10 Ways to Have Healthy Soil

Healthy organic soil will grow healthy organic vegetables.

Healthy organic soil will grow healthy organic vegetables.

Growing vegetables in your own garden is a great way to save money and eat more healthily. We grow our own veggies so that we will have fewer chemicals in our foods, but what we may not realize is our garden soil could be polluted. Here are ten quick ways to have healthy soil, safe for your family.

1. Location, location, location! Different parts of your yard or acreage may have a different chemical content. Near a busy road, or an old building, you’re more likely to have unwanted chemicals leaking into your soil. Locate your veggie garden away from these and other hazards that might contain toxins.

2. Test your soil. You can’t get rid of harmful chemicals before you know what they are. Before you plant, collect samples of your soil (how many you need depends on the size of your garden) and have them tested. Your local nursery will probably know where this can be done.

3. Add mulch. Mulch not only helps conserve water and keep the soil from overheating, it also breaks down into organic matter over time. The organic material binds with harmful materials like lead instead of it binding with your plants.

4.  Plant things that eat the bad stuff. For example, mustard will absorb lead out of your soil. Don’t eat the plants, just pull them and throw them away. Use the same process for other harmful chemicals. This is actually a common practice called phytoremediation.

The Phytoremediation Process

The Phytoremediation Process

5.  Avoid using chemicals. It goes without saying that if you don’t want unnatural chemicals in your food, don’t put them on your garden. Natural and safe ways to repel pests and fertilize your garden are readily available, such as insecticidal soaps, horticultural oils and botanical insecticides like pyrethrum.

6.  Use raised beds. Toxic chemicals like lead generally leak down into the soil. So, if you put, fresh, clean soil on top of your old soil, it will remain safe as long as long as toxic chemicals can’t come in from the sides. Building an elevated bed will take some extra work in the beginning, but it will remain safe through the years.

7.   Build a compost pile. It’s fairly simple to do: just throw all your organic waste, like grass clippings, fallen leaves, and kitchen waste, into a compost bin in your yard and turn regularly. Eventually this will break down into great organic material that will bind with the harmful chemicals to keep them out of your food. Your garden plants will love you for it.

8.  Plant some mushrooms. Mushrooms are decomposers, which means they break down old matter. In addition to turning trees to soil, they may also help break down toxins in your soil. Paul Stamets book, Mycelium Running is the best source of information on this.

9.  Grow certain veggies. Some veggies are perfectly safe, even if they’re grown in toxic soil. If you find your soil is toxic, and are in the process of cleaning it up, you can still grow above ground veggies, as long as you don’t eat the leaves. (I know that cuts down on the available veggies you can plant) Avoid growing below ground vegetables like carrots if your soil is toxic.

10. Grow veggies in containers. If nothing else works and your soil just isn’t safe for growing food, you can always grow fruits and veggies in pots and other small-space garden solutions like garden socks and hanging vegetable gardens.