lead in backyards Feed

9 steps for lead-safe urban gardening

9 steps to lead safe urban gardening

Urban chook keepers may be feeling a little wary after learning that a recent University of Newcastle study found high levels of lead in home-grown backyard eggs.

Thankfully, it is possible to garden safely and grow your own food in lead-contaminated urban areas.

Nine steps for lead-safe urban gardening:

1. Grow food plants in raised beds lined with landscape fabric and filled with uncontaminated soil. Container gardening is another option.

2. Cover all areas of bare soil with grass, gravel, or thick mulch.

3. Ensure chooks don't have access to contaminated bare soil, for example by laying pavers in their pen or housing in a chicken tractor over raised garden beds containing uncontaminated soil. Ensure they always have access to uncontaminated soil for dust bathing, even if it's just a large pot of soil in the corner of their pen. Restrict free ranging to areas where they can't access contaminated soil.

4. Locate food gardens away from painted buildings that were constructed during and prior to the 1970s, as they are likely painted in lead-based paint.

5. In areas where you can't easily create a barrier between old and new uncontaminated soil, favour fruits rather than root vegetables or leafy greens as research has found little accumulation of lead in fruits in comparison to leaves, roots and stems. 

6. Maintain soil pH around 6.5 by adding lime if needed. Lead is relatively unavailable at or above this level.

7. Add loads of organic matter to your soil. Organic compounds bind lead and make it less available to the plant. 

8. Clean produce thoroughly.

9. Consider wearing gloves and wash hands immediately after gardening and before eating.

If you are interested in testing your own garden soil, economical lead-testing kits are available from The Lead Group

[Originally published in my column LESS IS MORE in the The Newcastle Herald Weekender Magazine 16th March 2013]

Our natural outdoor play space

Natural backyard playground 1

Remember that natural playground we started planning late last year? Inspired by the recent four part series on Ideas for adding natural elements to your outdoor play space over at Let the Children Play, I thought i'd share how our play space is progressing.

Natural backyard playground 4

One of the most popular parts of the new play space has been the sand play wine barrel. We cut an old wine barrel into 1/3 and 2/3, using the 1/3 for the sand pit and the other 2/3 as a container for loose parts. We added some shells for texture and a few pretty stones as treasure.

Natural backyard playground 3

The sand pit really only fits one, but when there's more, they simply sit around the outside and lean in.

Natural backyard playground 2

Our salvaged timber table and chairs are regularly used for tea parties, craft activities, and imaginative play.

Vintage umbrella play
{Little Eco and Lillian}
I sometimes bring out an old umbrella. It's actually the very same umbrella I used to sit under when I wasn't much older than Little Eco.

Natural backyard playground 8

Natural backyard playground 9

We've planted a few plants within the gravel and added a few bits and pieces that inevitably end up being used in imaginative play, like banksia cones....

Natural backyard playground 10

..a kangaroo skull....

Natural backyard playground 1 7

...a very pre-loved Tonka truck and a few op-shop sourced ornaments.

Natural backyard playground 6

And then we have the not-so-natural element of the play space - the trampoline. At least it's Australian made.
Speaking of play spaces, the theme over at Childhood 101 for July is 'House or Home.' I'll be sharing a few of our new indoor play spaces. If you have a wonderful family or kids space at your house (inside or out) that you would like to share, send photos and details to burnettmc [at] gmail [dot] com.
And don't forget to enter the Biome Giveaway if you haven't already. Entries close at midnight on Monday (4th July).