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What to do about high lead content in my soil?

I want to grow edibles, especially greens and herbs. I’ve gotten varying advice from bring in pros to replace the soil with topsoil and compost, to do-it-yourself removing and adding soil. I live in Philadelphia.
Last Updated: Sep 27, 2012  |  147 Views

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Here’s advice from PHS project manager for community gardens Eileen Gallagher:

First, determine if you in fact have high lead content in your soil.  You can do this by ordering a simple test kit from the University of Massachusetts for measuring lead and heavy metals in the soil.  This kit may be ordered online for $9.00.

We have done much testing for lead in Philadelphia and most sites are below the EPA level. In addition to measuring heavy metals, check the soil PH. If your soil is above 6.8 (slightly alkaline) it helps to reduce the absorption of heavy metals by plants because it is bond in the soil.

If you have tested your soil and it is high in lead, building a raised bed is a good alternative. Wood that is non-pressure treated, about 8-10″ tall , 4′x8′ is the standard size we use.  You can put a weed barrier in the bottom to cover the ground. Alternatively, you might consider growing plants in containers, using clean soil or compost. For more information, read the University of Minnesota Extension Service fact sheet  Lead in the Home Garden and Urban Soil Environment.

 

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