• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

bioremediation and container gardening questions  RSS feed

 
Bardo McCoy
Posts: 11
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Just recently discovered these boards and am delightfully floored by the amazing level of knowledge and how-to that are in evidence.

To that end as a permaculture newbie, I've got a couple of questions I'd b grateful for some guidance on:

Question 1) I live in a building with a courtyard containing some really huge raised planting beds in the courtyard, and have got full run from the building owner to plant for next season.  I'm planning on doing container gardening primarily for food plants, due to the fact that i'm not sure as to the soil - where it comes from, what's been mixed in, etc.

But I'm curious - are there any types of (preferably) ornamental plants that are useful for doing bio-remediation on questionable soil? I.E., if there are pollutants, heav metals, other badness present, are there any plantings that I could do to draw it out and help cleanse the soil?  Direct answers and referrals to other links would be appreciated.

Question 2) On the container gardening:  Right now I've got some plastic large gardening pots that used to hold trees.  i've never really container gardened before, and i'm curious as to any dangers regarding plastic leaching when it comes to growing plants in containers that one actually plans on eating.

Again, any commentaries or referrals would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance for any opinions/suggestions/help!

 
Joel Hollingsworth
pollinator
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm less worried about chemicals than most here, partly because I see anything tangible as a chemical, or mix of chemicals.  Even a mediocre soil ecosystem can handle anything leaching from the varieties of plastic that would be used in a flower pot with no risk even to the plant, much less to you.  Most of what might leach has likely been taken up by the trees already.

That said, I'd suggest taking a sample of the planter soil and having it tested.  A blogger I like recommended this service:

http://www.kk.org/cooltools/archives/003927.php

If you can use the planters for food, they will likely do better for you than containers would, and the test will help inform whether and what sort of soil ammendment is appropriate.

If not, knowing what the contamination is will inform your bio (or other) remediation plan.  Some of the useful species would otherwise be used for food: I've heard of spinach being grown for the dumpster, because it is so greedy for minerals that it takes out significant lead etc. with each crop.  I've also read that in some cases drupes produce fruit that is safe to eat, even though contaminated soil means their leaves are not safe to burn or to use as mulch: food production and bioremediation together.
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4437
Location: North Central Michigan
10
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
it is fairly simple to take soil samples from several of the containers..mix it together and put it in an envelope and send it to be tested for pollutants..

as for planting in plastic, i don't see where it is a problem with leaching..but it does dry out fairly quickly so it will require a lot of water.

my idea the worst downfall of all container planting is getting water to the containers in some regions several times a day..so i avoid container planting.

if you can install drip systems this will be less of a problem, and a timer will help as well..on the drip.

anything you can grow in the ground can be grown in containers if provided the right nutrients,  sun and water.

welcome to Permies..
 
Bardo McCoy
Posts: 11
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Much thanks to you both for getting back on this.

Makes sense that first step's first - find out what if any specific problems there might be in the soil, and then base any required remediation around the specific problems.  On that note, thanks for the advice on soil testing.

And I feel a lot better now re: the container gardening, concerns about sufficient watering notwithstanding.

For anyone else that's interested, here's a great little pamphlet I found that offers an informative introduction to cleaning up polluted soil:

http://icgrows.wikispaces.com/file/view/BioremediationPamphlet.pdf

 
jeremiah bailey
Posts: 343
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
For a self-watering container: google for "earthbox" One good thing is you can build them from nearly any plastic container. Another is they hold a good supply of water
 
                        
Posts: 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Yes there are such plants, in fact this year california will plant more vast monoculture tracts of canola so soak up the extra selenium in the soil - not an ornamental, but you might take a look at whatever natives you have locally.

For containers, I've always been partial to plain terracotta since the pot breathes (keeps the soil cool, and better drained in my opinion) more and tends to suck out built up salts (particularly those from 'hard water' residues' like calcium chloride. However they're expensive and they do end up cracking eventually if you are changing whats in them.  The stuff I really like goes in those.
 
