In this era of global fluctuation, gardeners across the earth are seeing changes in their normal Climate Zones. It's really a challenge for us here in Blanco County! Our property is a small lot that seems to have 3 separate climate zones, 3 separate ecosystems on 5 acres. If you count the neighbor's across the road, maybe 4 or 5 totally diverse growing systems. This neighborhood is called The Divide.
As you come up the ridge and onto our dead-end drive, you are driving along the divide that separates the Guadalupe River from the Colorado River (the one in Texas, not Arizona). Our house is about 200 yards away, and 20 feet lower in elevation than the top of the hill. Up there is thick juniper and live oak scrub, infested with whitetail deer that keep all other vegetation to a minimum, except where the tall grasses grow in the clearings (those never last long as the juniper takes over rapidly). The soil is very shallow black clay over holey-rock limestone. Across the street, the land falls sharply to the northwest in spring fed creeks, facing rugged, hilly terrain with fabulous sunset views.
Our back yard, when we cleared out the juniper (which everyone calls "cedar" though it's not, really), we discovered 50 post oaks, which normally like red soil and live on the northern prairies. The soil there is full of flint rubble, chalcedony, and chert so there is a seam of red clay running deeper under the newer limestone layer. I have terraced this whole space using cedar posts for landscape timbers. Their curved shapes make visually pleasing cups to catch the soil runoff down the hill. In only two years, they have filled several inches, in another 5 years I can put a mini horse and a milk goat back there, to help with the mowing and weeding. (Wisdom has it you should keep one goat per horse, because one is a browser and one is a grazer and they keep the pasture balanced. Most of the problems in this part of the world come from overgrazing by the previous generation, and the current crop of settlers that let the land go to ruin.)
Then, there is the east slope, which is lower than the house and was obviously under the ocean not too long ago, because the limestone under the shallow leaf mold is very loose and powdery, full of shell fossils that still show a lot of colorful nacre and can't be very old. This area, once we get all the trash live oaks and juniper cleared, will be a meadow shaded by red oaks and black cherry trees, with a couple of huge mustang grapes and a beautiful agarita berry bush.
In between the house and the black cherry meadow, is a place we call the Dismal Grove, which runs all through the neighboring properties. There is nothing but old-growth cedar in there, big junipers that block the view with their low, interlacing branches. This provides privacy hedge for the humans and perfect habitat for the endangered Golden Cheeked Warblers. Our warblers are so tame and friendly, the male comes down and plays in the water hose, and talks to me from his perch on the fence wire, three feet away. When you walk thru the Dismal Grove, the warblers sit at the top of the cedar trees, calling loudly to define their territory, and giving your position away to all the other critters. Of course, the deer aren't much afraid of us, either, but this is fawn season and the mama hides her babies down in the canyon where nobody goes.
All the food areas are surrounded with 8 foot deer- and armadillo-proof fencing. Our back garden is a jungle of whatever came up when we fenced out the deer. It's had a bit of compost, and a bit of weeding, but we love the Veggie Surprise harvested while foraging back there. This side faces northwest, but the Dismal Grove along the property line protects it from the ravages of winter and summer. It really is almost tropical back there. The front garden is a traditional space of mulched circles, planted with annual vegetables and perennial herbs. It faces southeast, but the big post oaks shade it from the heat of the afternoon. The soil is deep black gumbo, a pit discovered when digging the septic lines. It has been much amended with granite gravel, bone meal, and compost, with thick leaf mulch.
So, you see, you can get a lot of use out of 5 acres! Sounds like a lot of hard work, doesn't it? Well, we all could use the fresh air and exercise.