How is your backyard contoured?
How is it situated in relationship to the points of the compass?
What is beneath the surface of your yard…?
What type of soil?
How many rocks of what type? What else?
|Bucks County, Pennsylvania, photo by Steven J. Saffier/NAS
Not only do North America and the continents of the world vary dramatically in their geology and surface geography, but also they are also dynamic, always changing and shifting. Humans influence and are influenced by these changes. Understanding and appreciating the land and elements beneath our regions and our very backyards as well as the processes at work creating changes will allow us to best take advantage of what is naturally available. Working with these elements is always less costly in time, money, and energy than working against them.
Identifying your soil types and their depths will allow you to select plantings that will give you the best chance of success with the least effort. Your gardening efforts will also benefit from your assessment of sunny areas as well as your shadier exposures. Low areas and soils that hold water are well suited to certain types of plantings. Hillsides offer special challenges … and opportunities.
You will be a more successful gardener if you learn about these elements of your location, and you’ll have a better understanding of your backyard’s niche in the bigger landscape surrounding you. For example, as you learn about your valuable topsoil, you’ll find out how to protect it. In doing so, you will prevent erosion and silt run off into your entire watershed.
Knowledge of the geology and geography around your home will also give you clues about this site in years past. What are the continental and even global forces that have been and are at work in your backyard? Learn more when you visit the websites below.
Public Broadcast Service (PBS)
Savage Earth online (Series)
U.S. Geological Survey
Science programs and information
Students for the Exploration and Development of Space
Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, University of Arizona in Tucson, Arizona
A wealth of information about the Earth
Animated demonstration of the continental drift
The Environmental Literacy Council
Information about land use, natural resources, soil, and other related topics.