indytilth

Archive for May, 2011|Monthly archive page

lead tests complete

In Uncategorized on May 10, 2011 at 10:04 pm

A couple months ago, we collected soil samples to send off to the Filippelli lab.  Dr. Gabe Filippelli is an earth scientist with international expertise in soil lead contamination and works at IUPUI.  He is also a wonderful person and tremendous advocate for urban gardeners.  He provides a FREE service to the community by testing for soil lead contamination.  We decided to be ‘in the know’ and get our community garden soil tested.  Soil lead contamination is very common problem in Indianapolis and other urban areas due to lead-based paint, leaded gasoline and the presence of lead smelters.  We sampled along 3 east-west trajectories along the length of the lot (north, middle and south) in 4 places each (12 samples).  We took a generous sample of soil up to about 6 inches deep and sent it off.  Yesterday, Gabe contacted me with results:

Name

 

Organic matter

Pb

Mn

Ba

Cr

Cu

Zn

%

ppm

ppm

ppm

ppm

ppm

ppm

S1

11.2

239

1062

119

26

20

211

S2

9.6

292

981

126

21

15

265

S3

10.2

182

952

116

32

19

186

S4

11.6

137

804

114

19

17

180

M1

8.8

104

954

109

22

12

166

M2

10.6

105

974

110

21

13

151

M3

9.5

191

932

124

20

15

172

N1

10.9

158

952

126

25

20

193

N2

9.7

135

1027

108

22

15

147

N3

9.2

126

977

109

22

12

149

N4

8.1

127

934

101

19

11

135

Average of all gardens

9.8

297

631

108

20

20

262

Unfortunately, we have lead-contaminated soil.  Thankfully, we took the appropriate precautions and anticipated this possibility.  The EPA says that it is not safe to plant vegetables in areas where the soils has more than 200 ppm of lead.  As shown above, we have several areas where this is the case.  Luckily, these are solely in areas where we do not have garden beds as they are shaded areas of the lot.  Even in the borderline middle areas, there are no beds as this is where our wood-chipped area for hanging out has been designated.  In the remaining areas, we have raised beds with a thick layer of cardboard beneath or the plan for fruit trees (soil lead contamination does not threaten fruit).  The other benefit learned from this soil testing is that our garden lot has higher than average organic matter.  This is surprising since the soil has not been amended.  In addition, we would only anticipate the organic matter will improve as we add compost to our beds over the years.  In any case, higher organic matter reduces the likelihood of individual plants to absorb lead thus further reducing the likelihood of food contamination.  We will reduce remaining risks by making sure raised beds are 12″ or more deep with clean topsoil/compost and, if not, refraining from planting root crops (carrots, radishes, etc).  We will also make sure to have covered surfaces throughout the lot – either woodchips, garden beds, or grass.  The bare ground offers another source of health risk, particularly for kids, who are more likely to ingest dirt while playing (or afterwards from not washing their hands).

For more information on Dr. Filippelli’s free soil lead testing program and other lead contamination resources, please check out the IndyTilth website under ‘local soil contaminant testing’.  We will keep you posted on whether we find ways to test our bounty for lead contamination – the true test of whether our soil remediation is successful.  Please stay tuned…

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collaboration with Shortridge student gardeners

In Uncategorized on May 1, 2011 at 3:10 pm

I had long admired the Shortridge Magnet High School greenhouse but just a few months ago I realized that it didn’t seem to be used. Since this was around the time I was starting my own seeds indoors, I thought I would query some of the school’s teachers to see if they were interested in collaborating in a seed starting project together. I heard back almost immediately from Sheryl Miles and Leslie Fatum. We set up a 3 session tutorial on seed starting over a period of 2 weeks. And, with the help of the teachers, 5 Broadway Community Garden volunteers, and over 20 students, we planted around 200-300 pepper and tomato seeds. The students were divided into shifts to keep the young seedlings watered and they were growing beautifully. Unfortunately, over spring break they all died. I suspect they dried up but really anything could have happened. I was very disappointed but when I emailed the teachers, they offered to start some seeds again. This time a smaller group of students helped out and a now-well-seasoned volunteer – John Kerwin – and the teachers helped oversee the second seed planting. I just stopped by this last week to check on the seeds. They look great! This time instead of only peppers and tomatoes, the students started all sorts of plants – watermelon and cantaloup, squash, greens, and many more! We are now scheduling a field trip date to get them in the ground – likely toward the middle to end of May. We have a bed reserved for the Shortridge students. I hope some of them can continue participating in the garden over the summer.