What's Up in the Soil?

My good friends, I just want to say: I have heard your call.  I know what you have been wanting to hear.  And here it is: SOIL TEST RESULTS!

The good news is, our soil is not a toxic sludge of heavy metals and, I dunno, ectoplasm.

The bad news is, it's also not exactly healthy.  Especially for us hippie-dippie, organic-food eating types.

Our wonderful neighbor who works in a soil lab did some tests, specifically looking at arsenic and lead based on the history of the site (and the neighborhood).  The arsenic levels looked rather respectable, right around normal background levels for Washington state (~10 ppm).  That's right, there are normal background levels of poisons all around us, people.

The lead levels, however, were not so normal and not so background.  Typical background levels for lead apparently are ~20 ppm, and we were at about 160 to 190 ppm.  Yowza.  Now, before we all freak out about those quantities (for those of us who don't know anything about this stuff), my neighbor explained that the levels for unrestricted land use (i.e. building and developing land without worrying about cleaning up toxins) are about 250 ppm.  So our amounts of lead are nowhere near needing remediation, but you probably don't want to go eat a spoonful of it.

Based on these numbers, our plan was this: build up some beds using different strategies and plant all of our leafy greens and root vegetables in these raised beds or other structures.  In the future, we will continue to expand our raised beds to the rest of the site, but for now, it's apparently perfect fine and healthy to plant flowering vegetables directly in the soil, I guess because the toxins aren't directly contacting the fruits of the plants.  Or something.  Scientist-types, help me out here.

So here is our (actual) plan, sketched out by some of our farming buddy neighbors, who also happen to be architects and thus also get nerdy about this kind of thing.

Details:

  • Rows 2 through 4 were made with about 8" of new soil, delivered last week, layered on top of the existing soil. 
  • Row 6 is some cool potato-growing structures and a box for root veggies.
  • Rows 5 and 7 are a cool permaculture solution that I'll detail in an upcoming post.
  • Flowering veggies will be added in future Rows (I'm going to make an educated guess that they will be called "Row 8" and "Row 9.")

No idea what happened to Row 1.

Rows 2 through 5.  Row 5 is partially planted!  Bring on the veggies!

Rows 2 through 5.  Row 5 is partially planted!  Bring on the veggies!

Sorry it took so long to get this post up - we've been busy moving truckloads of soil around the site and getting things planted.  But now we know what our soil situation is, and as we all know, knowing is half the battle.