West 104th Street Garden

October 26, 2009

4Brooklyn College Soil Study

Filed under: Gardening Tips,News — by west104garden @ 9:43 am

The 104th Street Community Garden participated in a soil study performed by The Brooklyn College Environmental Sciences Analytic Center. The following is a preliminary release regarding soil samples throughout the city. The overall results do not necessarily reflect the health of our own garden, but do indicate alarming levels of heavy metals, including lead, in New York City soils. We eagerly await the results of the follow up study and will report any results specific to our garden, when the report becomes available.

Brooklyn College results:

“The Brooklyn College Soil Analysis lab received many soil samples from residents throughout New York City. The lab analyzed heavy metal content in the soil with some surprising results. Lead content in some soils were sometimes as high as 2000ppm. As a follow-up pilot study we would like to measure the air quality in and around some of these gardens. Looking at the air quality may show us whether particulates from the soil are getting into the air, and we would like to see if this is happening and to what degree people are breathing in heavy metals as they work/play around the soil. By performing this pilot study we would like to determine if we need to expand our research not into just soil analysis but into air quality surrounding community and private gardens throughout NYC.”

For more information about lead in NYC gardens, read the New York Times article:

For Urban Gardeners, Lead Is a Concern, May 13, 2009

Lead Remediation tips recommended in this article include:

  • The best approach to avoiding lead contamination in gardens is what we do at the West 104th Street Garden: Build raised or contained beds lined with landscape fabric and filled with uncontaminated soil. Plants that are grown in containers with soils from a garden center are unlikely to contain high amounts of lead.
  • Replace the contaminated soil or alkalinize it by adding lime or organic matter such as compost. Higher alkalinity (pH level above 7) allows soil particles to bind with lead, making it less likely to be absorbed by plants and the human body if the dirt is inadvertently inhaled or ingested.
  • Plant kitchen gardens with fruiting crops like tomatoes, squash, eggplant, corn and beans, which do not readily accumulate lead.
  • Avoid lead-leaching crops, such as herbs, leafy greens and root vegetables such as potatoes, radishes and carrots.
  • Planting greens, specifically Indian mustard and spinach, for a couple of seasons before growing crops intended for food. This phytoremediation, or plant-based mitigation, allows lead to be removed from the soil. These plants must not be eaten or composted, but disposed of as toxic waste.
  • To avoid contamination from lead dust blowing in the wind or rain splashing off lead-painted structures, situate gardens away from buildings.
  • Wash edible produce thoroughly with water containing 1 percent vinegar or 0.5 percent soap.
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  • Cover soil with sod in areas where you are not planning a garden.

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