Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Soils and Crops in August

Now that we're back to physio in Owen Sound once a week we're driving Hwy 26 regularly, and I'm constantly noticing the state of the fields and crops.  The landscape changes quite dramatically over the 20 minutes and I always find it interesting even though I've seen it many times before.

I'll start at the Owen Sound end today and tomorrow we'll drive the other direction.  There's just a short stretch of farmland after you come down between the rocks of the Niagara Escarpment before you hit the city.

And this year a large field has just been allowed to come up in Queen Anne's Lace.

Just before the first traffic light on the outer edge of town there's an small awkward shaped piece of land, so the farmer uses it to store his hay bales ready for winter.

And those hay bales (along with others) will go to feed one of the several herds of beef cattle we see out in the fields, often a popular approach to farming where the soil isn't good enough for cash crops.

We pass through the valley of Keefer Creek where 2 or 3 of those cattle herds can be seen, and soon after, down over the big hill to see the view of the bay at Meaford.  The flat lands down there are the best farmland in the whole drive.

Down here are the apple orchards, several hundred acres of them.  The soil here is sandy, under the beach deposits of post-glacial Lake Algonquin which was considerably higher than today's Georgian Bay.  The apples like the good drainage of the sands; they don't like wet feet!  This land is also flat, which is good for any crops.  This map shows those sandy deposits (in yellow) curving around both Meaford and Thornbury, as well as the post-glacial beaches (the red lines).  

The sand deposits extend all along the shores of Georgian Bay, with big indentations forming ares of flat sandy soils around both towns, with the same result, two big semi-circles of apple orchards.  The moderating influence of Georgian Bay also helps by delaying blossoms in the spring, reducing the risk of frost.  As well there's some cold air drainage down off the surrounding escarpment toward the bay, which also reduces frost risk.  So those are the reasons why Thornbury and Meaford are the biggest apple-growing area in Ontario.  It's one of the clearest relationships between soils and crops that you'll find anywhere.


  1. It's always interesting how geology determines farming practices and profitability. In your second photo of the grazing cattle it appears that the farmer isn't really investing any time or effort in his pasture, just squeezing out the last bit of income.

  2. I didn't know those were the biggest apple growing areas but your explanation makes it so logical!

  3. Soil types always dictate what the most profitable crop should be.
    Great pictures. Love the rolling hills.
    Be Safe and Enjoy the therapy.

    It's about time.

  4. What a nice journey along the way. Thanks for the great pictures and explanation of the land and its uses. :-)

  5. Fascinating FG. I didn’t know about apple orchards and growing conditions. We have many large orchards here too.

  6. what a great journey, lots of beauty to see along the way!!!

  7. Guess it has been 5 years since we visited that beautiful area of your part of the world. And it was because of you and this blog.

  8. You sure have pretty scenery along your way.

  9. That first photo looks like a good long hill to go skate-boarding down. I sure like those rolling hills you have up your way.

  10. That would sure be an eye pleasing drive...I will probably get on google earth and look after while.

  11. That certainly is a nice drive ...
    I enjoyed the scenery in your photographs.

    All the best Jan

  12. Interesting read. Iowa was covered with the glacier with rocks deposited in many areas and leaving loose hills in the state, along the two rivers and one area in the middle of the state.