Gardening in Under Utilized Spaces

Sonoma county Garden Spaces

Gardening in Under Utilized Spaces 

By Kellen Watson –

Imagine brilliant gardens sprouting from every sidewalk strip, every unused lot, and all those paved places that don’t actually get much traffic. All of these public spaces are ripe opportunities to grow beauty, food, habitat, and most importantly to fix our awful stormwater issues!

In the urban environment, streetscapes are our public land, our commons. They are abundant – one-third of a typical city’s footprint is pavement for motor vehicles. These streetscapes are usually designed as drains, rapidly ridding a community of such perceived “problems” as rainwater, stormwater, organic matter, fertility, and obstructions to traffic flow. This design often leads to ever-increasing costs for importation of water, flood control, pollution control, heat-island abatement, climate-change mitigation, and health problems.

But bit by bit, we can prevent these problems with thoughtful gardening in our public right of ways, which can have a surprisingly large effect on the overall watershed because of their proximity to the roads and impermeable surfaces that cause the worst stormwater issues. A simple shift in perception and design can enable us to see and utilize rainwater, stormwater, organic matter, fertility, and even some obstructions to traffic flow as free, local resources. These resources can be passively harvested to enhance local water supplies, control flooding, filter pollutants, grow cool-islands, mitigate the effects of climate change, and improve health – while generating more resources and more life. The key is to see and enhance the free abundance that we already have, in a way that transforms more of our built systems into living systems that can regenerate themselves and our communities.

On Tuesday, January 24th from 6:30pm-8:30pm Daily Acts will be hosting Brad Lancaster, and Brock Dolman in Petaluma for a dynamic talk titled ‘Regenerative Rights-of-Way: Planting and Stewarding Stormwater to Enliven Oases in our Built Environment’. In this informative presentation, Brad Lancaster, author of the seminal ‘Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond’, will share how to re-design our community commons & streetscapes to help us shift from major stormwater problems to regenerative rainwater solutions. Brock Dolman, Program Director of The Occidental Arts and Ecology Center, will help to bring this topic to a local scale, and will provide adaptive strategies for our dynamically changing planet. 

Brad Lancaster is a dynamic teacher, consultant, and designer of regenerative systems that sustainably enhance local resources and our global potential. He is the author of the award-winning, best-selling book series ‘Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond’; the website,; and its ‘Drops in a Bucket’ Blog. 

Brad has taught throughout North America as well as in the Middle East, Asia, Europe, and Australia. His hometown projects have included working with the City of Tucson and other municipalities to legalize, incentivize, and provide guidance on water-harvesting systems, demonstration sites, and policy. He has likewise collaborated with state agencies to promote practices that transform costly local “wastes” into free local resources. Brad’s aim is always to boost communities’ true health and wealth by using simple overlapping strategies to augment the region’s hydrology, ecosystems, and economies – living systems upon which we depend.

Talk attendance is $10 (but no one will be turned away for lack of funds). The location is to be determined but save your seat by registering online at, and we will keep you up to date with information. Hope to see you there! Let us gardeners save our watersheds.

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