56January 30, 2013

Last week, I had talked about the soil in your yard potentially being a problem when it comes to growing plants. This past week, I received a note from a reader about another potential problem with the soil in their yard.

Jean recently bought a home that was built in the 1800’s. One of her neighbors told her that due to the years of lead paint being used on the house, the soil might be contaminated with lead. She was wondering if it was safe to plant vegetables in the soil.
This question has come up many times over the years. If the house had been scraped down prior to re-painting over the years, there may be lead in the soil. The highest concentrations of lead would probably be near the house. In areas further away from the home, there may be no lead in the soil. The best way to find out is to send several soil samples away for testing. There is a soil-testing lab at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. You can go online and download the testing instructions and then send the soil samples for testing. This service can also test for the ph of the soil and also test for the amount of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium in the soil. The testing can also tell you the structure of the soil. There is a charge for this service but it will provide you with a wealth of information about the soil in your yard. Even if you get back a positive test for lead, you will know to what degree the soil is contaminated. If you have a problem with lead in the soil, you can use raised beds to grow your vegetable plants. All in all, a positive test does not mean that you cannot have a vegetable garden. Get the soil testing done in the spring and then you will have a better idea of what you will need to do to have a vegetable garden.

It has been a cold few weeks and many of you are having spring fever. You can bring some spring into your home if you take some pruning shears and go out into your yard. If you have forsythia bushes in your yard, you can prune off some branches and bring the branches into your house. Place the branches into a vase of water and in a short period of time the forsythia branches will come into bloom. Seeing those bright yellow flowers in bloom, in your home, will really help with the spring fever. We have also have available, in our store, some primrose plants that are in bloom. Ditto for pots of miniature daffodils and cyclamen. We still have paperwhite bulbs and amaryllis bulbs. There is no reason to suffer with spring fever when the cure is available.

Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.

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