Gardens

How to Purify and Decontaminate Your Soil

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If you are planning to start a garden, but discover that your soil is contaminated, there are steps you can take to purify and decontaminate before you begin. It is important to know what has contaminated the soil before you choose a method. If it is contaminated with deadly chemicals, the best option is to have the soil professionally handled, or completely removed and replaced. If the soil has been contaminated with oil-based elements or petroleum distillates, it would be best to have the soil professionally remediated.

For less threatening contaminates, like animal feces, there are ways you can decontaminate yourself without too much expense or difficulty.

Tools and Materials

  • Standard gardening tools and a tiller
  • Charcoal
  • Compost, gypsum, coarse sand, and fertilizer
  • Ferns and sunflower plants
  • Plastic sheeting

Step 1 - Remove Any Remaining Contaminants

If the contaminant is something solid, like animal feces, remove as much of the remaining material and dispose of properly.

Step 2 - Add Some Charcoal

If the contamination is recent, like a small chemical spill, try adding some activated charcoal the the soil. The charcoal will act as a sponge and soak up the chemical. When you are through, you simply remove the charcoal.

Step 3 - Maximize the Soils Ability to Heal

When ridding your garden of contaminants and toxins, it is important to have good drainage. Adding compost and gypsum to the soil will improve drainage and encourage worms to inhabit the area. Worms are natural aerators, and will improve soils quality. If your soil is dense or has a high clay content, you may want to add sand or pea gravel to the area to improve drainage.

Step 4 - Grow Plants that Detoxify

Some plants act as natural detoxifiers and soil cleansers. Sunflowers have long been used to clean toxins. Another plant you can use is the ferns. Both act as leeches, pulling contaminants from the soil with their roots, and thus decontaminating it.

Step 5 - Bake the Soil by Solarization

Start by adding organic materials and fertilizers to the soil. Work these in well with a garden tiller or a spade. Rake the surface of your garden as smooth as possible. Get the ground moist before covering it. Do not over water the area; you just want the ground to be damp. Cover your garden with a layer of plastic. It is best to make the area as airtight as possible, and you may want to consider digging a trench around your garden to bury the plastic. If you need to use more than one piece of plastic, use a heat and weather resistant sealant to glue them together. Bury the sides of the plastic in the ground well. Pull the plastic tight as you go to make sure it is airtight. Leave the plastic in place over the winter months.

Step 6 - Prepare the Soil

When you have decontaminated the area, it is a good idea to do another soil test to determine what the soil may still be lacking. Add compost, fertilizer, or nutrient additives as needed. Work the soil well. If you used the solarization method in Step 5, you should have no weeds to worry about, so the soil should then be ready for planting.

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