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Lead In Our Soil… The Continuing Saga

When we discovered that the soil in our yard had such a high lead count it was very dissappointing for all of us. We have such a large and sunny yard and our soil quality is fantastic for growing food. We had already prepped our plot and planted the first round to seeds and starts. We didn’t want to abandon our garden but we knew that it wasn’t safe for our children to work and play in the soil. Adults can process lead more effectively than children and of course we know that lead to cause serious developmental issues in children.

As we began to go through our options we decided on a couple of things. First we would build a series of raised beds for the children to work and play in. If the children couldn’t have their own hands on growing experience then much of the power and purpose of the project would have been undermined. Second, we would being to research some practical and affordable ways to begin to get the lead out of our soil.

We started out by working on getting our raised bed built. Money was a serious concern since it was really tight. There are lots of ways to build a raised bed garden and we wanted something that would look nice and wouldn’t break the bank. The closer to free the better!

Fortunately we have access to a wealth of resources in the form of our TGP community! Scott McGowan, owner of Homegrown Organics, and one of our garden coaches is a strong proponent of FREE and suggested we build our beds out of irregular concrete slabs that tile and counter top often give away (it saves them the cost of disposing of it themselves).  After a trip to a counter top foundry in Georgetown to pick up some concrete slabs, getting a large piece of cardboard, pebbles for our foundational barrier (of which I had on hand), we had the most of the raw materials for our bed. Besided gas to put in Scott’s truck when we went to get the concrete we hadn’t spent a dime!  We went to Sayer’s soil and lumber yard on Rainier Ave in South Seattle and bought a truck load of soil for $32. Their soil comes from Cedar Grove and is a compost enriched product. It was enough to fill one and a half raised beds. We already had seeds from various seed share and gardening organizations so our total outlay for the our raised bed was only the $32 for soil.

Our goal for this project is to demonstrate how families can create their gardens and grow food on a tight budget. We could have spent up to $150 – $200 building one raised bed using wood (one of the more common approaches). But in the end we have this beautiful raised bed and it was virtually free. This is a victory for TGP.



We started out by building our bed out of recycled concrete slabs, cardboard, pebbles, and compost enriched soil

These irregular slabs come from Ambiente Europen Tile Design in Georgetown in South Seattle. They are basically the 'waste' material form the counter to cutting process.

I was fortunate to stumble upon another company that had LOADS of beautiful real stone irregular slabs that they were more than happy to part with. we used these pieces at the top layer of our raised bed. They gave the project a beautiful natural finish.

I really like the feeling and texture of the stone slabs. They are very pretty against the rich soil. I feel very lucky to have come across this resource.

Once the bed was built and filled in we were ready to plant. We had seed sown by the end of the day. Best of all we let Ama-Ibi choose what she wanted to plant and she helped plant her own crops.


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