Spotting a Likely Site





Observing the condition of wild plants can reveal a good site to
garden without much irrigation. Where Himalaya or Evergreen
blackberries grow 2 feet tall and produce small, dull-tasting fruit,
there is not much available soil moisture. Where they grow 6 feet
tall and the berries are sweet and good sized, there is deep, open
soil. When the berry vines are 8 or more feet tall and the fruits
are especially huge, usually there is both deep, loose soil and a
higher than usual amount of fertility.
Other native vegetation can also reveal a lot about soil moisture
reserves. For years I wondered at the short leaders and sad
appearance of Douglas fir in the vicinity of Yelm, Washington. Were
they due to extreme soil infertility? Then I learned that conifer
trees respond more to summertime soil moisture than to fertility. I
obtained a soil survey of Thurston County and discovered that much
of that area was very sandy with gravelly subsoil. Eureka!
The Soil Conservation Service (SCS), a U.S. Government agency, has
probably put a soil auger into your very land or a plot close by.
Its tests have been correlated and mapped; the soils underlying the
maritime Northwest have been named and categorized by texture,
depth, and ability to provide available moisture. The maps are
precise and detailed enough to approximately locate a city or
suburban lot. In 1987, when I was in the market for a new homestead,
I first went to my county SCS office, mapped out locations where the
soil was suitable, and then went hunting. Most counties have their
own office.





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