Category Archives: News

Take control of your graywater

greywater concept sketch
You can now use the water from your washing machines, sinks and showers to water your landscape! This water is known as graywater.

When it comes to conserving water, sometimes the biggest impact you can make is in your yard! According to the Portland Water Bureau, 60% of our household water usage goes to watering our landscapes. With a graywater system(A graywater system is a system put in place to filter and reuse water from your washing machine, sink, shower or bathtub), you can use some of your indoor water again in your yard! This can cut your overall water usage by up to 40%1.

We are offering Using Graywater at Home workshops on June 9th and June 23rd – learn about saving water (and money) by using graywater to irrigate your garden or landscaping. In this workshop you’ll learn some graywater basics, as well as how to get a permit so you can get started.

Topics to be covered:

  • What is graywater and what can it be used for in your yard?
  • Estimating outdoor summer water usage
  • Estimating how much graywater is available from your home
  • Safety considerations
  • How to get a graywater permit

Edit: Links below are expired.
Register for our June 9th workshop Using Graywater at Home   Register for our June 23rd workshop Using Graywater at Home

Additional Resources:

1. Cohen 2009

Reviewing Oregon’s New Agriculture Census Data

The USDA recently released the preliminary results for the 2012 Census of Agriculture, a statistical overview of national and state agriculture. Oregon’s results in a nutshell: we have an aging farmer population with fewer individuals engaged in farming. Here are a few key takeaways, with further explanation below:

Oregon farmer trends infographic

  • There were eight percent fewer farmers in Oregon from 2007 to 2012, with six percent less males and 15% less female farmers.
  • The age of farmers under 44 years old decreased 22% between 2012 and 2007.
  • The number of operators who have been farming for nine years or less — how the USDA defines a “new farmer” — decreased by 25% from 2012 to 2007.
  • The age of farmers under 44 years old decreased 22% between 2012 and 2007.
  • The average age of Oregon’s farmers is now just a hair under 60 — over two years older than it was in 2007 and exactly two years older than the national average.

Read more

Testing your soil

pick on bare soil“When I was deciding where to put my vegetable garden, I picked the sunniest spot in the yard and started digging. I wanted to get a look at the soil. What I found was great soil for gardening, and some garbage left behind. Because some of the debris was painted, I became concerned about lead in my soil. Since I had planned to test the soil for pH, organic matter, phosphorous, and potassium, I decided to add lead to the list.”

Lead is a concern if your garden is near an older painted structure. Lead in residential building paint was common up until the mid-1970’s, when it began to be phased out. To learn more about lead in soil, we recommend reading OSU Extension’s “Evaluating and Reducing Lead Hazard in Gardens and Landscapes.” Besides information on testing, there are also great tips on amending your soil to reduce lead uptake by plants, as well as other options for dealing with lead. For example, adding organic matter to the soil (which is also good for your plants!) can “enhance the formation of organic compounds that bind lead, making it less available in the soil water.”

If you do plan to have your soil tested for lead, be sure to check out our Conservation Directory for a list of local soil testing laboratories in the Soil Testing section.

Some gardeners are also interested in testing soil for pesticides. This can be difficult unless you know what types of pesticides you are looking for, and even then it can be very expensive (as much as $200 per sample). The more information you can find out about what types of pesticides you know or suspect were applied, the easier it will be to test for them and interpret the results. Since any pesticides that stick around would be bound to the soil, we recommend washing your garden produce very thoroughly!

Farm Infrastructure and New Farmer Development

Greenhouse and frame for new bar at Headwaters Farm

It takes a lot to get a farm business off the ground. Growing skills need to be honed to specific microclimates, markets must be explored and established, and there are business and legal structures to develop, budgets to put together, and weed and pest management strategies to define, to name just a few essentials. However, much of this can’t happen without sufficient capital to make the initial investments in land, equipment, and farm infrastructure.

Our goal with the Headwaters Incubator Program is to identify individuals with farm experience, but who lack the capital necessary to launch their own farm business. To do this, the District makes available tools, equipment, and infrastructure essential to successfully producing in the Pacific Northwest. In fact, these items are so critical that the majority of staff time and budget for Headwaters Incubator Program’s inaugural season was committed to developing these basic assets, including a barn, greenhouse, irrigation system, wash station, and walk in cooler. Read more

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