Lead; what can I grow?

drasaid(zone 8)June 9, 2002

You may have seen some of my other whining posts about this problem; but I have LEAD (lots of it) in the soil. Most of my 'lawn' is cement so I will use containers, but can I grow anything in the spots it is not and eat it without fear? Where do heavy metals go in plants? I wanted to plant Asimina Triloba, but not if the lead will go into the fruits. Any of you who know more than me (that should be a large population!) have any ideas?

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jessiecarole

did you get your soil tested?

    Bookmark   June 9, 2002 at 3:55PM
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drasaid(zone 8)

I have not bothered to test it because it is a big red area on the EPA maps. They say it is the worst urban area in the country for lead so I just assume it is pretty bad. What with Magazine Street being driven on during about seventy years of lead based gasoline and a big leaded paint factory down Jackson avenue I think it is probable the soil is zapped.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2002 at 4:15PM
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Kathy_KY(z6 KY)

What a bummer!!!!! I would still ask your extension office to test it though. Personally, it would drive me nuts wondering how bad/good it is.

I'd also move. May not be an option for you but, sheesh, I'd sure give it some thought.

Sorry, I don't know the answer to your container question.

Kat

    Bookmark   June 10, 2002 at 10:46AM
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beckyE

I have low to moderate levels of lead in my garden near my house (lead paint chip contamination). I grow only fruiting vegetables like tomatoes, green beans, cucumbers, eggplants,and the like, because plants don't deposit much lead in their fruits. At the end of the growing season I put the veggie plants in my lead-contaminated compost pile. I use this compost on my ornamentals. I maintain a separate lead-free compost pile that gets only material that I know is lead-free, and this compost I put on garden.

Plants mainly put lead into their roots and leaves, and some plants so strongly accumulate lead in these structures that they have been used for lead abatement programs. Interesting aside: I grew 2 crops of mustard greens, a plant known to accumulate lead and cadmium in my garden last year, hoping to they would take up a lot of lead. Didn't work, soil levels still the same.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2002 at 11:58AM
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Kathy_KY(z6 KY)

Nice try though, Becky!

Kat

    Bookmark   June 14, 2002 at 2:27PM
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Belgianpup(Wa/Zone 7b)

Your cooperative extension service might be able to offer you some suggestions: anything you could do, what plants would be safe, what NOT to do.

Sue

    Bookmark   June 18, 2002 at 3:51PM
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hemnancy(z8 PNW)

Perhaps if it's not a big area you could remove some soil and put in some new topsoil instead.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2002 at 5:30PM
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drasaid(zone 8)

This is New Orleans. When it rains it pours; and everything that goes around comes around. I suspect the original reason to concrete the yard was to keep the dirt from blowing about. My sister does not even want containers; she thinks the lead will infect them somehow. The awful truth is that "we all live downstream", those of you saying I should move should realize that one day everyplace will be like this unless present trends change. I'm going to learn to live with it. I already drink Missisippi river water (carefully cleaned) which everyone north of here merrily flushs into. It's better for nature if people learn to live in cities instead of running, running, running to develop yet another pristine area.
Ok, enough complaining. I'm going to go make some hypertufa troughs with faked-out self-watering reservoirs made out of plastic bottles. And I'll use the strip of real dirt that I do have for ornamentals and mulch like mad to keep the dirt down. So there; that's my plan.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2002 at 6:13PM
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carriein(z5 NW. IN)

I read in Maria Rodales book that her property was once the site of a gas station, something she found out after a few years of having a vegetable garden in this particular spot. I think they found out after they did a soil test and then replaced the soil( this was a library book so am trying to remember details). Good Luck!

    Bookmark   August 15, 2002 at 8:47AM
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jajm4(z5 w. mass, usa)

becky-- i wd love to learn more abt the plants used for lead abatement programs-- do you have a link i cd follow? or care to share your info? fwiw someone told me that "gill-over-the-ground" (a weed here, i think is the same as "creeping jenny") used to be used as a medicinal to help remove lead in children. don't know her info source or how well it worked....

    Bookmark   August 15, 2002 at 2:56PM
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beckyE

jamjm4: I don't have any links, but I found out about using plants to remove lead from soils by searching Google on "bioremediation." But I'm not so keen on it any more. Like I said, I grew 2 whopping crops of mustard greens, one of the premiere lead and cadmium accumulators, and it made absolutely no difference. Maybe it would work if I grew several years' worth of crops, but I don't have the time. So I just grow things that make fruit, and I grow leafy things on temporary raised beds of straw and purchased compost.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2002 at 4:19PM
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woodnative(6)

Hello! To find out more about plants used to take lead out of the soil check phytoremediation. A company called "Phytotech" was doing some of the original lead uptake work along with Rutgers University. Now the company doing the work is Edenspace out of Virginia. Besides using the selected strain of mustard, they are also adding chelating agent and other things to maximize uptake, it takes a bit more than just growing the plant. Even so, it take a few crops to lower the soil lead levels significantly.
Add a lot of compost to the soil to dilute your lead, and avoid root crops and wash everything else really well. You probably have more danger of eating the soil particles clinging to the plant than by eating lead accumulated inside the plant.

    Bookmark   October 16, 2002 at 7:27PM
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Marie_TX(z8 N Houston)

I think the NYTimes Science section of March 8, 2001 had an article about which plants have a filtering action on water. I remember the usual wetlands plants were good but Weeping Willow was especially good for removing and holding chemical pollutants. -- Marie

    Bookmark   October 17, 2002 at 3:27PM
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drasaid(zone 8)

Looks like I'll plant Cannas, Ginger and Pawpaws and the rest in containers. I'm doing edibles that I won't eat because my sister's dogs eat anything! I will eat the Pawpaws, because it looks like they won't take up the lead.
Thank you all-

    Bookmark   October 20, 2002 at 3:03PM
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ericwi

-Accepted practice is to raise the pH of soils contaminated
with heavy metals such as copper, chromium, cadmium and
lead. Generally this is done by adding lime. The purpose of
this soil treatment is to prevent the metals from leaching
out and contaminating ground water or adjacent surface
water. I think that if you add some lime and grow ornamental plants you will stabilize the soil and prevent
any lead from entering the environment. I don't know if it
would be safe to eat vegetables grown on your soil-that
sounds like a research project.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2002 at 11:24AM
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