Gardening Articles

Evaluating Potential Rooting Ability

One of the most instructive things a water-wise gardener can do is to rent or borrow a hand-operated fence post auger and bore a 3-foot-deep hole. It can be even more educational to buy a short section of ordinary water pipe to extend

the auger's reach another 2 or 3 feet down. In soil free of stones, using an auger is more instructive than using a conventional posthole digger or shoveling out a small pit, because where soil is loose, the hole deepens rapidly. Where any layer is even slightly compacted, one turns and turns the bit without much effect. Augers also lift the materials more or less as they are stratified. If your soil is somewhat stony (like much upland soil north of Centralia left by the Vashon Glacier), the more usual fence-post digger or common shovel works better. If you find more than 4 feet of soil, the site holds a dry-gardening potential that increases with the additional depth. Some soils along the floodplains of rivers or in broad valleys like the Willamette or Skagit can be over 20 feet deep, and hold far more water than the deepest roots could draw or capillary flow could raise during an entire growing season. Gently sloping land can often carry 5 to 7 feet of open, usable soil. However, soils on steep hillsides become increasingly thin and fragile with increasing slope. Whether an urban, suburban, or rural gardener, you should make no assumptions about the depth and openness of the soil at your disposal. Dig a test hole. If you find less than 2 unfortunate feet of open earth before hitting an impermeable obstacle such as rock or gravel, not much water storage can occur and the only use this book will hold for you is to guide your move to a more likely gardening location or encourage the house hunter to seek further. Of course, you can still garden quite successfully on thin soil in the conventional, irrigated manner. _Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades_ will be an excellent guide for this type of situation.

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Next: Eliminating Plowpan

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