Sunday, March 10, 2013

  • Mission - SAGE’s mission is to educate the public on growing food, and provide the food that volunteers grow. It is a nonprofit organization, and takes up 1 acre right in the middle or Corvallis. All the food is donated to local food banks - and SAGE grows over 30 different crops!

The Team!  from left: Gabrielle, Jamie, Rebecca, Jessica, Zoe, Simon

  1. What is this project’s direct connection with soils?
  2. How does soil make this project work? (be specific- show research, graphs, etc)
  3. Is there a way that soil management changes could improve the project?
  4. What did you learn about soils that you did not know before?
  5. What is the broader impact of the project/organization?
  6. Soil description (map, series, etc.) 

Jamie Harvesting Kale
1. As an organic garden, it is very important for SAGE to take care of their soils.  A conventional grower might use fertilizers to provide nutrients to the plants that an organic farmer must rely on soil and cover crops to provide.  During our project, we added compost around garlic plants because their leaves were yellowing.  The nutrients in the compost contain nitrogen which should correct this problem.  Good aeration in the soil must also be maintained so that the plants grown have enough available water to grow.  We purposely walked on paths around the gardens in order to prevent compaction in the beds.  Placing cardboard with leaves on top invites worms and other microorganisms to work the soil as well.  Soil maintenance is absolutely necessary to maintain a sustainable farm like SAGE.

Jamie Working in the Children's Garden

My name is Jamie Christenson and I am a Sustainable Crop Production major in the Horticulture department, with a minor in soils.  My goal is to start up a small organic farm in the PNW after school, and this class has really informed me how important soil is to be successful in this venture.  I have recently added the minor in soils because I think that it is infinitely important in relation to the field I want to be in.  Working at the SAGE garden also taught me a lot about mulching and how to avoid compaction in the garden beds.  I will be volunteering there sometimes for sure!

2. Soil is the fundamental basis for everything that goes on in this garden, and this project. simply stated, without soil, this project wouldn’t exist! Out of the six functions of soil, the one that pertains most to this assignment was the fact that soil is the medium for plant growth. The soil holds and recycles all the nutrients and water needed for the plant to grow. It is also a temperature moderator, a water purification and supply, and most importantly, habitat! Our research showed that a slight change to the soil in either a physical or chemical property can drastically change the ability to support life and growth. For example, the compaction of soil greatly reduces the size of macropores and aeration potential within the soil. This further inhibits the plant from obtaining nutrients through the water. Also, our compost project proved that even a small amount of chemical change in the organic matter added to the pile can contaminate the entire pile. With all this said, soil is the base for life on this planet, providing a means of growing food and shelter. Without it, none of these processes or projects would be possible.

Hey I’m Jessica Yablonsky, and this class has been an amazing experience for me. I came into this class with the mentality of just having to take a course to fill my bacc core, but ended up enjoying every witty remark and learning experience in the lectures and labs. As a Civil Engineer, this class held some relevance to my major in regard to Engineering mediums, but there is so much more to soil than I would have ever expected. I haven’t had much experience with soil unless it was with our home garden. But I plan to put the knowledge I learned in this class to good use by someday building my own garden and using sustainable growing techniques to grow plants and produce from home.

Cardboard/Leaf Mulching
3. The soil management for the SAGE garden is well organized and will hopefully continue to grow. Since it is an organic farm there is a bigger rhizosphere which in this case is good because the microhabitat benefits the soil immensely. The kale, strawberries, asparagus. mustard greens and everything else that is grown in the Starker Arts Park are grown sustainably. The only chemicals used are organic fertilizer, and and organic pest control. These improve the soil quality because the harsh chemicals that many people use are not put on this soil. Many of the practices they use improve the soil quality, for example: during the winter they use cover crops that give the soil a break from the daily wear and tear, and the mulch that is used conserves soil moisture. One thing the SAGE garden needs to do to improve the soil management is to weed more. Much of the garden is covered in weeds; taking away some of the nutrients that would be going to the plants that eventually put nutrients back into the soil. Other than the weed problem the soil there seems to have all the goals for good soil management. (lots of macropores, stable aggregates and low bulk density.

