By Vanessa Richins
Jarod C. asks:
“Hello Urban Gardner, my wife and I want to plant a garden in our yard this year but are concerned about the near by freeway and shipping lanes. The diesel truck and ocean tanker exhaust deposits a blanket of black soot on our porch and outdoor windowsills.
My question is can we grow food in this environment?
Can the soot simply be washed off making vegetables ready to eat or does the toxic component get inside the food making them unhealthy to eat. I know it sounds terrible but we actually live in a lovely neighborhood.”
As I did some searching for articles to research this question, I became a bit frustrated.
It turns out that there hasn’t been much research (if any) performed to determine the effects of car exhaust and soot on edible gardens. Your area, unfortunately, sounds worse than most in this regard and I am not sure I would try gardening there.
One suggestion I have is that if you have the room, make yourself a hoophouse or greenhouse. It doesn’t have to be expensive – just use PVC pipes and sheet plastic. Though I don’t believe the -plastic is necessarily 100% able to block the soot (it’s unknown), I would think that this would shield your plants from the majority of the soot. Wash them after harvesting.
Otherwise, an interesting document I found was a city’s advisory for soot after a large fire they had. Since it is a similar toxic situation, I will present their suggestions for dealing with produce.
–Don’t eat (grow) vegetables that are difficult to wash, like lettuce, chard, cauliflower and broccoli
–Vegetables with many tightly packed layers like cabbage – take off the outer leaves and use the inside.
–Wash and/or peel other fruits and vegetables before use
-They said there were no problems with root vegetables and to simply wash them as usual.
You could also try growing some of your plants indoors.I hope you can find a way to have a garden at your house. Good luck!