I’m a phenomenal putter-offer, and getting my backyard soil tested is exactly the kind of chore I am fantastic at avoiding. It is the obvious, responsible thing to do, after all, but the results can be a punch in the gut to any urban farmer.
So I blindly ate my way through two growing seasons before curiosity compelled me to find out whether I was slowly consuming an enormous amount of lead and vintage Brooklyn arsenic.
After clearing our building’s backyard of waist-high weeds and an array of very upsetting litter (note the name of our “farm”), my boyfriend, our helpful friends, and I built three raised garden beds about two feet deep. We debated whether to seal the beds off before adding new soil, using pond liner or, preferably, some organic material, but decided it was unnecessary since we wouldn’t be growing anything with very deep roots.
Were we right, or just cheap and lazy? Maybe all of the above? Sometimes, the paranoid part of my brain plays me footage of all the scary shit in that pale, diseased, clumpy soil leaching its way into our moist, innocent dirt. In this imaginary film, the toxins seep up from under the wood frames of the beds, and up the stems of our precious plants. I’ve also tried to imagine our compost somehow fighting it off. And we do even have our own organic-fed chickens pooping nitrogen gold. What more could you need?