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How to Test for Soil Contamination in Your Garden

Contaminated soil could ruin your garden – it might not even allow a garden to grow in the first place. Not only that, but contaminated soil could bear fruit and vegetables that are toxic or that can make you sick. Soil that is contaminated can also cause something called vapor intrusion – a relatively new phenomenon whereby chemicals in the groundwater can pass through your soil and can turn into toxic vapors that pollute your indoor air. If you start to notice any of these signs of contamination, like strong odors, dead patches in grass and even sickness, you probably need to test your soil. Here is how to test for soil contamination in your garden.

There are many ways to test your soil, but there is generally only one effective way. Go down to your local nursery and get an amateur kit, but with most of these kits the results are not entirely conclusive. You can also use a pH balance stick, but most of the time your results won’t be entirely accurate. Your best bet when it comes to testing your soil is to get a testing kit from a laboratory located in your state – usually at one of the many state universities where students are always looking for classroom materials.

Before you actually test your soil you will first need to know where you will take your samples. The best places to take samples is right around either where your children play or where you intend to grow food for consumption, like tomatoes or herbs. You usually want to dig up to 12 holes – each about 4 to 5 inches deep. Then you want to take the soil from the very bottom of the holes and mix them into one bucket – about a gallon sized bucked should do the trick.

After you get a decent sized soil sample you want to mix the soil around in the bucket. After the soil is thoroughly mixed you want to put the soil into the container that the testing laboratory provided for you. They will usually give you a special container that is typically the size of a cup with materials that you can use to ship it safely. If you have more than a few soil beds, you might want to get a couple tests done – just to make sure that the contamination hasn’t spread to other parts of your garden.

Lastly, you want to send the soil sample off and wait for your results. Before you do, however, each testing kit should come with a form to fill out so that you can make any special notes. For instance, perhaps there is a certain type of vegetable that you would like to grow and that only thrives in a very specific pH balance – you can get your pH balance tested and you will even get to know the proper moisture density. Most importantly, though, you want to find out if there are any contaminants such as lead, mercury, or even methane vapors. A healthy garden will ultimately be healthy for you too – if it isn’t, you want to rectify the problem.

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