Bardo McCoy
Posts: 11
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
@Jeremiah: Earthboxes look awesome!  Great way to lower effort AND increase yield - more for less, that's the key!
 
Bardo McCoy
Posts: 11
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
@Peter:

Wonder what canola actually does to the selenium - gonna go look it up - thanks!
 
                        
Posts: 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm not sure canola works, but the USDA thinks it does. The background is this, we know from drawing down the aquifers in the central valley a lot of selenium has been released, so around 6 or 8 months ago I came across a story about how the USDA is pushing for canola plantings to help soak it up. I don't think they've evaluated many of our native mustards to see what they'll do - considering the usda is targeting larger operations I get their point, but natives conceivably could have other benefits.


Here's a link.

http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/jun00/kenaf0600.htm
 
Bardo McCoy
Posts: 11
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
@Peter: 

Interesting stuff.  Funny how when you ask questions, you end up learning stuff you never thought you would - i.e., about selenium, how it works,  and the whole thing re: aquifer depletion and the central valley.

REALLY glad I joined this forum 
 
Joel Hollingsworth
pollinator
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Bardo wrote:
@Peter: 

Interesting stuff.  Funny how when you ask questions, you end up learning stuff you never thought you would - i.e., about selenium, how it works,  and the whole thing re: aquifer depletion and the central valley.

REALLY glad I joined this forum 



Same here!  I had never heard of kenaf.  Sounds like a great species.

There isn't much you can do to selenium, except to take it or leave it.  It's an element, so the only other option would be a nuclear option...

Seems like kenaf and canola take it up into their tissues, and it sounds like the products made from them would tend to carry the selenium away to places that don't have the same problem.

My understanding is that the selenium is from minerals near  the start of the canal system, and the reason it is so concentrated is that so much evaporation happens in canals and fields, and because there is no easy way to drain salts out of the valley.  Aquifers being depleted might tilt the balance slightly more in favor of imported water, but I don't see much other connection.

Two examples of drainage difficulties:

The Kesterson Wildlife Refuge has been the last stop for a lot of agricultural water.  They had planned to drain the runoff into a river or something, but that project ran out of funding so they just let it pool and form a new wetland instead.  The selenium got so bad that wildlife had extra legs and such.

Similarly, a family friend is involved in wastewater treatment for a cheese factory in the valley.  They have a lot of trouble meeting local salt pollution requirements.  They end up using reverse osmosis on their wastewater, literally making de-ionized water to pour down the drain, and the concentrated remnants go on a tanker truck for over 50 miles to reach some natural drainage that will eventually carry the salt to the sea.
 
Jennifer Smith
Posts: 715
Location: Zone 5
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
interesting note... can send that selenium rich forage to Missouri, they are deficient here.
 
                        
Posts: 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Sorry if I wasn't clear about the selenium, but I believe there is still a connection to depleting aquifers, the origin of selenium is from natural geologic deposits as I understand it, but the problem is sort of two fold by lowering water tables (ie depleting aquifers) and concentrating salts and selenium via underground drainage, the resulting contaminates are then fed back into the remaining water table (along with new salts) and eventually settle in lower portions of the aquifers. This means that the selenium plumes are not just downstream as in the kesterton case, but also back in the fields they were 'drained from'. The particular plume in question extends through a good part of the northern half of the central valley. I'll look for a map of the plume sometime , but I haven't run across it in a while there's probably a link somewhere online - but there are connections between selenium concentrations and pumping the aquifers down....



 
                    
Posts: 0
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
peterv wrote:
... but there are connections between selenium concentrations and pumping the aquifers down....


Yes, many land management practices can make it worse. But to a degree, it is a natural phenomena in arid regions. The original 'loco weed' referred to astragalus in the newly opened western US that concentrated selenium to the point that it could poison horses, giving them the shakes and otherwise causing them to behave erratically.
 
