Is a garden near roads/toxic areas better than no garden at all?

mmiesseJuly 19, 2013

I've been thinking about this today as I watch TED talk videos like this one: al_la.html
While I DO think that gardening near toxic areas is likely better than none at all, what exactly is the danger? How much should we consider exactly where we put urban/community gardens? Is an edible plant exposed to toxic materials better than no plant at all?

Obviously, the basic nutrients will be stronger than those of, say, the tiny piece of lettuce on a fast food burger...but how much does toxicity really affect plants and the people who eat them?

I am asking this question on a few forums (Vegetable Gardening and Community Gardening) because I'm very interested in the conversation AND how we can protect plants from toxicity but still be able to plant them in toxic areas?

There are so many community gardens in urban areas that are beside roads, railroads, etc. But maybe the pollution from that urban area would leach into the plants regardless of the garden's location because of the amount of pollution in the are.

What do you all think about this? Do you have community gardens in your area? Have you been concerned about this?


I started a community garden at my apartment complex this year, and the landlord provided the soil and bed...but it was railroad ties (and I was not asked if it was okay to use these). While we have been eating the food produced from this garden...I sometimes worry about how much creosote has leached into my plants...

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I wonder about this all the time. I live in a terrible neighborhood right by two major interstate highways, with other busy roads encasing me on the other sides. It is, by no coincidence, also a food desert, so for me, having no car and eating only plant-based foods, better than no garden. I assume having more green stuff in the area helps (however minimally) to fight the pollution, yet I still can't help but wonder if the cadmium (from brake dust) and other toxins are making their way into the soil, as well as the air and water, and in turn getting into my nice, otherwise vegan-organically grown food.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2013 at 7:03PM
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Dj...I'm so glad you're going ahead with a garden. Maybe you can get other neighbors and community members involved!

I do agree that probably planting anything helps negate some pollution. I imagine planting air purifying plants (like the spider fern) would also be beneficial...maybe around the edges of the garden so much pollution gets taken up by the non-edibles?

I've also thought maybe something like Tulsi (Holy Basil) would be a good idea as it can do things like remove fluoride from water and detox radiation.

The community garden I started at my apartment complex uses railroad ties as its surroundings (not my choice, but still grateful for anything). I noticed any leaves touching the railroad ties would become dry, brittle and eaten the carcinogens definitely affect plants and they are taking up that toxin. However, I was never able to find if the toxins stopped before the fruits/vegetables or if those toxins also leaked into the food I'm eating.

Either way - hopefully all the holy basil and fresh, nutrient-dense foods I grow/eat will help combat any negatives of planting within railroad ties.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2013 at 3:32PM
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