As movements to eat local and dine farm-to-table have taken off, so has the prevalence of urban gardening. The concept encompasses everything from community gardens to rooftop plots where produce is grown and either directly consumed, or sold in season to local residents, stores and restaurants.
Just how popular has food gardening become? The National Gardening Association recently released findings showing that in 2013, 42 million households grew their own food, up from 36 million in 2008. This translates to 1-in-3 American households, and perhaps unsurprisingly, millennials are growing food at a higher rate than any other segment of the population.
Oftentimes, urban gardens provide much-needed fruits and veggies in food deserts where such items have traditionally been unavailable. They can also have a significant economic impact on the community by creating jobs and keeping money circulating locally.
However, urban gardening is not without its risks. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Urban gardeners need to be aware of any and all soil contaminants before starting to grow. Lead testing for soil is common, but many other things can contaminate soil as well, including asbestos, cleaning products and chemicals from car exhaust.
Experts recommend checking property and land records to identify potential soil contaminants in your desired urban garden space before ordering any kind of tests.
When constructing an urban garden, it’s important to identify and use materials free of chemicals that could negatively affect the fruits and veggies grown.
Additionally, thoroughly washing produce before consumption is key in preventing direct ingestion of potentially contaminated soil.