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Turning From the Dark Side - Putting My Mouth Where My Money Was  RSS feed

 
Tim Eastham
Posts: 52
Location: USDA Climate Zone 9, Central Florida
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I have lived on my 1/4 acre lot for about 5 years. I bought the home new. The property was formerly an orange grove. The first 3 years of my stay here I was a bad boy. Pesticides (lots) and herbicides on a regular basis in addition to recommended chemical fertilizing. Basically, if it was alive and not grass I attempted to kill it (and spent a lot of money doing that). Now, I am trying to clean it up. Last year, for the whole year, I didn't put anything down in the backyard. Yeah I had a some "weeds" (like sow thistle which I found out is edible). Some grass died too. However, I am now seeing bees (to the blooms on the "weeds"), worm castings (which I had never seen before), and critters coming to dig up the bugs.

Are these signs that my backyard is healed? If not, is there a mechanism by which I can eliminate or remove the toxins without replacing all the dirt manually? I plan on putting in a raised bed garden soon and will of course add new dirt for that, but what about eating the cow thistle or other "weeds" growing now in the grass? And what about if I throw food seeds directly into the existing dirt?

Thanks,
Tim
 
Jami McBride
gardener
Posts: 1948
Location: PNW Oregon
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books chicken duck food preservation forest garden hugelkultur trees
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I would look to mycelium (mushrooms are their fruit we see) for taking care of any residue chemicals still present in your soil.
Google mycelium compost and chemicals, or ask at your local mushroom spore store or on-line.
Here is a link to fungi perfecti http://www.fungi.com/kits/index.html

Have a soil test done for the most common offenders to start, work with mushrooms for a year and test again

Hope this helps.
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4437
Location: North Central Michigan
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if you KNOW the make up of the chemicals that you were pouring onto your property, list them on here and those with knowledge of them might be able to help you..the mushroom suggestion is a good one but first check to see if you added large amounts of fungicide as mushrooms are fungii
 
Dale Hodgins
gardener
Posts: 6781
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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I'm replying here primarily to move this question to the top for further examination.

I would think that with your rainfall and the porous nature of your soil, much of your chemical problems will have moved on to your neighbour's wells.

Plants like your thistle are deep rooted. If instead you import some clean soil for raised beds, shallow rooted plants could be grown . These would be less likely to take up much poisons.

You might also start trees that won't produce for a few years.
 
Craig Dobbson
master steward
Posts: 1929
Location: Maine (zone 5)
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I think i remember seeing somewhere that some brassicas are able to absorb heavy metals and some other compounds and store it in their leaves and roots. If memory serves me, these plants were used to suck up the toxins from the soil then they were harvested and treated as toxic waste. I've also heard of people using earthworms as a bio-accumulater of soil toxins. After feasting on the toxic soil the worms are coaxed to the surface where they too are harvested and treated as waste.

Knowing what toxins you're dealing with would be a good start. Some chemicals take a long time to breakdown and other don't last long at all. Sometimes the parts that what one chemical beaks down into can also be toxic. If it can't be safely broken down into inert compounds then you have to find a way around it.

 
Leila Rich
steward
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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Unless you were using really full-on herbicides like http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aminopyralid or similar systemics, I wouldn't be too worried about your actions.
I would be nervous knowing it used to be a commercial orchard. I don't know about citrus in Florida, but many old apple orchard sites here are very heavily contaminated with all sorts of nasty stuff.
I'd get a lab test done in mid spring. Maybe a good, in-depth soil test (tell them you're organic and if they sound nonplussed, go elswhere...) and one for heavy metals etc. I imagine it would be expensive, but in NZ labs give lots of advice with results.
I think things would have to be really, really bad to warrant replaciing the soil.
As far as I know, heavy metals don't move through plants and they generally stay in the soil unless it's disturbed. I wouldn't grow root crops in it, but even really horrible things like lead are pretty stable if they're kept under lots of mulch.
It's all theory at the moment...I seriously recommend testing.
Oh, and welcome to the Light Side
 
Ernie Wisner
gardener
Posts: 791
Location: Tonasket washington
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micoriza the hell out of it. go to fungi perfecti and order the books and ask your questions give them the list of chems you used. It's gonna cost you some money but it will be long term fixes not short term like the chems.

