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Our Community Gardens Project in cooperation with Huerta del Valle community garden and its members looks to increase awareness of watering needs in urban gardens and promote water conservation through community science. Through this project, we are expanding Operation Smart Water to incorporate urban gardeners in the Inland Empire. While Operation Smart Water is gauging the most efficient watering regimes for trees, the Community Gardens Project is helping local gardeners determine the watering needs for their fruits and vegetables.
What is Community Science?
Keeping with Earthwatch’s research style, this is a community science project. By engaging local community members to address their problems by making science useful and relevant to their needs, we are hoping to foster relevant and implementable research. Not only does community science make for exciting research, it engenders a positive attitude toward our shared environment. While many science projects use a top-down approach where the question and methods come from the researcher, this project will do the opposite. Our bottom-up approach will allow urban gardeners to develop their own research question as our science team assists with the methods and protocols necessary to answer the determined question. Our project partners for this exciting research are the Chino Basin Water Conservation District (CBWCD) and Huerta del Valle.
Project Location and Participants
The location for this innovative project is Huerta del Valle, an urban garden located in the heart of Ontario, California. Nestled close to Ontario airport and its warehouses and train tracks, Huerta del Valle this beautiful green garden provides opportunities for 60 community members to grow their own food, make new friends, and enjoy some time outside. Huerta del Valle also offers produce for sale though their urban farm production, youth activities, composting, and community garden plots.
Progress to Date
In February 2019, we kicked off the program with where we held a couple meet and greet events with Huerta community garden members. After a discussion on common gardening problems among community members, they identified the need for better management of water resources as an issue of common concern. A preliminary analysis had identified that the garden was using between two to three times as much water as was necessary to grow the amount of produce they were harvesting. The community wanted to figure out where water was being lost and how to reduce wastage.
Through the workshops, the community wanted to be engaged in a hands on project that explored alternative efficient irrigation practices that conserve water while improving plant health. The question the community came up with was “How can we decrease our overall water consumption in this shared gardening space while increasing plant health and harvest?” While we had originally looked to engage 10 community members in the project, due to the demand we increased participation to 25 members.
To address this question of improving water efficiency, we co-developed a three pronged program. Participants could choose to change their irrigation system from hand watering to one of three different irrigation systems (drip irrigation, micro-spray and clay pots (i.e. ollas)). Participants would be provided and trained to assess local soil moisture levels using a soil moisture probe. Finally, water use on each plot would be monitored by participants and by the project team to assess actual water use over the course of the program. To provide some deeper understanding on soil moisture, we also installed soil moisture sensors with WiFi capability to record real time data and regular workshops on results to date and plant watering needs.
- Support and engage with Huerta del Valle in the “raised bed” section of the urban garden and promote community science
- Identify how to best promote behavior change for urban gardeners regarding water conservation
- Urban gardeners gain skills and confidence to assess and allocate water efficiently to maintain productive gardens and teach fellow gardeners the skills they acquire
- Developing a replicable plan that can be used in other urban gardens