Maine Soil Question

red_clay_soilJanuary 5, 2008

I imagine this forum isn't too active at this time of year, but if anyone is out there, I'd appreciate some information about the types of soil in different areas of Maine (especially the areas you think have the best soil for gardening). I lived in Northern New York until 3 years ago, then moved to North Carolina. We've had three summers of almost no rain, and it's so hot that anything that you do get to grow just gets cooked in the hot sun by the time July rolls around. I had the idea when I moved that gardening here would be so wonderful in comparison with the short growing season in NY, and am learning reality is different! So am considering a move north again when I retire (in about 5 years) and want to find an area where there is great soil to start looking over the next few summers. Any input would be appreciated!

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I'm linking to Maine soil survey information.

Here is a link that might be useful: Maine Soil Survey

    Bookmark   January 6, 2008 at 9:05AM
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veilchen(5b southern Maine)

Well I certainly couldn't figure anything out from that site! I got tired of searching, but is there any where to click on a map?

Red Clay, all I can add is my experience, which is that not all Maine soil is as lean, rocky, or acidic as is believed. I have fantastic soil in my yard, but I have heard from neighbors that many years ago this property was part of a potato farm. My ph runs 6.4. I need to acidify the soil for my blueberry bushes and to make my hydrangea bloom blue instead of pink.

We do get plenty of rainfall here. Not saying we haven't had some droughty summers, but overall plenty of rain. I am in York County and this is as far north as I would go. We have a bit of a warming affect from the ocean, which is about a mile away from me, so our growing season is a little longer than others this far north, and we are (usually) spared the bitter cold (way below 0) in the winter.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2008 at 9:19AM
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adirondackgardener(Western Maine)

The USDA site Robin linked to is pretty informative once you figure it out and you can get soil info pinpointed to very specific areas.

To get to a map to click on, scroll down the page and click on "Web Soil Survey." Read the instructions and then click on the green round WSS button.

You can then zoom in to get to your area or you can type in an address after clicking Navigate by Address." Once you've zoomed to your area, you have to determine your "AOI" (Area of Interest.) Click on the AOI button and draw a box around your area.

Next click on soil map and you have it. You can save the map and report in PDF format by clicking on the "Add to Shopping Cart" button then going to "Check out." Don't worry, they don't charge you for this (your tax dollars at work.)

[A tip: if you add a report to the shopping cart and later go to a different area, be sure to go back and click the "Clear AOI" button or you won't be able to get another soil map.]

Not sure if any of this is helpful to me, since the area I will be gardening in this coming year seems to be on some ancient fill. A shovel into the ground will probably tell me all I need to know. I moved into this place as the ground was freezing in December so there was no time to examine the soil. The website says that my yard has a lot of gravelly sandy loam. We'll see.


    Bookmark   January 6, 2008 at 12:02PM
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adirondackgardener(Western Maine)

By the way, Red Clay, I moved here last year from Northern NY too, (Lake Placid/Saranac Lake area.) The weather here in Oxford County is a bit milder than "back home" and I'm probably at least one-half hardiness zone warmer. I waited a year before signing the lease on this house so I missed a year of gardening but I'm itching to get back to working in the soil.


    Bookmark   January 6, 2008 at 12:10PM
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Thanks for that link, but I had already found it and couldn't understand how to use it. I agree, vielchen, that it's way too complicated, I would prefer a map that just shows the info in graphic representation.

I was from the Jefferson County area, just south of Watertown. The last winter I was there it never went over 5 below as a high in January, and the nights were -30. The rest of my family had moved away from the area, so I figured I would leave, too. Got tired of that lake effect snow, I had to snowblow 2-3 times a day just to get out of the driveway in the morning. Seemed like Saranac Lake was always the coldest spot in the country, and Watertown was 2nd.

Here in NC today it was around 68 degrees, it's so different that it's hard to imagine. Tried to dig some holes today to move some shrubs around, but the ground is so hard that you have to use a pick-axe, which takes forever since I'm not a very muscular person. By the time I got two holes dug, I was too tired to do anything else!

This past summer we had 1/2 inch of rain from July 4th to Labor Day, I had never experienced anything like that before and found it really hard to deal with watching everything shriveling up and dying. At least I have town water, not a well, or it could have been worse. We couldn't water except on certain days, but it didn't matter because the air was bone dry, like in Arizona or New Mexico and nothing could stay hydrated long enough.

Anywhere there are (or were) productive farms, the land is usually pretty good, so I'll concentrate on those areas. Couldn't afford anything near the rocky coast, anyways.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2008 at 7:25PM
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veilchen(5b southern Maine)

Thank you adirondack, I was finally able to figure it out.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2008 at 12:11PM
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