The Garden at Winterhaven Devas, Nature Spirits, Fairies Oh My
Here at Winterhaven, we have very little topsoil. The first owner of our place hauled in a thin layer to start a lawn 30 years ago but under that is mostly sand and gravel. Beneath that (at varying depths depending on where you are on the property) you'll find a layer of hardpan that has all the properties of Portland Cement. It's incredibly hard but the good news is that water actually drains through it so we don't have any swampy areas.

When we dug our first holes to plant fruit trees we hit this stuff and literally had the pickaxes bounce off of it. We chipped holes in the ground to plant the trees and remarkably the trees have done okay. At one point we hired a backhoe to dig a hole for a cistern and when they hit the hard pan the back hoe jumped and had to be repositioned. Needless to say the job took them way longer than they'd expected.

We live in the Cascade Foothills which consist of glacial moraine. What that means is we're living on a pile of sand, rocks and gravel that the glaciers left behind when they retreated at the end of the last ice age. Around the bend from us is a very large sand and gravel quarry. We live at the corner of High Rock Road and Rimrock Road. Do you get the picture? What we've got is extremely well-drained sand and gravel with lots of rocks mixed in for good measure and almost no organic material, clay or silt.

I dig holes with a pickax. I have a policy that I don't buy any more plants than I can dig holes for in a day. That means I don't buy many shrubs or trees at any one time because that's a lot of pickax swinging.

I created my garden beds by double digging them. Each year I add 2 wheel barrows of compost and my own mix of organic fertilizer.

I've also created a number of burms for shrubs, perennials and herbs. For these I bought commercial top soil and then mixed in composted horse manure from a neighbor. Most horse manure tends to be very weedy but my neighbor mixes very little bedding material (saw dust etc) with the manure and has a great system for getting her manure piles really hot so her manure is great stuff. With the manure I haven't had to add much other fertilizer except lime.