Monday, February 18, 2008

Where in the World is Our Little Acre?

With her Garden Bloggers Geography Project, Jodi at bloomingwriter has challenged those of us in the blogosphere to tell about our gardens. Now isn't that what we do nearly every time we make a blog post? Well, sure, but not quite. She's talking about the where and what of things. She's had a fabulous response to this, and we've had great fun learning about so many different locations and what the neighborhoods are like. It's like a great big travelogue experience!

Satellite image of Ohio from

Our Little Acre is in Paulding County, Ohio, which sits
entirely on what used to be the Great Black Swamp - the only county that can claim this. It was the last part of the state to be settled because of that swamp. This is home to some of the nation's most productive farmland, but before anyone could use it for that, it had to be cleared and drained.

While fertile, much of the soil here is heavy clay. That's fine for raising farm crops such as wheat, corn, soybeans, oats, etc., but annual and perennial flowers are another matter. As any gardener in this area will tell you, amending the soil is a must if these are expected to do well. Clay soil is heavy, compacts easily, and doesn't drain well.

The soil here at Our Little Acre varies greatly, depending on where you dig. There was a woods here until about 35 years ago when much of it was cleared for home construction. The floor of a woods has rich, dark, loamy soil due to natural decaying of organic material, so you'd think we'd have ideal conditions for gardening, right? Not quite.

Our house has a basement as well as an in-ground swimming pool. When the digging for each of these was done, the topsoil wasn't put aside and as the areas were backfilled, the clay that lies in the deeper layers was brought to the surface and spread around. That means trying to grow anything around the house or the pool needed to be heavily amended. When you get out about 20-30 feet from the house and pool, the soil changes dramatically and is that dark and loose woodland floor soil and oh how we wish it were all that way!

This part of the state is also the flattest - so flat that there is a square mile near here where there is not one degree of change in elevation, which is right around 723 feet above sea level. This is great for farming, to be sure, but it doesn't do anything to provide any structural interest for landscaping. Every garden has its challenges!

The climate here is classic four-season and is in USDA Zone 5b. According to Victory Seeds, the average last frost date in the spring is May 15th and the average first frost date in the fall is September 25th. The average lowest temperature is 14° (January) and the average highest temperature is 85° (July). Average annual precipitation is 37 inches.

I'm glad we do experience all four seasons, but winter sure gets long. I think my favorite time of year in the garden is June. That's when things look their best - still fresh and green and colorful.

We live out in the country, but no matter where we happened to live in this county, it would still be considered rural. Farming is the number one industry and there are no large cities here. The entire county has 20,293 inhabitants (2000 census), with a density of 49 people per square mile. The largest village is Paulding, the county seat, with a population of 3,595.

This rurality means that we don't have large garden centers, nor are there that many of the ones we do have.
I probably do more business with mail order nurseries than the average gardener because of this. I simply have to if I want anything beyond the old standbys. That's also why my mom and I get so excited when we take our gardening trips and visit the garden centers and nurseries in cities like Cleveland and Columbus.

While doing research for this post, I learned something that Kim (aka blackswampgirl) of A Study in Contrasts may find interesting. Judge Calvin L. Noble, who spent the latter half of his life living in Paulding County, was responsible for changing the name of Cleaveland to Cleveland. He was employed as a printer of the Cleveland Advertiser and the title was just a bit too long to fit at the top of the page, so he omitted the first 'a' in Cleaveland and it's been Cleveland ever since. He later purchased the newspaper which eventually became the Cleveland Plain Dealer

Previous blog posts I've made about our area are:

¹Country Studies
²Wikipedia and Encyclopedia of Cleveland History


Anonymous said...

That was extremely well written. As we have shared before, my clay soil drives me nuts too! In fact, on my blog today I posted about pottery made of that clay. I did enjoy learning so much about your area. I would love a swimming pool. Dh and I think we'll get one in about 5 years. Guess I better leave an ungardened spot for it :)

Frances, said...

