Saturday, June 27, 2009

Reap What You Sow

To recap, in May, garden was a nice rectangle of dirt full of seeds.

As of Friday, it was bountiful:



As of today, it is a hazmat site.

Yes, the lead report came back, and it's not pretty, kids. A whopping 793 parts per, which puts us in the (high-ish) "Medium" range. The handy-dandy pamphlet lets us know that with a moderate reading "restrict access of children or pets." Should we also be looking for signs of anger? (Haha, just looked up the symptoms of lead poisoning and "memory loss" is one; "appetite loss" and "weight loss" are others so I'm not remotely concerned for any of us. Yet.)

It's getting plowed in, we're putting in raised beds, and starting over -- although it's probably too late to do much this year save for lettuce and maybe a few herbs. And that's really optimistic because we've already got a host of other outdoor projects on the docket, so raised beds are unlikely to appear until sometime next year. We'll plow under the arugula and herbs and cucumbers, and lordy, there were tears -- real fat tears -- over the broccoli. Some day I'm going to remind Bella that she cried over the loss of green vegetables.

Mr. ABF's dream of an "Ultralocal Dinner" are gone -- dashed are the plans for beet ravioli, glazed carrots, stuffed peppers, grilled and rolled eggplant. Gone are my dreams of picking beans from the vine and eating them raw. I can say with authority: expecting the worst sure made telling y'all a lot easier, but I'm not sure it made the loss hurt any less.

Oh, and also, if you're gardening in an urban environment and not using raised beds, PLEASE, for the love of mike, contact your local university agricultural extension about getting your soil tested for lead. The good news here is that we thought to do this before making Poison Brain-frying Salad and eating handfuls of sweet smelling, well compost-fertilized dirt.

Back to the grocery store.

27 comments:

Mrs. Spit said...

You can't dig down and replace the dirt?

Michele said...

We have friends who had a similar issue. They did raised beds but before putting the dirt down, they put down thick layers of black tarp, then covered it with dirt for their raised beds, etc. They have had no issues and the lead testing on the raised beds each year always come back clean. GOOD LUCK!

erica said...

Oh no! I'm sorry about your beautiful, dangerous garden. I hope you get some nice (if late) veggies out of your raised beds. I wish I knew more about good things to plant later in the summer.

Melissia said...

I am so sorry. All that work! You must be so frustrated. Bean sprouts grow very quickly in the house in a jar and are very fun to grow so Bella might enjoy those and she can add them to everything and of course radishes grow quickly.
Another thing she might enjoy making is yogurt, which is practically like growing a garden, what with the cultures and fruits to add as well.
While you are waiting you may want to start your new plants in those little seed pots that way once you get everything setup you can just put them in the ground.
You can also do some herbs in big pots for a while until you get your garden in, that way Bella has something to garden, and you have some thing to cook with. Butterflies really like herbs as well, so that is a plus.

sassy said...

Scary. I'm so glad you found out - eek!! Still, how sad for your garden, and all that work.... ):

Sophie said...

That sucks!!! How dissappointing. :(

niobe said...

Well, that sucks.

Although, as you say, lead is tasty. Which I know because lived in an old house with lots of yummy peeling paint when I was I kid. I know, I know... that explains a lot.

Tash said...

Mrs. Spit: We removed the top layer, which had grass, and put in roughly 2-4" of mushroom soil (incidentally, this patch had once been turned over for a flower garden as well). I shudder to think what the levels would've been had we NOT done this. Apparently the only way to combat our high levels is to use trucked-in soil, raised above the other so root systems don't enter the contaminated portion. We *could* grow fruit bearing stuff directly into what we have were we to tweek our Ph levels (something to do with the solubility of lead -- and our Ph levels are actually pretty close to perfect), but nothing underground, and definitely no lettuce. So to be safe, we're going to raise/contain everything.

Michele: Thanks for that. We're currently reading the debates over lining raised beds vs. not lining, and will let you know where we land. We will obviously get that tested as well.

Melissia, thank you! We're off to put as much in containers as possible for the rest of the summer, so thank you for your suggestions.

Oh and DUH, further warning, if you're composting stuff from your urban garden, obvs. don't compost lead-sucking plants like lettuces or sunflowers -- otherwise you're just spreading the leaded goodness elsewhere.

Aunt Becky said...

Man, this PISSES me off. I'm sorry Tash.

