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Question

Hello Growing Club,

I’ve heard that soil in urban areas is often contaminated. Should I get my soil tested? Who do I get it tested by?

-Janice

Answer

Hi Janice,

You’re right, soil in urban and suburban areas is often contaminated and we should be concerned about it. Especially in older cities or cities that used to be industrial centers, soil is often contaminated with heavy metals that can be toxic to humans and especially children. Old homes were often painted with a lead based paint and homes near busy streets often have lead-contaminated soil from the times when gasoline was not unleaded. It’s a good idea for everyone to get a soil test before starting to grow food.

Make sure when you take your soil sample you create a composite sample. A composite sample is made by mixing soil together from a few different spots in your land.

For the actual testing, we use Wallace Laboratories. You want to get their Standard Agricultural Suitability test, which will give you an analysis of heavy metals, and a breakdown of all other macro- and micro-nutrients. They are also very friendly and you can call them if you have any questions.

Hope that helps! Happy Gardening!

-Rishi