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Urban Gardening: Managing the Risks of Contaminated Soil

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In 2012, 35% of U.S. households grew food, spending $3.3 billion in the process, up from 31% of households spending $2.5 billion in 2008. One million households participated in community gardens in 2008.

Former parking lots and car washes often carry metals, PAHs, petroleum products, solvents, or surfactants. Demolished commercial or industrial buildings may leave behind asbestos, polychlorinated biphenyls, petroleum products, or lead-based paint chips, dust, or debris. High-traffic roadways have a legacy of lead and PAHs from vehicle exhaust. Former parks and lands adjacent to railroad rights-of-way can bear pesticide residues.

By Rebecca Kessler
Environ Health Perspectives; DOI:10.1289/ehp.121-A326
(Must Read. Mike)

Author Rebecca Kessler is all too familiar with the difficulties and uncertainties of cleaning up dirty urban soil, having embarked on a multiyear project to convert a paved parking lot at her Providence, Rhode Island, home into a beautiful and fruitful garden.

Excerpt:

The most thorough solution to cleaning up a garden is to remove the contaminated soil, then lay down a special fabric barrier topped with clean soil.4 But that’s a huge undertaking that can cost thousands of dollars, even for a small yard, putting it out of reach for most gardeners.

Simply installing the barrier fabric and new soil on top of the old is a more feasible option. So is building raised beds filled with clean soil—especially for root crops—and covering any exposed contaminated soil with mulch or grass. Less problematic soils can be amended by mixing in plenty of compost to dilute contaminants and bind them to soil particles. Gardeners can further reduce their exposure by peeling root crops, removing the outer leaves of leafy crops, washing their produce and hands before eating, and leaving dirty garden gear outside.

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December 3, 2013   Comments Off on Urban Gardening: Managing the Risks of Contaminated Soil

Changes to city code could make urban farming in Fayetteville, Arkansas easier

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Fayetteville is the third-largest city in Arkansas. Photo from Tricycle Farms.

Urban farming ordinance would help community

4029 TV
Nov 26, 2013

Excerpt:

“We’re in the geographical center of the city,” said Don Bennett, director of Tricycle Farms.

When Bennett bought his modest 2-acre plot about two years ago it wasn’t to turn a profit.

“This all started with me and a friend who was experiencing food insecurity,” he said.

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December 3, 2013   Comments Off on Changes to city code could make urban farming in Fayetteville, Arkansas easier