Unknowingly, I built raised garden beds for litter boxes for neighborhood cats. I would like to plant vegetables, but am afraid of the contaminated soil. What can I do to clean the soil sufficiently, so I can plant food for my children?
Hardiness Zone: 9a
By Martedcar from Stockton, CA
You'll never be able to clean out this dirt. The only way would be by high heat (like baking for hours in a hot oven). That's how potting soil is disinfected, huge ovens. UV rays from the sun help kill bacteria and virus (like toxoplasmosis), but not worms. I would never use these garden beds for food. Flowers are the only thing I'd grow.
If you do decide to use the beds, always wear gloves and thoroughly wash the veggies (especially lettuce, spinach, and other veggies that are not cooked) because it's easy to transfer worm eggs to humans. Just last night I was reading on the internet about worms in cats and kittens (my daughter's cat has worms) and the articles mentioned using gloves when gardening in case a cat had "gone" in the dirt. Not only can roundworms be transferred via cat poop in soil, but so can tapeworms. I didn't know this until I read it, but almost all cats are born with worms. It is transferred via the mother in utero and also in her milk. Wow! was all I could say!
As you probably know, toxoplasmosis is a parasite. Just last week they had a special on NPR radio about it. Did you know that schizophrenia was never heard of until humans started keeping cats as pets in the 1700s. There have been many studies and they've found a link between toxoplasmosis and schizophrenia. I found it extremely interesting that a mouse that doesn't have toxoplasmosis in his brain runs away as quickly as possible when he smells cat pee, but when a mouse has toxoplasmosis, he loses fear of cats and may even get turned on when he smells cat pee and wants to be near cats! (strange but true!) So toxoplasmosis must be natures way of keeping cats in the wild alive and well-fed!
Now don't get me wrong with all this talk of toxoplasmosis and worms, I'm a huge cat lover! I just wouldn't garden where that have pooped. Sorry, I hope you find a better place to garden. How about renting a pee-patch, you can usually rent one for $20 for one growing season at a local park.
Read more here:
Rats Under The Influence of Toxoplasma: Crazy for Cat Urine:
Do cat parasites cause schizophrenia?:
How To Identify and Treat Feline Worms and more Worm Info:
All this being said, I would think that if your wait several years and in that time, rake the soil often so the sun's UV rays can disinfect it down deep and IF you wear gloves and are extremity careful about washing your veggies with a good vegetable soap that eventually you can grow food in that raised bed. (12/22/2009)
My raised beds turned out to be litter boxes for a beautiful cat I now refer to as my arch-nemesis! I emptied the boxes and started over. I now use bird netting over the boxes. The great thing about netting is your plants can grow right through it, or you can cut away bits of the net to transplant larger plants. Sometimes I gather twigs and lay them over the boxes and seedlings for protection. I haven't had kitty poo for several years now. (01/08/2010)
I don't know a reliable way getting rid of the contamination, but if you put scraps of hardware cloth around your plants it will keep them from using your beds again. You can even cover it up with a thin layer of mulch. Cats don't like catching their claws on the wire when they dig their hole to go. (01/08/2010)
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