Sonoma Garden Park is an “oasis” of family fun near downtown

Rachel and Jason Powers were barely a half-hour into their first visit to Sonoma Garden Park, but they already knew they’d be returning to the peaceful 6.1-acre public agricultural garden east of Historic Sonoma Plaza.

“We love her. She’s so beautiful right away,” Rachel said as she cradled their 7-week-old baby, Desi.

“It’s incredible,” her husband said, following their 2-year-old son, Elliott, as he explored the park’s newest feature, a children’s play area. “I was in awe the whole time I was here.”

The Napa couple enjoy gardening, and Elliott “likes to help,” so a visit Saturday morning was the perfect outing, Rachel said.

The city-owned working farm is celebrating its 30th anniversary under the management of the Sonoma Environmental Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to environmental health in the Sonoma Valley. Steve Carrara manages the park, which is open daily from sunrise to sunset.

The property, which was deeded to the city in 1977 by local teacher Pauline Bond, has been transformed from a bare plot of land into a destination for home gardeners, people looking for an easy stroll through leafy surroundings or families like the Powers looking for a fun way to enjoy In the open air. While picking up tips on sustainable gardening.

As you move along the park’s winding, ADA-accessible paths, there is something to discover at every turn: butterfly, bird, flower and native bee gardens; Fig forest, oak forests and orchards. In the Children’s Garden, a hand-made sign welcomes young visitors, “Taste what we grow – two tastes for every child.”

In the expansive crop circle, garden staff and volunteers grow produce for the weekly harvest market, while a nearby community garden features rental plots for personal gardening. Raised beds, wine barrels and various planters in the community garden contain a wide range of produce, from artichokes to zucchini, with spinning pinwheels, figurines and metal garden art adding a festive feel.

There’s also a wellness tent where yoga classes are planned and a rock-lined maze dotted with plants like lavender and California poppies, where visitors can enjoy quiet moments of contemplation.

There are numerous picnic tables throughout the park, welcoming visitors to dine al fresco among the birds, butterflies and small creatures – such as squirrels or lizards – that may appear at any time. Visitors can often spot pollinators throughout the picturesque park.

Horticultural products for harvest market

Tucked away in a rural, tree-lined residential neighborhood, the park is a natural gem in a community that draws tourists to its nearby wineries, tasting rooms, shops, restaurants, and historic sites.

“There’s a lot going on in nature there,” said Ivana Nedelchev, the park’s bilingual volunteer coordinator.

She oversees a team of about 100 volunteers who help with everything from weeding and starting seeds to harvesting. “Volunteers participate in different stages of the growing process and can see the results at the harvest market,” she said.

The market is held on Saturday mornings from spring through fall in the park’s Straw Bale Barn, offering fresh vegetables, fruits, flowers and herbs, as well as local honey, olive oil, jams and more. Although not certified organic, the garden does use chemicals, Nedeltchev said.

The barn is located near a huge oak tree in the valley called the Grandmother Tree, which is said to be several centuries old. It is among the park’s many trees.

Eggs from free-range chickens are especially popular on the market. “The eggs are gorgeous, colorful and fresh,” Nedeltchev said. “Come early (before they sell out).”

Sonoma residents Laura and Mark Lucas live nearby and have been visiting the park for years. “It’s part of the dog walk (with the friendly Goldendoodle),” Laura said. “It’s a fun experience and everyone is so nice. We’re so lucky to have this here.”

The couple recently purchased Swiss chard, Bibb lettuce and a bouquet of colorful flowers. “Having this fresh produce in our backyard is amazing,” Laura said.

Weekly plant sales

The Harvest Market is one of the park’s many highlights. The weekly California Native Plant Sale offers selections like narrow-leaved milkweed, California coneflowers, and hummingbird sage—all grown on-site at the native plant nursery.

The UC Master Gardener Program of Sonoma County has been a garden partner for more than 15 years, helping in many ways. Volunteers set up an information table during the Harvest Market to offer tips and answer questions, as well as display the program’s sage display garden, which features an abundance of plants with low water needs.

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