Green & Natural

Writers’ picks

With almost 30 years experience at Pietro Talini’s Nursery and Garden Center, Ivan Brida can answer almost any gardening query.

With almost 30 years experience at Pietro Talini’s Nursery and Garden Center, Ivan Brida can answer almost any gardening query.

Photo By anne stokes

Best rationale for eating dirt

Sera Young’s Craving Earth

Ever wonder why people eat nonfood items? Sera Young, a reproductive and infectious diseases researcher at UC Davis Medical Center, recently wrote Craving Earth in search of an answer to that question. The local medical scientist investigated the age-old habit to see if it was related to health, medicine, pregnancy, religion or mental illness. While Young’s results were basically inconclusive, her explorations were too fascinating to restrict to academia. So she turned it into a book for the masses. Craving Earth—about “pica,” a desire to eat nonfood items—was thus written in accessible prose. “People have been eating earth for a very long time,” says Young. Who knew? M.W

Best combination of green architecture and tasty pizza

Hot Italian

There are plenty of buildings in Sacramento certified by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, but Hot Italian is the only one with a LEED Silver Certification. The result of years of thoughtful construction work is evident in the details—from waterless urinals and energy efficient hand dryers in the men’s room to recycled materials in the dining rooms and kitchen. The restaurant also has a solar-powered water heater, a composting bin and copious bike racks. Plus, it utilizes local veggies on its delicious pizzas. Magnifico! 1627 16th Street, (916) 444-3000, J.M.

Best environmentally friendly landscaper

Cheryl Buckwalter

SN&R has published several stories about people who have killed their lawns to save water, but few know exactly how to do it—or do it well. That’s where Cheryl Buckwalter comes in. With her company Landscape Liaisons, she’ll help plan and consult with homeowners to create environmentally responsible and water-saving landscapes. Her specialty is finding practical drought and pest-resistant native plants that require less water and less maintenance. Not only do they save water (and therefore money), but her green landscapes look great and will help increase the value of homes in your neighborhood. (530) 887-9887, J.M.

Best brewers of compost tea

Soil Born Farms

As a fertilizer, the liquid elixir produced by steeping compost in water can transform your garden from arid desolation into a lush and verdant space. Soil Born Farms can show you how. Established in 2000 to bring fresh, organic produce to Sacramento urbanites, Soil Born has evolved into a full-on mecca for agrarian education. With hands-on workshops on seed saving, growing your own groceries, beekeeping and, yes, the art of brewing compost tea, the two-farm operation has become an invaluable resource for budding agronomists. Head to either the Hurley Way or American River farm and prepare to get your hands dirty. 3000 Hurley Way, (916) 363-9685; and 2140 Chase Drive in Rancho Cordova, (916) 486-9687; L.H.

Best hope for turning brown into green


Micromidas is a West Sacramento-based startup company that tests ways to turn wastewater sludge into biodegradable plastic using microbial biorefinery technology. Though the company has been refining its process for a few years now, it recently made headway in getting more funding and received kudos from national news outlets like CNET and the Wall Street Journal. If successful, the company will be green in two ways: It will convert raw sewage into something usable, and it will create plastic that biodegrades. 930 Riverside Parkway, Suite 10 in West Sacramento; (916) 231-9329; J.M.

Best source for organic fertilizers and pesticides

Pietro Talini’s Nursery & Garden Center

Organic plant foods often cost $10 for a single box geared toward a single purpose. Talini’s bulk bins offer 13 options of natural fertilizers from Down To Earth, more than half of which cost less than $1 per pound. The bat guano is described by its distributor as “the undisputed champion of organic fertilizers.” The crab meal can be used as a compost bioactivator or to increase beneficial soil microorganisms. And the neem seed meal can be mixed with soil to improve plant immunity or made into a tea to treat fungus and pest problems. Scoop it into a paper sack, weigh it, take it to the register, and pay less than $5 for enough nitrogen and phosphorus to feed your raised beds for an entire season. 5601 Folsom Boulevard, (916) 451-8150. S.S.

Randy Stannard, a food access coordinator at Soil Born Farms, can teach you to brew compost tea. Lesson one: Do not drink it.

Photo By william leung

Best quarter-mile walk among the giants

UC Davis Oak Discovery Trail

Many SN&R readers are aware of the bounty at the UC Davis Arboretum, but few have wandered its oak grove segment. Thanks to a recent $150,000 federal grant, the Oak Discovery Trail in the Shields Oak Grove has made the trees accessible for viewing in all their magnificence. The trail twists and turns through a quarter-mile grove of more than 300 wizened oaks—87 species in all—with information posted periodically on artful ceramic displays. Visitors on the trail will find a few surprises too, including some work from the UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program. Don’t miss the chance to take this stroll. M.W.

Best way to see humanity at its best (and worst)

Creek Week cleanups

When we showed up at the cleanup site off Northgate Boulevard, we expected to fill up numerous bags with random litter. What surprised us were the enormous piles of roofing tiles, clearly dumped by someone with the means to dispose of them properly; the television buried under a mound of dirt to create a bike jump; and the truck bumper that took several of us to wrest from the water. Trash, large and small, contaminates drinking water, clogs drainages (which can cause flooding), and degrades habitats. Creek Week, sponsored by the Sacramento Area Creeks Council each spring, is one local opportunity to do something about that., S.S.

Best way to reduce water use

Learn from the California Native Plant Society

California is home to thousands of species of native plants and planting them, rather than non-native species, can drastically reduce water consumption. Native plants grow easily because they’re adapted to local conditions, insects, soils, and fauna, and the California Native Plant Society is the best source of information about them. In addition to its guide books, plant sales and events, the Sacramento Valley chapter of the society maintains a 3.5-acre native plant demonstration garden in the Historic City Cemetery. Among the headstones and atop the burial plots grow silver-edged mums, manzanitas, California buckwheat, purple needlegrass, lilacs, sages and other flora, encouraging beneficial insects to visit and, well, generally livening up the place. S.S.