Where do you garden? What zone?
The garden is in Madison WI.  When I first moved here, about 30 years ago, we were firmly in zone 4.  Now, due to climate change, we are basically in zone 5.  However, when we get a polar vortex, as we did in the winter of 2014-15, we revert back to zone 4 and lots of stuff has to be replanted. Nevertheless, things now grow here  in Wisconsin that I could only dream of growing when I first started--such as tea roses, which can now get through the winters with only a mulch cover.

How big is the garden?
This garden is 1.5 acres, which includes a lot of grass paths and some remaining bits of lawn.

What kind of soil do you have?  
We garden a moderately eroded St. Charles silt loam.  There are no rocks whatsoever, and the C layer is a bright yellow glacial sand, at least 4-6 feet down. It is quite a good soil, but we have found over the years that it grows better flowers if top-dressed with a high-organic matter-content layer (as is true of all soils, actually). In addition, we have had soil trucked in in vast quantities for various landscaping projects. The net result of all this messing about is that the original soil is not the only soil being gardened around here.

Are you the first to garden on this property?
I believe so, yes. The people we bought from were the original owners after subdivision, and they kept the back yard in lawn.  They evidently never sprayed or fussed much with the lawn.  Someone established sod, but not a very uniform sand: the backyard is full of daisies, violets and other wildflowers (and, it must be said, weeds such as creeping charlie, immortal dandelions and plantain are plentiful too!) Very few items have been found in the soil--no old boots or coins for example, which makes me think the timeline was:

  • 1860's--cleared for farming. 
  • until the 1940's--farmed
  • early 1950's--subdivided and original house built
  • 1950's-1980's--mowed as a scrappy lawn
  • 1980's--first garden installed

Other indications: The original owners never bothered with landscaping the (huge) back yard, and the old dead-furrow, formerly at the head of the field, lay as a giant ridge across the top part of the yard.

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