Moving Brings Surprises and Challenges

September 6, 2015 lawanda Newspaper Columns

After 24 years on a beautiful acre in the Town of Clayton in northern Winnebago County, my husband and I have moved. Just a half hour’s distance by car and only ten miles as the crow flies, everything is very different.

Our new home sits on a ¼ acre of land. It is waterfront, so the property is narrow and deep. For the first time in my life, my home is not oriented on the north/south, east/west axis. The Fox River doesn’t flow in a straight line, so the house is off-kilter to the sun. You wouldn’t think an experienced gardener would be confounded by a simple 45-degree turn, but I am. Add to that the fact that I can’t even guess where the sunlight will land in spring and early summer and I am totally unsure of which plants should go where.

A real shocker is that I am not familiar with the weeds that are thriving in my new yard. They aren’t ones I’ve encountered before.

My favorite hiking place in Clayton was the Wiouwash Trail and over the years, I identified just about every plant I came across. I felt confident in my plant identification knowledge, until I walked the first day on my new hike, Butte des Mort Conservation Club’s Terrel’s Island trail, and noticed three flowering plants that I had never seen before. Just a short geographic move and I don’t recognize the vegetation!

In Clayton, I had a large vegetable garden, a pond, an herb garden, and apples, pears, asparagus, grapes, gooseberries, currants, rhubarb, raspberries, strawberries and more. Now I have one pear tree that appears to be on its last legs.

The soil on our new property is dark in color, but very hard with deep cracks, even after rain. A check of the Winnebago County Soil Survey told me that my new garden will be attempting to grow in “Poy silty clay loam.” The surface area is hard muck, permeability is very slow, runoff is very slow, available water capacity is low, and tilth is poor. That doesn’t sound promising at all!

With limited space for gardening, I will be removing a heavy layer of river rock from the northeast side of the house and installing a garden there. The weight of the rock makes the soil underneath even more compacted than the Poy silty clay loam already is.

The solution to improving the soil’s many problems is a generous application of compost. Unfortunately, my compost bin didn’t make the move with us, but I did set up a new one within days of moving in. It will be quite some time, though, before this new compost is ready. Perhaps in-ground composting will help more quickly.

The gardening part of the move has been a real confidence shaker, but I am looking forward to the challenges of gardening in a new spot and sharing my experiences with you from a different point of view.

 

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