Thanks for telling us about your home. I love this series of posts, so much learning in an interesting format. And now I know why some of our soil is great, woodlands at one time, and some is awful, subsoil from home construction!

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Very well done Kylee. Part of our county is still swamp. The farmers keep trying to do away with it but just can't seem to get it all drained. I love to go into the little postage stamp sized swamp area that is left and just be. No one is ever around and it has a different "feel" about it.

WiseAcre said...

We do have something in common. first that came to mind is living in a rural setting without any real garden centers. I was surprised your frost dates are the same as here. I would have thought you had 'better'. We're also close in population density. It's 42 per square mile here.

The flat landscape and clay give me the 'willies'. I could live with it since home and heart is where the garden and family are. But I assume rock/stone is rarer than garden centers and I couldn't take that.

Kylee Baumle said...

Anna ~ Thank you! We put our pool in in 1988 which is known as the year of the drought. Good for pool building, but not for much else. We had a couple of days where the temperature reached 106 degrees! The girls were on a swim team, so our pool always got used a lot. I'm a dipper, but Romie still swims laps on hot days when he gets home from work.
About the mom always says we should be making pottery instead of gardening! LOL

Frances ~ I agree - this has been a most fun exercise! We are learning so much about so many things, aren't we? I love learning!

Lisa ~ Much of our area is still swamp too and some of it is being preserved for wetlands. About ten minutes away is the Black Swamp Nature Center and as you said, it's very peaceful and has a really different feel about it. That reminds me! I did a post about that, too. I'm going to add it to this post.

Tom Arbour said...


The great black swamp was a national treasure that if were around today, I'm convinced would have been compared to great wetlands like the Everglades and Okefenokee. Thanks for detailing your part of the state for everyone!

Tom @ Ohio Nature

Robin's Nesting Place said...

Kylee, it was fun learning about where you garden! The lay of the land sounds very familiar to this part of Indiana.

Sweet Home and Garden Carolina said...

Great post, Kylee. We passed through Ohio on our way down to Florida.

I know what it's like to like the rural life and on red clay. Give me sand any day !

Thanks for sharing your hometown with us.

Nancy J. Bond said...

I am so looking forward to reading all of the "Where in the World Are You...?" posts! I'm looking forward to exploring your links. :)

Unknown said...

Great post, Kylee! I knew the story of how Cleveland had its name changed, but never knew that the gentleman responsible moved to your fair county later in life. :)

The openness... oh god how I love that openness back home! Sometimes when I drive there, I take an extra half hour to go down to Rt. 224, then straight west into my hometown. I love this particularly in the fall, when stands of woods, left for windbreak, break up blocks of amber- and grey- colored crops. I swear that I can feel my blood pressure lower, and I want to stop the car and get out and do cartwheels. *grin*

Naturegirl said...

This was very interesting learning about where you live! Clay my garden is full of it!! We take barrels full out before we put down our beds!!
Still under mountains of snow banks here and its snowing as I type...Spring seems so far away!! :(

Unknown said...

Oh, goody. I see Blogger is busy eating comments again, because I did leave a comment this morning when I saw you'd done this. Of course, it's a wonderful post, and a great addition to the others you've made about living where you do, Kylee. I'm especially delighted by how many bloggers are taking part in this little meme; and no tests at the end of it, either. Thanks for doing what you always do so well!

Unknown said...

Hi Kylee! Your garden is so peaceful and inviting looking. I had to stop and stare for a few minutes... Gorgeous!

Cindy Garber Iverson said...

I loved this post, Kylee. It was so well written and wonderfully informative. There was so much that I didn't know about your little neck of the woods.

We have clay soil issues too, so I hear ya about the difficulties of gardening. Amending just isn't an easy task, is it?

I thought of you today as I put in my new Disneyland rose, Our Lady of Guadalupe rose, and Ronald Reagan rose.

Cindy at Rosehaven Cottage

Kylee Baumle said...

