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!
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.¹
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.²
Previous blog posts I've made about our area are:
- The Great Black Swamp (some native woodland pictures here)
- Stopping By Woods On a Balmy Evening (a spring wildflower walk)
- A-Caching We Will Go! (geocaching at Black Swamp Nature Center)
- Home Is Where Your Mom Is (a sentimental look at where we live)
- You Can't Go Home Again (a visit to my hometown)
²Wikipedia and Encyclopedia of Cleveland History