Soil Sponges to the Rescue for the Ponderosas!

As a group, the students in the Biology Ecology class actively participated in the growth and well-being of the Desert Oasis Garden located behind the science building. With the help of our teacher Mrs. Beamish, we students began the creation of a lovely, sustainable garden.  Mrs. Beamish carefully planned out the designing of the Desert Oasis Garden, and immediately put our class to work. There are many different components of this garden…each being extremely useful in its own special and unique way. For my final project, I was assigned to help create multiple soil sponges located around the garden with my good friend Will.

Soil Sponges with Will and Christian

Soil Sponges with Will and Christian

Mrs. Beamish first assigned us to research exactly what a soil sponge is and what it does. Will and I both read in depth a reading created by Mr. Brad Lancaster explaining the importance and use of soil sponges. We then read another document created by Mr. Chris Meuli. Both of these readings educated us before we began the process of digging the soil sponges. All in all, soil sponges are holes filled with “sponge-like” materials used to hold and channel water, as well as slowly release carbon into surrounding soil. These sponges will be very useful to the nearby ponderosas of the garden. For more interesting details on soil sponges, click this link:

Soon, we became in contact with none other than Christian Meuli himself!! On Easter Sunday, Will, Mrs. Beamish, Christian, a few other eager participants from around the state, and I arrived at the garden ready to work. After introducing ourselves to Christian and the others, Christian gave about a half an hour explanation of what we were to do, how to do it, and why it was important. We then began to work! We used, shovels, pitchforks, wheelbarrows and rakes to dig out the holes. By using an A-Frame, we were able to strategically place every hole we created. It is important the ground is level, due to the soil sponges. It is more effective for the soil sponges to properly transport the water if correctly leveled. Each hole was approximately 10 to 15 feet away from a tree.

A Frame

Using an A Frame to locate level ground for the holes

It was very hard work. The holes were dug approximately 5×2 feet each. The soil was composed of many rocks, and was overall very hard to dig through. Throughout New Mexican soil, there remains a very high percentage of calcium carbonate…making it extremely difficult to dig through. By pre-soaking the holes overnight, we discovered it was far easier to dig through. We were able to dig each hole 1 1/2 feet using this method.

Once the holes were dug, the “sponge-like” material was placed. Fortunately, our school newspaper had quite a few extra copies of their past papers. By using wheelbarrows, we filled the holes to about 4 inches from the top. We then soaked the paper with the hose for a solid 5 minutes, to begin the sponge process. Will and I then covered the paper with wood chips to the very top. We then soaked the chips and paper once more. Finally, Will and I jumped on the holes to pact it all together.

Adding old newspaper to the holes

Adding old newspaper to the holes


Filling the holes with woodchips after paper was used


The rare sight of two soil sponge professionals jumping on their beloved soil sponge

Together, Will and I (and the help of the CIA crew) created a total of five soil sponges throughout the desert oasis garden. We cannot wait to see the results among the ponderosas on the site!!!

All photo credits go to Mrs. Beamish


Anika Gorham



3 thoughts on “Soil Sponges to the Rescue for the Ponderosas!

  1. Anika – you have done a great job of describing the process of what you accomplished. However – one important detail that you left out – why did the ponderosas need the help of the soil sponges?

    • Hey Mrs. Beamish, thanks for responding. I tried to reply to this earlier but I guess it did not go through. I just double checked now and realized it was unsuccessful. Hopefully it works now. Anyways, to answer your question, the ponderosas needed the soil sponges because of their lack of water. Because of the intense downward slope, and poor soil quality, the ponderosas were unable to store any water coming from a heavy rainfall. The soil sponges were created to help store water and redistribute it through their roots to help them maintain healthy throughout the year.

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