its going to take you some time and some things are gonna bother you because its gonna run counter to what you "know". I would be really slow and do it by the book (not that there is a book but you have at least 20 folks here that are permiculture instructors). So i would go slowly and make these guys go into detail so you understand the whole treatment. Do please get the permiculture hand book and read it so you have the vocabulary to understand what they are talking about. (Dont Build an Herb Spiral unless you need one.) Get Toby Heminways Gia's Garden as well. Ok here it is the library for you to get so you have some kind of vocabulary that will serve you well. Add to the other stuff above. mycelium running, life on a little know planet, and a book on your local edible weeds. these will give you a base to learn from.
 
George Lee
Posts: 539
Location: Athens, GA/Sunset, SC
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Work on some better carbon storing methods..

Long-chain carbon molecular structures help to make toxicity inert.
 
Tim Eastham
Posts: 52
Location: USDA Climate Zone 9, Central Florida
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Thanks all. For some reason I quit receiving updates that this thread had changed until today so I hadn't seen half the posts on here.

For pesticide, I mostly used this stuff: http://www.scotts.com/smg/catalog/productTemplatePopup.jsp?proId=prod180004 I didn't use any systemics.

For herbicide, it was atrazine because St. Augustine is resistant to it.

Thanks for this discussion on fungi. I never knew all this stuff about them. This article was pretty cool in my search (http://www.battelle.org/Environment/publications/EnvUpdates/Fall00/article4.html)

Do you think that if I inoculated mycelium in my yard it would help my grass in the front yard from needing so much water?

I also guess I should create some sort of barrier to the north. My yard slopes mostly from north to south with my house at the south end of my property. There is a house to the north that slopes my way as well. This means I get THEIR runoff. Maybe for the first few years I should just garden in raised box beds until I get it all sorted out. I will still grow lots of plants in the rest of the yard, I just won't consume them.

As for the previous orange grove, they haul in so much dirt to build these neighborhoods it probably doesn't matter much anyway.

Thanks,
Tim
 
George Lee
Posts: 539
Location: Athens, GA/Sunset, SC
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Have you considered cover cropping? Or 'trap cropping'. Consider Sunflowers!

"Sunflowers can remove toxic waste from the environment. Sunflowers absorb toxic metals such as arsenic, zinc, lead, uranium and strontium-90. They have long roots which reach deeply into polluted water and extract toxic metals."

On the opposing slope you could plant some legumes. Winter squash also draw toxins/metals (hence why one or two servings a week is suggested).
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9741
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
180
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Remember if you use sunflowers to remove metals, the sunflowers need to be taken off the site as toxic waste, you can't compost them because that will just return the metals to the system.
 
George Lee
Posts: 539
Location: Athens, GA/Sunset, SC
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Good point. You could do a polyculture of toxin-removal plants. Sunflowers with a squash to crawl the vertical.

Tim - Can you get us a photo of the area(s)? It may help explain the most sensible direction in which to go with this.
 
Leila Rich
steward
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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While the active ingredient (Bifenthrin ) in that ortho stuff looks pretty nasty, it has a short half-life and I imagine it's already done its thing: http://www.beyondpesticides.org/infoservices/pesticidefactsheets/toxic/pyrethroid.htm
It looks like a good way of dealing with Atrazine is by encouraging biological activity in the soil, which breaks it down quite fast. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atrazine
Considering toxins usually move through the soil in water, I can't imagine a physical barrier stopping things at your boundary.
I'm not very good at envisioning Northern hemisphere directions, but maybe you have good sun on your Northern boundary? I'd consider planting the area in perennials. Whether they're trees/plants for food depends on your comfort zone.
An attractive, practical design reducing lawn to the minimum, planting up and mulching is a worthwhile consideration.
I don't know much about mycelium, but NZ white clover is a drought-resistant lawn species in my climate.
I still think soil testing is a good idea, then you're not just guessing.
I'm bound to be lot more casual than some, but as long as I was adding plenty of organic matter to the soil, I'd start eating things as soon as I grew them! At least you'll have an idea of your propery's toxin history, which is more than we can say for bought produce.
Raised-beds are really bad in my climate and geography: irrigation is a nightmare. And I don't pay for water...
 
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