I thoroughly enjoyed reading Kylee’s post “Where in the World is Our Little Acre?”. The idea of sharing about where we garden inspired me to share just where we garden here at Our Life in Idaho. Although Kylee felt secure enough to only show a map of her state of Ohio I figured I'd better start out with a bigger picture:
Idaho, yes, Idaho. "You may not have heard of it but it really does exist."
Idaho's highest point is Borah Peak, 12,662 ft (3,859 m), in the Lost River Range north of Mackay. Idaho's lowest point, 745 ft (227 m), is in Lewiston. Our state produces nearly one third of the potatoes grown in the U.S.
The Oregon Trail passed through the southern part of what is now Idaho. The Idaho portion of the Oregon Trail crossed deserts, mountains, and dangerous river crossings. There were cutoffs, alternate routes and connecting trails. The trails were not like modern roads that follow one line. If a valley was ten miles wide, so was the trail. If a canyon or ford was narrow, so was the trail.
Chief Joseph is often connected with Idaho and was a great Nez Perce Indian chief.
You also may have heard of Sacajawea.
A little known fact about Idaho; Emma Edwards Green designed the Great Seal for the State of Idaho. The only woman ever to achieve such distinction in the United States, she won in competition sponsored by the First Legislature for the State of Idaho. She was handed the honorarium by Governor Norman B. Willey on March 5, 1891.
Kim and I garden specifically in Ada county;
Ada county was named for Ada Riggs, the first white child born in the area and the daughter of H. C. Riggs, one of the founders of Boise and a member of the Idaho Territorial Legislature. Boise became the capital of Idaho in 1865.
The county is composed of about 1,060 square miles with a population density of about 285 people per square mile. The current population of Ada county is aprroximately 404,000.
We garden in the eastern portion of Ada county. Although considered a part of the city of Boise we are actually miles from the town center. Previously our subdivision resembled this;
Sagebrush. And more sagebrush. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Sagebrush is a great plant and provides food and shelter for many a wild animal. Including some of these guys. So, yeah, you do have to watch where you're walking.
The point being that we're attempting to garden in a desert. Yes, the Boise River is nearby and the Snake River not too far away, but there is no denying the fact that we live in a desert.
As visual relief to the desert, the Boise Foothills provide a nice backdrop for the city and lead to the Bogus Basin Ski area, along with providing access to camping, hiking, fishing and hunting. (a little touristy FYI for you.)
Our climate is characterized as semi-arid with four distinct seasons. Boise experiences hot and dry summers where temperatures can often reach triple digits, as well as cold winters with fair amounts of snowfall. Rainfall is usually infrequent and light, averaging less than 2 inches (51 mm) per month. March is the wettest month with an average of 1.41 inches (36 mm). August is the driest month with 0.30 inches (7.6 mm) of rain.
Average summer temperatures are around 90˚F (30˚C) and winter lows are usually around 20˚F (-7˚C) but sometimes into the teens or even lower. So our gardening zone wavers from 5 to 6.
As far as our soil is concerned, it may be good for growing potatoes, but not for flowers. It is mainly composed of clay; and when clay soil is dry, it's almost as hard as concrete. Plant roots can't push through it. No air can get in from the surface. Most bacteria and other soil organisms that need oxygen can't breathe. So, amend, amend, amend. We try to add compost every year if possible.
In areas where we don't amend we try to concentrate on plants such as Perovskia (Russian Sage), a sturdy, attractive plant I adore. Rudbeckias, sedums, coreopsis, echinacea, asclepias tuberosa (butterfly weed), gaura, lavender, and hemerocallis (daylilies) also work well in clay soil.
The front garden in summer...
Goldfinch feeding on perovskia.
I agree with Kylee, my favorite time in the garden is June. Before the heat of July and August has had its way with the plants.
And one of our favorite garden activities, after all the work is done...