Food & Diet

How to Keep Homegrown Food Completely Pesticide Free

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Growing your own, organic vegetables is a great way to start eating foods that are healthier and less contaminated with toxins. However, if you are living in an urban area you might be growing your food on contaminated soil. Luckily, there are ways to prevent your veggies from taking in the toxins and staying healthy for your consumption.

Currently, around 15% of all the food in the world is produced in urban areas according to the data released by the United States Department of Agriculture.

Since urban soils can be contaminated with arsenic, lead, hydrocarbons and numerous other toxins, whether the food grown in your own backyard in an urban area is healthy or not is not very clear to scientists.

According to a study conducted this June at Kansas State University, contaminated urban soil can be safe for crops, considering that the producers take certain measures of precaution.

Certain ways of gardening can minimize the amount of toxins plants will take in from the soil. Researchers discovered that vegetables grown in contaminated soils that were part of the study were safe to eat. Contaminants were found in very low levels in tomatoes and collard greens, while root vegetables, such as carrots, had higher levels of toxins.

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Some of the measures to be taken in order to grow healthy vegetables in contaminated soil, according to a soil chemist at Kansas State University and the lead researcher of the mentioned study, Ganga Hettiarachchi, are “washing hands thoroughly after gardening, covering pathways with woodchips or gravel, and keeping the soil moist during dry and windy conditions to prevent dust generation”.

Hettiarachchi also suggested that there are more ways to minimize the amount of heavy metals the plants will take in from the soil, including adding nutrients such as phosphorus to the soil. Phosphorus is beneficial for numerous reasons – first, it makes the crop healthier and stronger, and second, it makes heavy metals such as lead less toxic.

Gardeners can test the level of contamination in their soil by sending a sample to a laboratory who will, accordingly to the results, decide what your next step should be.

If the contamination is higher than normal, you could add compost to the soil and slightly reduce the toxicity levels. Eating the foods you grow at home is definitely healthier than buying non-organic vegetables at the supermarket, and yours will surely have lower levels of contaminants. Other than that, growing food at home and using whatever space you have for gardening reduces your food expenses and gives you the satisfaction of eating what you grew on your property.

Moreover, at-home gardening is a good way to reduce carbon emissions and contribute to our planet being a healthier one.

If more people agree to start gardening, it will be beneficial for all of us. Even if you don’t have a yard, you can literally use whatever you have at hand, including window boxes, rooftops and small containers, as Scott Kellogg, educational director at the Radix Ecological Sustainability Center in Albany, New York suggests.

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