Jennifer Smith
Posts: 715
Location: Zone 5
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
polyparadigm wrote:

Similarly, a family friend is involved in wastewater treatment for a cheese factory in the valley. They have a lot of trouble meeting local salt pollution requirements. They end up using reverse osmosis on their wastewater, literally making de-ionized water to pour down the drain, and the concentrated remnants go on a tanker truck for over 50 miles to reach some natural drainage that will eventually carry the salt to the sea.


Seems a waste to send the selenium salt to the sea, who is polluted enough, instead of the midwest where the farmers buy selenium supplements for their livestock.
 
                        
Posts: 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Not a bad idea, maybe some intrepid mustard grower should think about adding it to their hay. Whats hay go for off the truck out there? Just curious, last I heard out here it was around 8 a bale, but some folks were expecting it to go as high as 10 or 12
 
Joel Hollingsworth
pollinator
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Jennifer Hall wrote:
Seems a waste to send the selenium salt to the sea, who is polluted enough, instead of the midwest where the farmers buy selenium supplements for their livestock.


No, this was about sodium.  Wouldn't want brackish sewage, now would we?  A problem with Se discharge from a cheese plant would mean toxic levels of Se in the cheese, I'm certain that wasn't the case.

I hope selenium remediation projects do ship fodder east, but I don't know if that's economical.
 
rose macaskie
Posts: 2134
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I think polyparadigm might be right, if you have trees they may have absorbed pollutants though it seems some plants absorb heavy metals and some don't, the explaintation for why plants absorb heavy metals is to protect themselves from animals, who don't eat them if they get poisoned by all the metals that the plants have absorbed.

    If this is a chance to talk about bio-remediation, well, here is what i have gleaned about it though as i started writting here at the same time, about, as i got interested in finding out about bioremediation my studies came to an abrupt halt.

     There is phitoremediation plants used to clean up soil,
              mycoremediation fung¡ used to clean up soil
              bioremediation bacteria used to clean up soil.
         May be there are more things like algaeremediation but i have not got there yet.
       These words are handy if you are navigating on the internet to study these questions. though simpler words like, "bacteria clean soil" can bring the same result, and if that does not work you have to think up some other simple phrase that will get you there.
       There is also phitomining   and probably micomining recovering metal plants have absorbed from soils and profiting from the clean up.

    These natural cleaners work in several different ways. The brief discussion of these without examples are written here in this essay in heavy type letters so that those who anly want the basics can just read the heavy type.

          1.   There are plants and fungi that absorb whatever it is you want to clean up and then you harvest them and put the crop somewhere safe or mine it to recover the pollutant and use the pollutant again. As, listening to horses, Jennifer Hall, suggests, when she cries out for the selenium to be taken from places where there is too much selenium, to places where there is a lack of selenium. This simple collection of pollutants using living organisms to collect them  is functional largely when the pollutant is a atom, like lead, mercury etc. I imagine.   

      I have just been reading about tamarix trees in Jesus Charcos book "Guia de los Árboles y Árbustos del Norte de Africa", and some varieties of "tamarix" bare salty soils well. They have salt sweating glands on their branches and trunks. There is one plant you could use to absorb salt. You could harvest it and wash the salt that is deposited on its branches by salt the sweating glands of the plants and then dispose of the salt in a way that did not hurt the land.
      Jesus Charco says that the tamarix amplexicaulis can be so covered in the salt it has sweated that the only branches that aren't completely covered with salt are the main ones and trunks. Apart from the amplexicaulis Jesus Charco says the africana, boveana, canariensis, y parviflora, in diferent grades have salt sweating glands. Only the aphylla, that he says is so good for holding dunes, cannot handle salt.

