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Homeowner raises concerns after inheriting dangerous yard feature from previous homeowner: 'I wouldn't grow food there'

"I recommend getting your soil tested for metals."

"I recommend getting your soil tested for metals."

Photo Credit: iStock

One Redditor who inherited a mess from their home's previous tenant was wary about growing vegetables in potentially contaminated ground.

It's a frustrating fact of life that many kinds of trash, litter, and chemicals can cause long-lasting pollution to the surrounding soil. The EPA warns about many common contaminants in dirt that gardeners may end up accidentally eating or inhaling, especially in urban areas. These chemicals can stick around even after the initial mess is gone — and while researchers are hard at work on cleanup methods, there's no easy way to fix this problem yet.

This Redditor seemed to have some awareness of the problem when they posted in r/vegetablegardening in September. "Does rubber mulch pollute the ground?" they asked.

According to the Redditor, they moved in recently and found a large pile of shredded tires, painted red, in their yard. It appeared the rubber mulch was once sitting on a wooden pallet, but it had been there long enough for the wood to disintegrate, leaving the rubber on the ground. Some of it even got buried as it was exposed to weather and wildlife took up residence in the pile.

"I am wondering if the rubber mulch may have leached toxins into the soil," said the Redditor. "[I] would like to put a vegetable garden where it once was. The plan is to dig up and sift the soil to about 24" deep (about 12 yards of soil for a 12' x 12' garden) and then dress it with about 4 inches of quality compost."

"You had granulated rubber tires smeared all over your garden?" one commenter clarified. "I wouldn't grow food there. It will be filled with particulates and chemicals. Go for raised beds and maybe block them off from contact with the earth using food grade plastic sheeting."

Another Redditor offered a more conservative option. "I recommend getting your soil tested for metals and PAHs," they said. "The tires are probably inert, but it would be good to be sure."

The original poster didn't seem happy about either option. According to them, they don't like raised beds. Also, they said, "The 8 metal analysis alone is $200."

Many people also suggested planting sunflowers since they pull toxins from the ground.

The original poster eventually updated everyone with their decision, saying: "I appreciate the advice. I've decided that I'm going to both move the planned garden and test the soil at some point in the future. In the meantime, some sunflowers would look lovely." 

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