Julia said...

Oh, how awesomely fun!

Though I have to admit to smiling at the big fat tears over broccoli. So very five years old.

Betty M said...

You know I would never ever have thought of having my soil tested for lead. All our veggies this year are fortuitously in the raised ex pond the people before us put in our garden so it is all new top soil. It must be horrid to have to destroy what was so lovingly sown and tended.
We have been growing chilis from seeds - they are fun (and foolproof given we have managed them).

Anonymous said...

Is there a farmer's market in your area? That way, if you can't grow your own food, you can at least support farmers who are.

k@lakly said...

That sucks big fat leads ass. I think it is worth abig bottle of vino to help smooth away the bad taste left by this discovery.
Hope next summer brings a better, even more healthy and less, you know, carcinogenic or other evil thing, yield.
And of course, kids crying over veggies they can't eat, priceless.
xxoo

A.M.S. said...

At that age, I preferred broccoli over chocolate. My mother loves to remind me of that.

That truly sucks though. I can't imagine having put in all that work only to plow it under.

On the plus side, once you have the raised beds you'll wonder why you did it any other way. They are worth the effort.

Kymberli said...

Aw damn. Seeing as how I have never been successful at growing anything more than mold spores, it would truly hurt my heart to have to plow under all of that good-for-you success. *I'm crying over your brocooli.*

Parenthood For Me said...

That stinks that you have to start from scratch. but as stated, good thing you found out.

G$ said...

I never even thought to test the soil like that. Good thing we have been too lazy to move from our container tomatoes.

Such a beautiful garden :( But wow, I can't get past how pretty that door is! And the getting to be a big girl pose that Bella has struck :)

charmedgirl said...

oh my god...that really sucks!! the raised beds are easier to maintain, at least. you have to wait until next year, but picking the random plants and weeds out will be easier on the back. oh well...

definitely plant some spinach, i'm pretty sure that's a good late veg and is good for salads AND cooking...not that i know much about gardening.

CLC said...

I never even would have thought to get it tested, so I would probably be dead now after devouring all the gorgeous broccoli! Poor Bella. But now she has next year's garden to look forward to! This year can be considered practice!

Trish said...

So sorry to hear about your garden. It is always so hard for me when my five year old is disappointed. It breaks my heart. Thanks for stopping by at my blog! Kym and I have known each other since high school and now teach in the same school. It was through her that I met Niobe.

Aurelia said...

Hate to bring this up...but until about 30 years ago most houses used either lead pipes, or copper pipes with lead solder, and are completely contaminated. And even if your house has been redone internally pipewise, the pipe coming in from the street quite often is made of lead.

My house is old, and looks about the same era as yours based on the photo, and we have now replaced lead intake pipes in two houses. The city kept telling us it was no big deal since there was lots of crud lining the pipe, but since I did not find that comforting, I got it tested.

Oy.

Then replaced.

And our soil? Everytime some dumbass in our neighbourhood replaces their house or rips up the street a fine dust settles in my garden and the city has also mentioned that the dust may have lead, and umm, well, hell.

I vote grocery store and bottled water. Just me.

Ya Chun said...

how about putting the garden/raised beds a bit farther from the house (and not where there were ever any outbuildings).

Bon said...

oh wow. that does suck. especially when you already had such beautiful vegetables!

we are gardening - beyond tomatoes - for the first time this year. in raised beds, though with no tarps, and we didn't test. hmm.

what amazes me - and saddens me, for you - is how far along your veggies were. whoa. such beautiful ripeness. i really do live in the frozen north.

Alice said...

Sorry about your garden. But I'm glad you're health isn't at risk. You'll get there next year. With love, Alice

Anonymous said...

Yikes! Thank you for posting this, I live right next to the highway, so I should get our garden tested! I know it will be super bad. I mostly care about the flowers though. :)

Your garden next year will be great and so worth all the trouble now.

Nuwie

Tash said...

Nuwie, if you come back and read this: it's likely unless your house is v. old that you don't have lead. HOWEVER, living next to a highway presents its own set of problems. I would definitely get the pH tested just for the sake of "growability" (?), and there are a host of other yukky things you can test for like metals and carbon. It would be worth a phone call to your state university agricultural extension, and I'd ask what exactly to test for in your situation. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

thanks :) our house is a hundred years old. i will check it out! Nuwie