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I have a large urban lot in Seattle, and at one point I had a very nice vegetable garden going, and I still have 10 nice blueberry shrubs going, and an apple tree.
I'm considering starting up the veggie garden again, and expanding it, but have one concern and wanted some input.
My lot is about 5 blocks east of our city's main Freeway, and I hadn't noticed this until a roofer pointed it out... we seem to get a lot of soot fallout from the Freeway. This fallout is profound enough that roofs darken with time, etc. My ex wife used this as her reason for why she didn't like to grow food at our house.
So my question is, from a toxin perspective, how nasty is this auto-fume-soot fallout? If I were to collect rain water for watering, should I find a way to filter it before using it in the garden?
Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
I think one of the best things to do is to get as much organic material in your soil as possible; this will help promote the growth of beneficial bacteria and fungi which are helpful in rendering toxins in the rainwater into harmless compounds. This actively alive soil will be the "filter" for the rainwater, in my opinion.
Joined: Feb 21, 2012
Thanks. Sounds like adding lots of organic material would be a good idea no matter where my garden is.
I am though, interested in hearing others thoughts about growing food close to, and down wind, of a major freeway. I can see the particulate washout on the roofs in my neighborhood.
What is happening to all of that lead, benzine, and PM10 particulate that collects on the soil and on the foliage of the fruit trees, bushes, and leafy parts of the garden plants?
Joined: Sep 30, 2011
Location: Mountain West of USA, Salt Lake City
All of that stuff is probably going to fall on your soil if its falling on your roof. Unless you know the farms that you are getting your food from, the same could be true with anything bought in the store.
Joined: May 24, 2010
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
I agree with Hanley: while growing food plants by the motorway isn't exactly ideal, at least you can control how you grow them in those conditons.
Also, as far as I know, heavy metals aren't taken up in most plants, although benzene may be a different story...
I'd be far more concerned about breathing the toxins than eating them. How unhelpful is that
Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Location: Currently in Seattle. Probably moving 1 hour north by end of the year.
Not all of that soot is from the exhaust. There is a lot of 'spent' rubber in there. I used to live a block off of a major highway, and even sweeping the porches every day was not enough to keep the soot out of the house.
These gals grow 7,000 lbs of organic produce from 1/10 acre on their urban homestead located 100 yards from an 11 lane freeway in Pasadena. If you search their site you might get some ideas for your situation.
Something I've read several times is that trees and bushes put very little, if any, toxins found in the soil into their fruit.
Depending on the type of pollution you're worried about, using a screen of trees, shrubs, and vines to limit particulates blowing on to your site may work if you have the space.
Whether or not you do have the space, I've read that root crops are generally the least safe to eat in lead polluted soils, so you probably don't want to even think about eating root crops unless you put them in containers.
Another thing to consider is also the amount of contact your vegetables have with the earth. A pumpkin lying on the ground is probably less safe to eat than the peppers you've been growing.
Joined: Jan 15, 2012
Location: St. Louis, MO
I think it would be okay to grow food nearby roadways and such as long as you take some active measures to remove the toxins... For example, in a recent reply of mine I touched briefly upon using phytoremediation to remove toxins from the soil.