The National Gardening Association reported last year that the number of Americans producing food in urban areas increased nearly 30 percent between 2008-2013. Anecdotally, many of us see evidence of this trend.

Soil safety is key; urban soils are sometimes contaminated with heavy metals, asbestos and other contaminants harmful to human health. But are urban gardeners aware of the best practices of urban food production? A study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University’s Center for a Livable Future indicates that while most of those they surveyed were aware of the potential of lead contamination, they were unaware about how to avoid some other types of soil contaminants.

Just in time for spring and summer, a piece from NPR’s The Salt detailing some of the best practices for urban gardeners. (We’ll round out that advice at the end of this piece with some sage gardening advice from the University of California Master Gardener Program and links to a fine read on the history of school gardens and a Q&A with Roger Doiron of Kitchen Gardeners International).

Maanvi Singh (@maanvisings) reports:


“Another consideration is you have to be careful about the materials that you’re using to build a raised bed,” [Brent] Kim says. Recycling wood from an old construction site might seem like a good, eco-friendly idea. But that wood could be treated with chemicals you don’t want touching your fruits and veggies, Kim says.

He adds that raised beds are a best practice if you’re worried about soil contamination, but “they’re just not a silver bullet.”


Did you know that the University of California has more than 5,000 certified Master Gardeners in counties throughout the state? The UC Master Gardener program stands by ready to assist if you live in California. UC has created a California Garden Web portal that provides a treasure trove of gardening resources for all parts of the state. This work is part of UC’s Global Food Initiative, which seeks to harness the institution’s power to address one of the most compelling issues of our time: how to sustainably and nutritiously feed a growing world population.

If you’re interested in school gardens, read this brief history, written by the UC Food Observer for Kitchen Gardeners International.


Related Links:

Q&A: Roger Doiron on the White House Garden campaign, and more

Grow it: Gardening resources and ideas

Former food desert feeds a community’s spirit