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
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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Next: Using Humus to Increase Soil Moisture
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