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Organic Answers Column - July 27, 2022

How to Detox Contaminated Landscape Soil


The key to successful landscaping and gardening is the biological activity alive in the soil. This is discussed weekly on the radio program, routinely in all of the Dirt Doctor books, and in many of the library topics. When there are plentiful beneficial microbes nutrients are available to roots and plants for healthy and productive growth. One of the most frustrating things that can happen to an organic gardener is to arrive home from work to discover a sign planted in the yard declaring that it has been sprayed with toxic chemicals. The “Chem-Tox” company as gone to the wrong address! This isn't an anecdote; it happens far too often.


The last thing an organic gardener wants to find poked into their lawn: sign of a chemical assault


Is that one-time chemical application destructive to an organic yard? Yes! You and your pets don't want to be anywhere near the toxins and the synthetic fertilizer will hurt the life in the soil microbiome. The remedy to this problem is the soil detox program.


Chemical lawn care companies no longer use this graphic alone, giving the wrong message


The detox program procedure works for all kinds of contamination including heavy metals like arsenic and chromium in treated lumber or creosote in railroad ties, lead and arsenic from iron supplements and fertilizers, as well the toxic pesticides like Permethrin, MSMA, 2,4-D, Roundup, Sevin, Manage or anything else. The solution is the same: digging the soil out and hauling it off is NOT the answer. It’s much easier than that.


The first step is to stop the contamination if it continues in any way, and put the violators on notice that they are responsible for the cost to fix the problem. Start by appling fine textured humate or fine-textured activated charcoal. Fine textured zeolite can also be mixed with the carbon products or applied separately. The rates of these products should be at least 20 lbs. per 1000 sq. ft. It’s best to mix these products into water and spray and drench the entire problem area. (Pro tip: put half of the water in the sprayer first, then add the powder and shake thoroughly, then add the remaining water. Adding water to powder results in a clumpy mess and incomplete mixing.)


The second step is to spray all the foliage and drench the soil in the problem area with the Garrett Juice mixture with orange oil (D-Limonene) added at 2 ounces per gallon of mix. The carbon products (humates and charcoal) will tie up the contaminants; Garrett Juice and orange oil will stimulate the microbes to feed on and breakdown the toxic molecules. There is liquid molasses is in the Garrett Juice mix but adding extra molasses to the mixture will help speed up the decontamination process. Adding a beneficial microbe product such as Medina Soil Activator will speed up the process even more.


There are other ways property can become contaminated. For example, if you know the previous owners of your property were using toxic chemical lawn care products, or if you don’t know what was being used, using my detox program first thing upon moving in would a good thing to consider.






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