Gardening is a great hobby that provides many benefits. From improving mental health and biodiversity to producing fresh and healthy food, it’s an activity that can be done by almost anyone.
Understanding what’s in your garden soil is important for protecting your health. It’s not always easy to tell what’s lying beneath the surface just by looking at what’s growing on top.
Garden soil can differ significantly from one garden to the next. There may be varying textures and levels of common contaminants such as lead and arsenic. That’s where our GardenSafe program comes in!
By sending in samples of your garden soil, we’ll provide you with the information and resources you need to garden safely and protect your environment.
Top tips for gardening safely
When gardening, it’s important to protect your hands from potential cuts and scratches. Gloves provide a barrier between your skin and the soil, reducing the risk of infection or irritation. Make sure you choose gloves that fit properly and are appropriate for the task at hand.
Wash your hands
After gardening, it’s important to wash your hands thoroughly to remove any dirt, germs, or chemicals that may have come into contact with your skin. Use soap and warm water and make sure to scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds, or about as long as it takes to sing the Happy Birthday song twice.
Consider using raised garden beds
If you suspect that your soil may have high levels of contaminants, you should consider using raised garden beds to grow your veggies. Waste and chemicals that pollute our air, soil and water can persist in the environment. Most chemicals enter our environment through sewage, waste, accidental discharge, or can be by-products from industrial activity.
Historical contamination sources, like lead paint and leaded gasoline have also impacted urban soil quality. Using raised garden beds can help you reduce your risk of exposure to potentially harmful substances.
Leave your shoes outside
Wearing your shoes inside is one of the biggest contributors to transferring soil and contaminants into your home. It’s a good idea to leave shoes outside or in a designated area when coming inside. This helps keep your home clean and reduces the risk of exposure to potential contaminants. EPA’s Chief Environmental Scientist Professor Mark Patrick Taylor and Gabriel Filippelli have written a great article about indoor contaminants that you might find on the bottom of your shoes.
Access EPA’s GardenSafe program
Our GardenSafe program provides information and resources to help gardeners grow veggies in soil you can trust. GardenSafe is a soil screening program that turns you into a soil sleuth. All you need to do is send us 3 soil samples from your garden. We’ll check for general soil quality and common contaminants and let you know what we find. You’ll also get a personalised report with information to help you understand the results.
The program is free to access (except for the cost of postage) and available to all Victorian residents. With GardenSafe, you can get the most out of your garden and minimise potential risks to your health and the environment. Find out more and register for GardenSafe.
Gardening can be a fun and rewarding hobby. By following the steps above, you can stay safe, protect the environment and enjoy a healthy and sustainable garden.
Reviewed 6 March 2023