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Home > Resource Conservation > Soil > Home/Apartment Garden

Resource Conservation: Soil: Home/Apartment Garden.

pic of soil
A home (or apartment) garden can be very rewarding. Not only will you tend to have better nutrition, but you will have better food security and spend less time managing your landscape.



Life is busy and you may already be spending a lot of time, gasoline and water maintaining a non-food bearing landscape. All we ask is that you consider spending less time toiling with no reward. On our page "Benefits of growing your own food ..." we go into the advantages of growing your own garden at home. This page helps you make that happen.
     The trick is to start free, keep it simple and small at first. Then as you get good at it, expand out and grow more of your own food. If you are afraid that is OK, do not let it stop you, this is your food security.
If you are unsure what plants need to grow up health we suggest you check out our page, "5 things all plant need to be healthy." After that we suggest you open up the discussions below.
  • Regulations and Toxic Land
  • What To Plant
  • Plant Your Water
  • Soil Preparation

Regulations and Toxic Land:

You have heard the phrase, "Innocent until proven guilty". We would like to state another credo to live by, "Good intentions until proven otherwise".
     The city where you live will have regulations and bylaws. It is a good Idea to familiarize yourself with those before beginning a garden at home. Sometimes, what you want to do is illegal in your town or state. In the beginning, that is OK. We suggest you start out with activities you are allowed to do. In general, no city is going to prosecute you for having a small garden in your back yard that just feeds you, but you should know that first.
     Since most cities have a web site we suggest you find their page and look at the laws of your town. If not, consider a trip to city hall. Why is this so important? Good intentions. All government is set up to create laws that are intended to be good for the citizens within their authority. Sometimes, the laws are passed with misinformation, sometimes with good information but bad solutions, sometimes technology makes the laws obsolete, some could be protection against toxic land and some (few) are passed to covertly oppress the masses. You do not know which is witch until you explore those later. For now, you want to increase your own food security by having a garden.
     The laws usually indicate how many stupid things people did before you came along and have nothing to do with you. If you look at our "Benefits of growing ..." page in the "Time With Family, Friends and Community" section, you will see links to videos of people who were able to change or work with the laws in their cities.
     We would also like to suggest that your efforts start in the back yard. Nothing gets noticed like a garden in your front yard.
     As you proceed you will figure out what things are important to you. If those things are illegal, we suggest you find other people who agree that the laws (regarding your landscape) may be ridiculous. If you can show to the city (county or state) that the law does not have sufficient merit, you may be able to get the laws changed.
   If that does not work, consider some legal defense type funds. An example of such a fund is the Farm-to-Consumer Defense Fund.
     We do not encourage illegal or poorly conceived actions. Cooler heads always prevail.
Toxic Land:
It is estimated (Nov. 2004) that 73 million people in the U.S. live within 4 miles of a waste site and 14 million live within 1 mile of a National Priorities List site. Usually your states department of Ecology will have a list. For example, here is the list for Washington State.
     When you have a non-food bearing landscape, it usually does not matter as much if there is toxic material in the soil. However, when considering growing food on your land toxicity needs to be considered. If you built your house your self on land that has not had a human use before, then it is very likely you do not need to worry about land toxicity. However, if the land is built on an old orchard or on an industrial area, it could be toxic. If you sprayed any 2,4 -D or glyphosate (Round Up) or had buildings with old peeling paint or a number of things happen on your property, growing areas may contain some toxic material.
     The good news is that if the soil has been growing stuff (like grass) for years the toxic molecules (poisons, chemicals) should mostly be broken (or bound) up. Then it is just a matter of toxic atoms (metals) to test for.
     There are many laboratories that test soils on a regular basis for farmers and homeowners. Many will do tests for fertility but you want the environmental tests for toxicity on the soil. The tests of interest are for RCRA metals such as As, Pb, Cr and a few more elements.
     While you are testing, it would not be a bad idea to test the water that comes out of your hose or the rain that falls on your property. This water, after all, will also be going into the plant. Usually, your local extension office can recommend a local lab to submit samples to. These tests can be as little as $10 or as much as $200 each. Several government entities ( county health dept., dept of ecology, epa programs, etc.) can help pay for these tests.  If the tests show high contamination, all is not lost, You might be able to remediate some of the bad stuff, see this video on remediation to get an idea of what can be done.

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http://www.no-tillfarmer.com/ No-till farmer web site. Good general information. taken 9/5/2015.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21782735, Seeking solutions to chemical mixtures challenges in public health., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Taken 2/22/2016.

http://www.urbanaglaw.org/soil/ Urban Aglaw, Soil testing; Urbanaglaw.org, Taken 3/5/2016.