’s kiosk.