Friday, May 24, 2019

The Results

We got back our test results for our backyard soil, and it is contaminated with lead. This has been keeping me up at night, stirred into the dire climate/environmental situation, worried about my family's health and the future. In all the years we have gotten extra blood tests for our children, they have never had elevated lead levels.  So I'm thankful for that.  

But I'm so sad about our soil!  Now that the black walnut tree is gone, I have sun and so much growth in the mint and the berries.  I am going to do a more focused soil test, to see if the beds are all contaminated, or just the area by the house which is typical of old houses with their former lead paint. 

I still have my raised beds with their clean soil that we brought in, so I'm growing edibles there; I may need to rip out my berry bushes and mint - I'm assuming that once a plant has been grown in lead-tainted soil, it doesn't help to transplant to clean soil. 

New this year, I colonized a ledge with two big planters filled with nasturtium seeds.  Little babies are coming up! I will never get over that excitement. I had wanted to plant grapes to climb up our side porch posts, but given our lead situation, I planted a clematis instead.  Perhaps I will become a flower gardener and rely on the excellent farmer's market 2 blocks away for my local produce.  Perhaps that is my silver lining - that I can plant all the flowers, instead of prioritizing for edibles. Poppies! Peonies! A lilac bush!

We planted our little oak tree, free from a city grant program.  It's barely taller than the irises, and I'm trying to be all mature about "planting for future generations" when I just want it to hurry up and give us some sheltering shade. 

Our street tree, a zelkova, is growing tremendously.  I planted some red creeping thyme as a groundcover in the tree well, and now I'm going to add some fencing because I think the neighborhood dogs are peeing in a corner and killing my thyme. 

I feel better for having written this all down.  This helps me have some perspective and cling to the good parts of this story and my life, instead of focusing on the bad and chewing on it to feed despair.  Today is a beautiful, breezy spring day, and I'm going to go out and sow some cilantro seeds in my  raised beds.  Onward!


BLD in MT said...

Well, shucks. That is bad news. I am not surprised to hear you've already focused on the silver linings though. Happy (flower) gardening! They are such a delight.

Such a wee little tree!! How cute, if not shady. May it grow well!

Hazel said...

That is sad. It sounds as though raised beds and planters withe compost and imported soil are the answer? And maybe fruit trees as the lead is in the top layers of the soil. Good luck figuring out your plan.

jenny_o said...

Ouch - I can imagine your dismay. But good thing you had it tested so you know. And along with raised beds, individual plant pots work well for greens and tomatoes. And just recently a blogger I follw planted potato "seeds" in bags of earth - just cut off the top and stick the potato eyes right in there. Good luck with your tree!

jenny_o said...

P. S. And yay for writing our thoughts! I find it helps so much, too :)

AmyK said...

I’m sorry. When we lived in inner city Baltimore rowhouse we had a discussion with a good friend who had studied such environmentally-related things. According to him the plants will not absorb lead unless it is something that they need. So your berries and mint may not have absorbed them and would be fine transplanted. BUT I have not done any further studying. So I don’t know what the current research says.

AmyK said...

This site has some good information.

AmyK said...

Sorry, I am taking over your comment section. I wanted to also say that growing flowers is a wonderful choice too! I love my perennial beds. While they don’t feed me physically, they feed my soul and the process of watching them grow and bloom is one of my favorite things.

Jennifer Jo said...

Oh shoot --- that stinks! Like, REALLY stinks. And it's depressing, too --- does this mean all city soil is contaminated, especially in older sections of town?

Who knows, though: maybe leady soil makes for extra large, luscious flowers?

Margo said...

Amy, thanks for the info and encouragement!

Jennifer Jo, I think any house older than 1979 was likely painted with lead paint and is likely contaminated around the house from paint chips. But since there's just generally less soil in a city, lead can be more concentrated and also affected from run-off from streets when cars still used leaded gas. For example, there's a parking area directly next to our yard and I'm wondering if part of the contamination came from cars parked there. I'm doing more focused testing in the next few weeks. But yeah, it stinks. And lead remediation is serious: soil removal and then where do you PUT IT??

Becky said...

Well, pooh. But yay flowers! Flowers are always good.

Anonymous said...

We live in a Chicago, in an area formerly surrounded by steel mills, and found out the soil was contaminated when we moved in. But with raised beds we grow quite a lot— today we had lettuce from the garden in our lunch, chives and cilantro in our supper, and rhubarb in our dessert. Some of the raised beds are very nice, properly built beds, but I want to grow more, faster than my husband has time to build them, so we also have a bunch of produce crates and a laundry basket and other things that I have found in the alley, lined with landscape cloth, and filled with dirt... and now strawberries and tomatoes and peppers are growing in those. I don’t know about berries, but I have heard (alas, I don’t remember where) that tree fruits grown in contaminated soil are okay to eat.

e said...

You have already figured out the solution - raised beds with clean soil for the edibles and lots of flowers. (I'm happy to join you on the Pollyanna express!)
Enjoy the flowers. I know that you will come up with many creative methods for container gardening. :^)


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