Tom ~ You're probably right. Have you ever been to Goll Woods? What a place...

Robin ~ Yes, it's like much of the northern half of Indiana. I forgot to mention how the roads are laid out in one-mile squares. A lot of Indiana is like that, too, due to the Northwest Ordinance.

Carolyn Gail ~ The clay here isn't red. It's gray. I've heard about red clay though.

Nancy ~ Thanks for stopping by again!

Kim ~ Isn't it amazing how you grow up with things and you don't give them a single thought until you don't have them anymore?

NatureGirl ~ We too hauled a bunch of our clay crud away and then brought in good stuff. If we had any hope of things growing, we had to do that.

Jodi ~ Thanks, Jodi! This was a great idea and fun all the way around!

Matt & Jen ~ Thanks for stopping by! I hope you'll come back! :-)

Ki said...

Great geology and geographic info about your home. It seems a lot of Ohio is fairly flat? At least I 80 is fairly so. I guess east of Zanesville on I 70 gets a bit hilly but I went to school in Bowling Green and that was flat on up to Toledo. I guess the glaciers from the last ice age flattened most of the state.

Kylee Baumle said...

Cindy ~ It seems like amending is a never-ending job in some of the gardens here. It's like the clay keeps rising and eats up the good stuff!
You're going to have some more pretty roses this summer!

Ki ~ Yes, most of Ohio is pretty flat, but none flatter than the northwest corner. The southeast can be pretty hilly. Those glaciers definitely did a number by smashing us flat here! So you went to BG! Lots of people around here are former Falcons!

kate said...

This was an interesting post. Your landscape looks so much like mine ... just a few minutes drive and we are on the flat prairies, which were once covered by a glacial lake. Consequently, our soil is heavy clay as well ... very fertile for crops, but hard for growing perennials.

I was intrigued by how Cleveland got its current spelling.

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

Great post! Yes, us gardening geeks are fascinated by soil structure. Your soil sounds a lot like the soil where I grew up. So, I'm guessing that Astilbes & Chelones do well for you.

Aiyana said...

This is such an interesting post. When you're having your last average frost day on May 15, we've alreay had quite a few days with temps over 100! Our last aveage frost day was Feb. 15. I love reading about the contrasts in climate, soil, etc.

The Diva said...

That was such a wonderful post full of info. Your soil looks like chocolate cake with the clay resembling icing. I wanted to take a bite! Thanks for all the work you did to prepare the post.~~Dee

Nancy J. Bond said...

Great job, Kylee! I enjoyed learning about your little corner of the world. I lived most of my life in a very rural area (pop. 300!) and long to escape back to it. Your garden looks like a delightful spot.

Anonymous said...

Your clay soil looks a lot like mine where I haven't amended it: black and sticky. Austin is divided by the Balcones Fault: on the east is black clay, on the west is shallow soil over limestone. Neither is easy to garden on, but I'll take the clay any day.

Your open fields are lovely---just what I picture when I think of the Midwest. Thanks for sharing a little about your "neck of the woods."

Anonymous said...

Great post, sounds a lot like Indiana. Sorry about the clay soil, I hate when the topsoil ends up under the sub soil. I guess most construction guys aren't gardeners.

Unknown said...

One more place to visit..
Love your story and pictures.
Where do I live??
Please take a look,

Kerri said...

Your Ohio climate seems very similar to ours, especially when I see your weather posts. We seem to have the same weather. We woke up to a winter wonderland this morning too, and yes, it's gorgeous, even though we long for spring!
It was interesting learning a little about your part of the world Kylee. Your garden looks very inviting :)

Annie in Austin said...

What an interesting post, Kylee- your garden has always looked lovely, but I hadn't picked up on things like 20,000 people in the whole county!

Jodi's' project has been great for letting us walk a mile in each other's garden clogs, and now I know why Kim is still the Blackswamp Girl even though she lives near Cleaveland.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose
also mired in clay ;-]

blogger templates | Make Money Online