Sifting through Soil quality
For the keen gardener, the environmentally curious, or even just the health aware the question about food safety usually starts with where the food is grown.
In the HRM area the trend of public and backyard gardens is starting to grow. But do you know just how safe the soil you are sowing you seeds in actually is?
Professor Anne Marie Ryan of the Dalhousie geology department who has knowledge of the HRM areas geology has a few warnings for prospective gardeners.
“One of the things about the geology of Nova Scotia is that there are rocks that naturally high elements in them, so one of the elements that are naturally high; that is naturally high occurring is arsenic.” Said Ryan.
Ryan also points out that Halifax being a very old city has very old houses, some which used to have lead paint. Because of this lead in the paint this raises the possibility of there being lead in the ground from paint flakes, most likely close to houses.
Anika Roberts co president of the King’s Student Horticulturalists Society, who looks after the University of King’s College garden has some solutions to safe planting.
“There was already four raised beds from a few years ago but then we built one more raised bed” Said Roberts about the King’s garden.
For those that may not be sure, a raised bed is a wooden box built, filled with soil and set above the ground.
Some other alternative that Roberts suggests to raised bed gardening that can help protect you vegetables were thing’s such as adding lime to the soil to counteract the metals.
“You can always do things like add mulch because then there’s less soil contact with your vegetables” suggests Roberts. She also adds that you are able to buy bags of compost and you can plant vegetables in the bag to avoid contaminated soil contact, although this requires buying new composting bags each year.
Gardens are not the only thing however that lead in the soil can become a danger to points out Ryan, “it sounds strange but some kids eat dirt, so if they are eating dirt that has more elevated levels than they con potentially get more lead in their system, and lead is also toxic, especially a neurotoxin.”
“So it is quite possible that we have elevated levels of lead in some of our soils” Said Ryan. To be sure that your soil is not contaminated before you plant your garden soil quality tests can be done in the price range of $60.