The Bronx Land Trust had their spring Gardens, Operations, and Maintenance Committee meeting on Saturday, April 30 at Tremont Community Garden. The Manhattan Land Trust followed with their spring committee meeting on Wednesday, May 4th at the Jewish Home and Hospital. These meetings are composed of representatives from each of the gardens that are part of the land trusts. The main agenda for the spring meetings was discussing the results of soil testing that was completed in all of the gardens. We tested for heavy metals, and were pleased with the results, which showed that almost all of the gardens had healthy soils. John Ameroso, a recently retired soil expert from the Cornell Cooperative Extension, gave some suggestions for gardens concerned about heavy metals in their soils.
If heavy metals are present in your growing beds, adding about 2 inches of compost in the spring and in the fall of each season will increase the organic content of the soil and lessen the proportion of heavy metals in the soil.
If you are worried about higher levels of heavy metals in your soil, stay clear of leafy greens and root vegetables (carrots, potatoes, etc.) and instead plant fruiting vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, beans, etc.) which don’t take the metals into their fruit.
Keeping soil ph close to 7 (neutral) will keep vegetables from taking up heavy metals.
If levels of heavy metals are high on paths, put down wood chips, which will keep dust particles from blowing up from the soil and will also increase the organic matter in the soil as they decompose.
Finally, if you are gardening in soils that may contain higher levels of heavy metals, wear gloves and make sure to wash your hands and clothes
Overall, the results for the land trust gardens were great. Yet, regularly adding compost and putting down wood chips on paths are good practices for any urban garden.