Bucket Brigade Academy Advanced Volunteer Leadership Training in the Age of Climate Change
The Bucket Brigade Humanitarian Garden is designed to break down barriers to access by creating a space where anyone can enjoy the benefits of organic gardening in an easily-accessible location. The Humanitarian Garden is a place where garden volunteers can learn to grow using regenerative, organic farming practices while actively connecting with neighbors of all ages in an inclusive environment. All fresh produce grown and harvested will be donated to local food-aid organizations to reduce food insecurity.
The following information — developed with White Buffalo Land Trust for the Bucket Brigade— illustrates the specific needs and plans for the future of the Humanitarian Garden.
The local climate, soil, topography and water were considered in designing the Bucket Brigade Humanitarian Garden. Like much of Santa Barbara County, the site at Elings Park experiences a Mediterranean climate with warmer summers and colder winters. The proximity of this site to the Pacific Ocean allows the cool ocean breeze and marine fog to moderate its climate and temperatures.
Rainfall: Nearly all of the rainfall in this region is received during winter and early spring, with this site receiving an average of 14-16 inches of rain annually. Like elsewhere in California and the world, the impacts of a changing climate are already being felt in this region in the form of more frequent and prolonged droughts. While mean annual rainfall is expected to increase slightly in the coastal region of Santa Barbara County through the 21st century, so is the variability in rainfall That is, there is a higher likelihood of storms with higher rainfall totals, fewer total days with precipitation, and an increase in frequency and intensity of both droughts and flood events.
Therefore, while moderate temperatures create ideal conditions for cultivation year round, a high drought risk in the Santa Barbara area necessitates the need for crops and agricultural practices that are drought tolerant
Winds: The prevailing winds from the west will put constant pressure on any plantings on the western edge of the growing area, as well as the open area located along the southern road edge. Riparian tree plantings (such as Cottonwoods), hedgerow plantings, as well as the perennial orchards in the south-western end of the Community Resilience Garden will buffer the site from detrimental impacts of wind.
Soils: Bucket Brigade Humanitarian Garden consists of primarily two types of clay soils – Diablo Clay and Ayar Clay. Diablo Clay is the dominant soil layer and underlies all the food production zones in the garden. This soil was found to have good organic matter, but low microbial activity. These soils are classified as having a slow rate of infiltration when wet, which could result in large, erosive surface runoff after heavy rain events. Practices that feed and improve soil microbial activity will result in increased soil organic carbon, improved soil aggregation, improved infiltration and increased water retention. Such practices include compost, compost teas, mulch application and low tillage.
Ayar Clay is found along the southwestern boundary of the Bucket Brigade Humanitarian Garden. This region has high runoff potential due to its steep slopes, and can result in erosion and downstream sedimentation impacts. Planting deep rooted perennials upstream of this area and restoring vegetation along stream banks will improve water infiltration and reduce the amount of surface runoff.
Water: The Bucket Brigade Humanitarian Garden is located in a depositional zone, where sediments from the steep-sloped hillsides are deposited. Runoff from the hillsides drains to two hydrologic channels that connect at the northern boundary of the property and is then expressed as a steep sided arroyo that channels flow out through the south-western boundary. During an 1-inch rain event, the arroyo can receive 1 acre-feet (325,851 gallons) of runoff from a 13-acre watershed.
Given the steep slopes, and high runoff potential of the clay soils on this site (see Soils Section), an array of strategies will be used to maximize the potential of all water landing on site by creating a living sponge that can slow, spread, infiltrate, and retain water more efficiently. These strategies include:
- Increasing ground cover through a combination of mulch and vegetative cover to slow water
- Increase living and perennial roots in the ground to improve water infiltration
- Design access pathways to avoid channelizing water
- Not placing garden beds in areas where flowing water concentrates and erodes
- Water harvesting earthworks such as the orientation of plantings to match contours of the land
The current source of water for Elings Park, and for the Bucket Brigade Humanitarian Garden is City Water at a recreational rate. This water is channeled through a 2-inch source line, about 2400 linear feet from the water source to a riser that serves the garden. The reliance on City Water and a single water line can impact the resilience of this project from reduced water availability through drought or a disruption to the water line. It is recommended that in addition to drought tolerant plants, this project implements an irrigation design that reduces water use, in tandem with practices that aim to cover the soil surface and build soil fertility. This includes using drip lines around trees and in-ground plantings. We also recommend experimenting with innovative technologies that are context relevant, for example:
- Deep root irrigation in the orchard systems,
- Automated systems that respond to dry soils Blumat system in raised bed systems
- Subsurface irrigation systems in in-ground beds
The cropping and vegetation system at the Bucket Brigade Humanitarian Garden has been designed to serve as a replicable model for a diversity of contexts. This includes choosing climate appropriate crops and practices, a mix of annual and perennial crops, raised bed production complimented by in-ground plantings and multi-strata agroforestry and soil building crop systems.