Looking to Grow a Vegetable Garden? Get Your Soil Checked First!

Part of the beauty of owning your own home is the amount of space you get to cultivate. Owning your own home on a small piece of land offers you the freedom to explore new interests. Do you want to grow your own organic fruits and veggies? You can, right in your back yard! Or front yard, it doesn’t matter; it’s your house. Well, it should be said that it doesn’t matter in theory, unless you belong to a Homeowners Association (HOA).

Before donning your gardening gloves and wide-brimmed hat to plant next season’s produce, you might want to check out your soil’s lead levels. Here’s why:

Lead can be hazardous to your health

Leading with the obvious, lead is poisonous at elevated levels. Though lead “occurs naturally in soils, typically at concentrations that range from 10 to 50 mg/kg…[the] widespread use of leaded paint before the mid-1970s and leaded gasoline before the mid-1980s, as well as contamination from various industrial source…[soils have] lead concentrations much greater than normal background levels,” according to Penn State Extension.

Elevated lead levels can lead to severe health risks. Symptoms can include:

  • Headaches
  • Miscarriage
  • Muscle Pain
  • Abdominal Pain

The above are only a few symptoms of many, and symptoms vary based on age. The Mayo Clinic shares that children can suffer seizures, developmental delays and learning difficulties, with newborns reported to have slower growth rates. Eating plants grown from soil with high lead levels could cause irrevocable damage to you and your family.

What Can You Do to Alleviate High Lead Levels?

The first thing you’ll need to do is determine the lead levels in your yard. Taking a small shovel or spade, Garden Collage Magazine tells homeowners to small soil samples from various areas in your yard, between at least 6 and 12. Put the soil (don’t mix it!) into separate bags. Be sure to remove all rocks, pebbles, twigs, etc. After organizing and sealing your bags, send them to a local testing site. Do not plant anything until you receive the results.

If it’s determined the lead levels in your soil are high, don’t fret—you can lower the lead levels over time. The University of Minnesota Extension tells green-thumbed homeowners they can decrease their lead levels in the following three ways:

  1. “Immobilize the lead by raising soil pH and adding organic matter followed by planting sod.” 2. “[Mix] or [cover] the high lead soil with clean (low lead) soil.”
  2. “Eliminate the lead by physically removing the soil.”

How Does This Affect Homeowners Insurance Rates?

Unfortunately, homeowners’ insurance does not offer general coverage on elevated lead levels in soil. But here’s something: RealtyTimes shares that you can get homeowners’ insurance to cover the damages brought by elevated lead levels if the lead levels were contributed by a third party.

If a buried oil tank or leaded paint is found to be the culprit behind the toxicity levels of your property’s soil and it has contaminated the groundwater, homeowners’ insurance will cover the costs of the damage. Just keep in mind that you will need to make sure this type of coverage is written into your homeowners’ insurance policy.

If your current homeowners’ insurance agent won’t work with you to get the extra coverage, it’s time to stare comparing homeowners’ insurance quotes online with sites like CoverHound. CoverHound and insurance quote sites like them help match you with reputable (and affordable) insurance companies that will protect you and your home when confronted by a large problem like lead toxicity.

Enjoy the fruits of your labor without worrying about lead levels or pricey homeowners’ insurance. Get your soil tested, now.

A Minimalist Solution for Having Your Garden Now?

Testing your soil may be a good advice if you live in an old industrial area or near a place that may have been infected with lead. However, there are many solutions to a bad soil for vegetables and fruits!

Raised Garden

A raised garden simply is a garden made in a large lifted box. That box can be bought at your local garden center or you can make it at home! My in-laws made a very nice one with pallet wood. There are plenty of YouTube videos on how to make them.

You can literally design it as you want, but the principle is that you don’t need your home soil to make it. You simply buy garden soil to fill it up.

Pots or Vertical Garden

Another way to use good garden soil and still grow your own vegetables and fruits at home is to use pots! This is a particularly good idea for those with small backyard space. Small pots are the best for herbs and very small plants, while you can use bigger ones for your tomatoes and other high plants.

One last advantage of these two methods is that your garden will be harder to reach for small animals! Better keep your hard work for yourself, don’t you?!


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