     2.  Then there is the destruction of poisonous molecules, the break down of pretty unbiodegradable molecules like DDT. paul stamets says fungi can break down the molecular structure of these substances and, molecular structure changed, polluntant destroyed. This is to say that with the right mushroom, bacteria, plants, digesting them they become biodegradable.
      The simplest example is oyster mushrooms who eat things like wood, full of carbohydrates so they are used to breaking down carbohydrate molecules. They realease substances into the soil, in their exodigestion, that dissolve the bonds between carbon and hydrogen, so why not feed them on hydro carbides, petrol? Well he did and they gobbled up the hydro carbides, petrol, changing its molecular structure and turning it into themselves, something totally different. Super cool, what. We can use canceriginouse substances on our soils and he can clean them up for us. 
      He trained some types of fungi to break down VX toxin molecules, the toxin used by Saddam Hussan to kill people with, a pretty unbiodegradable substance.
     He can break down pesticides and herbicides if i remember right. That is one of the reasons  why he is such a heroe. We can clean up chemical warfare sights so they stop being dangerouse places or get rid of stores of such substances by changing them into something that is not harmfull instead of by  leaving poisons shut up somewhere where maybe they might get out and start hurting us again.
     A lot of his book, Mycelium Running, is published in internet though not the whole of it enough to learn a lot about different things though in the end you want to, and in my case do, buy his book. If you look up Paul Stamet Mycellium Running and open up from the choice of entries on the internet the one put in by google, you can learn a lot for free and its an easy read.

     He also trains fungi to breakdown damaging molecules instead of just finding fungi that will do it. He trains them by choosing fungi that break down similar substances and then introducing the poisons he wants them to undo into their enviroment so they become used to them and then by slowly reducing the other foods availiable for the fungi untill it is, "eat from the constitutant parts of the poison or die of hunger" and they learn to dissolve the bonds between the atoms of the poisonous molecule turning it into a mountain of carbon, hydrogen, potassium for example, atoms, of little power to harm us. He succeeds in training them. You have then to buy his varieties if you want to do bioremediation in some cases.

      I suppose this sort of remediation is what is at work in Geoff Lawtons project near the Dead Sea where everything is super salty. He, in this inhospitable place, built loose stonewalls, to catch dew i suppose, he built swales to harvest rain water in such a way as to make the rainwater collected, permeate the soil well and thoroughly. instead of running of the land. He built soft mounds on each side of the swales and put on half a metre of mulch on the soft countour mounds either side of the swales and micro drip system on the contour mounds and planted the mounds with trees and soil started to appear and to fill with life and even fungi and of course bacteria some of which do bioremediation, maybe such a salty place already has a amount of salt in the soil had been reduced.
       The authorities thought the salt must have washed down, the salt  had not been washed though, they had used very little irrigation, the microdrip they put on the contour mounds. geoff lawton thinks the salt had not disappeared but become inert, been locked up, become insoluble. I suppose he needs the right scientist to tell him which of these things had happened or if something else had happened to the salt. Paul Stamets maybe.
     
  3. The other thing about bioremediation, mico remediation, phitoremediation, i don't know if plants do it too, is bacteria and fungi that repackage dangerouse atoms making them less soluble and so safer, harder for plants to absorb or harder to leach into the drinking water system, look up "Pearls before Sline, about a bacteria that changes nuclear waste, it wraps it up in a heme, the best known hemes are hemoglobin. It seems hemes are complicated molecules that have a bit of metal or, in the case of "Pearls Before Slime", uranium inside them. Bacteria can put your poison into a complicated molecule. You can read articles on this, easy to read ones, if you put the phrase "pearls before slime"in to google, newspaper reports of the scientific papers. I am not a chemist, i have a lot to read to understand this better but this is the basic as far as i can understand it. Get the great Paul Stamets to explain it more.
       agri rose macaskie.
     
 
I miss the old days when I would think up a sinister scheme for world domination and you would show a little emotional support. So just look at this tiny ad:
Complete Wild Edibles Package by Sergei Boutenko (1 HD video + 10 eBooks)
https://permies.com/t/70674/digital-market/digital-market/Complete-Wild-Edibles-Package-Sergei
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!