What factors support and promote home-based food-growing in four neighbourhoods in SW Sheffield?

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Soil Testing and Contamination

One of the responses to Question #19 about gardening techniques was soil testing. Type of testing was not specified though most interpreted it as ph and nutrient testing. Only 12 of those returning the questionnaire said they had tested their soil in any way, 4 said in interviews that they had tested for PH and some for nutrients and trace elements as well. All 12 grow 2 or more food types and 8 grow all 4. All 12 have undertaken soil improvement and composting. 11 of them garden organically. 9 harvest rainwater. Taken together these behaviours indicate a thoroughness of approach to food-growing.

Only 1 in N#2 has tested their soil for contamination while 3 of the 9 interviewed there said they were concerned about soil contamination and 4 had no idea how to get contamination testing done. 2 of those unconcerned indicated their own understanding of their garden techniques and the history of the area as reasons.

While only 2 in N#3 have tested their soil, 5 of 8 interviewed expressed concern about contamination. 4 expressed confidence that they could find a way to get their soil tested for contamination.

4 in N#1 had tested their soil and 4 of 5 interviewed were aware of general contamination issues and gave reasons for being concerned or not; only 2 expressed concern. 3 did not know anything about getting soil tested for contamination, while 1 provided names of 3 Labs in Yorkshire that do it.

While 5 in N#4 had tested their soil, only 2 of 7 interviewed expressed concern about soil contamination, 1 of whom said that they had chosen the SW side of town to buy due to prevailing winds blowing pollution to the NE side of town. 2 expressed complete confidence that their neighbourhood was not contaminated. 4 would not know how to get contamination testing done.
It is not surprising that N#1 and N#4 have done the most soil testing; these neighbourhoods have the most committed and active growers.

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