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Grow Food Safely in Urban Gardens

The Issue

Many urban residents grow much of their own food in backyard or community gardens out of necessity and/or as a hobby. However, any place subjected to human activity is likely to have potentially harmful trace elements at elevated levels in the environment, particularly in the soil. Trace elements, especially heavy metals, can accumulate in the soil and on plants, and may pose a potential health risk to people who breathe or, especially, swallow contaminated soil or eat contaminated vegetables, especially young children.

What Has ANR Done?

UC DANR has surveyed soil and food plant tissue for the presence of potentially harmful trace elements at several community gardens in Los Angeles. In nearly all cases there was no cause for alarm. In a few areas where some trace elements were higher than expected, we provided information on how gardeners can minimize the risk these elements posed.
We have also held meetings with community gardeners and developed an on-line publication that discusses the nature of trace elements, what they are, how to prevent their entry into garden sites, and how to reduce any hazard they might pose.

The Payoff

UC ANR Promotes Healthy Gardens

Information that UC Cooperative Extension in Los Angeles County and UC Riverside developed and extended has enabled community and home food gardeners to mitigate potential problems with trace elements in the soil and grow food with confidence in an urban setting, assured that the food they eat is safe and wholesome.


Supporting Unit: Los Angeles County

Donald R. Hodel Environmental Horticulturist University of California Cooperative Extension 4800 E. Casar Chavez Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90022 (323) 260-3405