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Container Gardens and Lead Safety

We’ve been hearing a lot about lead in the news, and how we can take steps to protect ourselves, and there are some important things to consider as we plan our spring planting.

May is usually a good time to start planting several edibles that include root veggies like beets and carrots, and as new information is made available regarding soil quality it behooves us to consider whether some of our crop would fare better in a raised garden bed or container.

Lead Sources

The U.S. banned lead use in consumer paints in 1976, and this remains a chief threat, but lead is used in many other commercial applications, and lead particles may disperse in unexpected ways from unknowable sources.

The good news is that further regulation enacted in 2008 obliges those who use lead to even further reduce particulate contamination, and states are required to meet these new standards by 2017.

So, how does all this have anything to do with container gardens and raised garden beds?

Lead & Soil Safety

There’s no way to know if your gardening soil is unsafe unless you get it tested, but if 1) your house was built before 1976, 2) has lead pipes or 3) is located near a smelter or other industrial lead source, of course the chances will be higher.

And, if that’s the case then a raised garden bed or container garden may be the best way to go for your vegetable planting.

Container Garden v. Raised Garden Bed

Your safest choice is a container garden, because it fully contains the plants and doesn’t allow the roots to reach the earth. You control the growth from root to flower, though you may be more limited in your grow space.

A garden bed will probably provide more room, but unless you raise it a foot or more off the ground and add layers with newspaper and bark, you run the risk of allowing your plant roots to reach the ground.

In either event, don’t fret unless there’s a need. A reliable lead soil test kit runs about $40, and can found with a quick online search.  

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