Gabrielle Planted a Blueberry Bush

My name is Gabrielle Jensen and I come from a long line of farmers. My family has about 2500 acres just north of Corvallis. I have lived and breathed farming since I was about 2 weeks old; riding in the tractor with my dad. Going to the SAGE garden really opened my eyes because I never really experienced any kind of organic farming, gardening etc. It was interesting to see the substitutes for chemicals that I would normally put on my garden. I plan to take some of the things I learned about organic farming and modify them and apply them to my kind of farming. At the SAGE garden we got to try kale, and mustard greens. I was not at all fond of the kale but the mustard greens I really enjoyed. Before this course I never knew the importance of soil, and now I feel like I have learned so many useful things that are going to help me improve my farming style once I take over the farm

Cardboard Laid Down for the Backyard Garden Pathway
4. Our experience at SAGE was a hands-on look into how acquiring knowledge of the soil beneath us is practical and valuable. In class and lab we learned about the material and ran experiments to cement that knowledge. Going to SAGE was a practical look into a few management methods that we didn’t learn in class. Both days when we were at the garden, we prepared beds and even expanded the garden using the following method: We layed down a couple layers of cardboard, stripped of all tape and staples, and topped it off with a generous layer of leaves. What was interesting/new to us was the way this method of managing the soil worked. Ultimately, the cardboard was put down to suffocate the grass and weeds, while the leaves were used for that same reason. In addition, the leaves helped break down the cardboard and create an organic material layer for growth and biodiversity. The ability to manipulate any type of soil organically to a fertile ground is very important and we are all glad we got a glimpse into those practices.

Zoe Helping Design a Pathway in the Backyard Vegetable Trial Garden
Hi, I’m Zoe! I’m currently a junior here at OSU. This is my first year here while I spent the last year at UO. I’m from Eugene and an Oregonian born and raised. I’ve always had the outdoors in my heart, however in a recreation sense. Previous to this class, I really haven’t had any past knowledge or experience directly pertaining to the soil. I am in the Adventure Leadership Institute here at OSU and am training to be an outdoor guide. Therefore, the only experience I’ve had is using the soil as a recreation tool in the backcountry.  As I’ve heard great things about this class from my friends, I decided in a heartbeat to take it. What I’ve learned in this class has really changed how I view adventuring in the outdoors and the amount of impact I leave on the soil. Not to mention being a Natural Resources major, this class has woven in and out of my other classes and has helped cement concepts that otherwise I wouldn’t have gained perspective on. Ultimately, this class will help me be a better guide, a student, and hopefully one day a better grower of my own organic food.

5. This project had two greater impacts than simply gardening. The first was feeding the community All of the produce grown at SAGE is donated to local food banks and soup kitchens. Last year SAGE donated 3.5 tons of food.

The second greater impact of this project was the importance of taking care of the soil. Many of the activities we participated in involved mulching and amending the soil in the garden.

Rebecca and Gabrielle Transplanting Spinach

My name is Rebecca Thomas. I grew up on my family’s dairy farm, Thomas Jersey Dairy. My passion is agriculture, especially dairy cattle. I came to OSU to study Agricultural Business Management with a minor in Animal Science. I didn’t honestly think of taking a soil science class until I realized it fulfilled a science credit. I have been pleasantly surprised with the class and it has opened my eyes about the importance of managing our soils. I have grown up around conventional agriculture so working at SAGE was very interesting and taught me new methods of amending soil.

Simon Bringing Wood Chips for the Pathway
6. The soil in the SAGE garden is officially classified as the Willamette series. Fine-silty, mixed, superactive, mesic Pachic Ultic Argixerolls. In layman’s terms, it is a Mollisol that is quite dry and has a loose silty texture. Ultic means yellow or light brown subsoils; Pachic means it is near the West coast of the United States. The Willamette series is very deep and fertile, and the parent material is glacial till (as well as deposited soils brought in by the Missoula Floods). Standing in SAGE Garden, the soil appeared dark and high in organic matter. The soil was heavily mulched by leaves and cardboard; plants grow year round on a rotation. Surrounding the SAGE Garden was a grassy field and roads to a residential area. There was also a pond nearby and a gravel parking lot. South of the garden was a small riparian area running along South Park Squaw Creek. The soils along the river’s edge and creekbed were Waldo clay loam, with a different texture (much higher in clay). Surrounding SAGE Garden is the Amity silt-loam series, which is very similar to the Willamette series but has two distinctive clay horizons (argic and albic).
Simon Pitching Leaves for the Cardboard/Leaf Mulching

My name is Simon Fraher. I’m from Olympia, WA, and a bit of a background in soils or agriculture. I have a large organic garden at home, and I’ve worked on various farms in the area. I spent last summer working three jobs - at a winery, a shellfish farm, and on a sustainable sustenance farm that an old retired couple ran. It was a busy summer, but I learned a lot. Before this course I had no idea that soil was so important in food production - to me, it was just dirt. I wasn’t even aware there were different varieties! Working at SAGE Garden was a fun and enlightening experience - we got to taste a lot of late crops, and had some cool hands-on tasks that showed us decomposition in various stages. Best of all, we got to see proof that Cassidy’s soil slogan “Add Organic Matter” really does work wonders! I look forward to seeing SAGE Garden in the Spring, and I fully intend to volunteer there starting in April.

Soil at the SAGE Garden