Mycology Monday: Cleaning Up Lead Paint Contamination

Mycology Monday: Cleaning Up Lead Paint Contamination

Photo Credit: Sasha Lynn
Taken in Fairbanks, Alaska
September 2006

While looking to feed your family from your yard there are some potential dangers lurking that you should be aware of.  I had no idea when I began my research on urban homesteading, permaculture gardening, and food forestry that there might be lead contamination in the soil around my home.  Thankfully, one of the first highly recommended books that I read wasGaia’s Garden, Second Edition: A Guide To Home-Scale Permaculture.

When your garden space is limited you want to
plant the most nutrient dense crops that you can.

Knowing which plants contain important nutrients such as potassium, magnesium, calcium, sulfur, copper, and zinc – you might be tempted to plant alot of herbs, leafy greens and root vegetables in the beautifully framed bed on the south side of your house.  I was.

Then I read:

“A warning: Many of the species that accumulate metals such as copper and zinc also pick up lead and in fact are used to clean up contaminated sites.  If soil contains lead, such as along the foundation of old houses where lead based paint may have weathered, these plants can concentrate the metal in their leaves.”

This is not a salad that you want to feed your family.

Two years ago I moved into a house built in 1905.  I have a weakness for old houses and immediately fell in love with it.  The lot is large and giving up my garden at the farm meant that I had to find ways to fill my need to grow food here in town.  I had already planted leafy greens and herbs in that bed with the help of my 2 year old daughter.  Sad as it made me, I let the bed go and began looking for ways to clean the soil.

You can grow lots of leafy greens and herbs for a couple of years and throw them away.  You cannot eat them or compost them.  Composting them just puts the lead back into your soil.

Or if you believe that your soil is contaminated with lead:

1. Have the soil tested to find out if you actually have a problem.

2. If the lead levels are high the recommendation is to remove the top 6 inches of soil.  According to the book lead doesn’t generally make it much further.

3. If lead levels are still high – plant Oyster Mushrooms.

There is more information on innoculating your compost and cleaning your soil in the book.  They continue on to cite Paul Stamets (the same guy that did the Ted Talk on mushrooms) later in the book.

“Mushroom guru Paul Stamets has accumulated research showing that fungi are superb at pulling both metals and petroleum-based pollutants out of soil.  In his revelatory book, Mycelium Running, Paul proved that mushrooms can remove petroleum products and other toxins from soil, improve fertility, and boost soil’s ability to hold water.  Mushrooms fill a crucial and neglected niche in the urban garden.”

I agree.  Because mushrooms are awesome.

Keep all of this in mind as you get ready to plant your veggies this spring.  If your home was built prior to 1978 when lead paint was banned the soil around the foundation of your home could be contaminated.  And even if it isn’t – you can still plant mushrooms there for fun and food.

That’s it for Mycology Monday!  If you found the information helpful, or have any questions, or just have minute – leave me a comment below.  I love comments.

Tune in next week when we’ll talk more about the wonderful world of fungus.


Poet, Artist, Writer, Novelist, Photographer, Mommy, Domestic Partner, Tender of the Earth, and Conduit of Love and Abundance Come like me on Facebook

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Posted in Gardening, Mycology

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“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” ~ Sylvia Plath
Sasha Lynn

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