Decontaminating Soil Before Growing Vegetables?

Category Soil
Contaminates such as pet feces can make a garden plot temporarily unsuitable for growing vegetables. Some plants such as sunflowers are known to remove contaminants. You can also cover the area with black plastic to heat the soil up and destroy certain contaminants. Then test before planting to ensure safety. This is a page about decontaminating soil before growing vegetables.
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June 28, 2006

Question:

Is there any way to decontaminate existing flower beds of dog and cat feces so that I could plant vegetables such as beans, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash?

Hardiness Zone: 10a

Bdasch from Port Aransas, Texas

Answer:

Bdasch,

Dilution is the soil-lution. First, remove any visible feces from the existing beds. Then add in as much new organic-rich soil as possible. Make sure you till it in deeply.

If you do this now, it's probably a good idea to let the new soil settle in and over-winter in the beds before planting your vegetables next year. During this period of "rest", cover the beds with black plastic. The heat generated by the plastic will help pasteurize the soil and further kill off any contaminants. It will also provide you with weed-free beds to start your vegetables with next year.

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Studies have also shown that certain plants like Sunflowers are capable of taking up contaminants from the soil as they grow. An alternative to the plastic might be to plant a crop of sunflowers for the remainder of this year and then cover the beds with plastic over winter.

In any case, don't plant any edibles until you get your soil tested. Contact your county extension agency for more information on how to have your soil tested. Make sure to tell them about your specific situation and concerns.

If possible, avoid future contamination by designating specific areas outdoors for your dogs and cats to go to the bathroom (a fenced area for dogs and a sandbox for cats).

A second option is to build raised beds for your vegetables or grow them in containers.

Good luck!
Ellen

Answers

April 27, 20060 found this helpful
Best Answer

Remove the poop and turn some compost into the soil.

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By Mary (Guest Post)
March 10, 20070 found this helpful
Best Answer

It would have been nice if something had been said about keeping soil decontaminated once it's already treated. What good is it going to do to decontaminate if a cat comes along afterwards and contaminates it again. Am I supposed to go through the whole riggamarole again to clean the soil?

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I'm frustrated because I want to find an inexpensive way of looking after my flower beds.

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