Gardening in December

I can say, for certain, that this is the first time I've ever been able to plant a rose bush in December here in the northeast.

And if I didn't have errands to run, I probably could have planted my potted mums and leftover daylilies in the ground today too.

The weather has been so erratic, that I was even outside taking soil samples for testing today without a coat on. It feels more like spring than December.

Speaking of the soil samples, I know it's a good practice to test your soil, especially if there is an area where a plant is not doing well. I've always kept this in the back of my mind, and pretty much ignored it. Hey, I didn't need to really worry, right? Add more compost until it looks good. I thought that way until this past week when a customer (at the bakery I work at) came in and started to talk gardening with me. We talked about vegetable gardening, and she explained why she had to use the community garden in town.

"There's just too much lead in my soil."

"Oh?" I had never really thought about that before. Sure, my father had instilled in  me to not use raised beds ever with pressure-treated wood, and to not plant vegetables as foundation plantings against your house, but never had I considered that the lawn could be contaminated.

"Oh yeah," she continued. "I have a 100-year-old house, so the amount of lead in my soil was unbelievable."

"How did you get it tested?" I asked, now feeling uneasy.

"UConn lets you send soil samples in - it's really inexpensive."

About $8 per cup of dirt to sample, actually.

So today, on this extrememly unseasonably warm day, I took three soil samples from three different areas in my garden. The first came from the area along my neighbor's fence in the back yard, where I wanted to transplant all my raspberry bushes.

The second is from the bed along the road, where a rhododendron is simply miserable.

And the third is from the lawn, in front of the butterfly bed, where I was considering moving my eggplants to next summer.

I could literally test at least a dozen more locations, but my wallet may bleed if I do. (Ok, it's not that bad, but my vegetables are all in raised beds, so I figure I can postpone that temporarily.)

The soil was a little too wet to mail out today, so I'm hoping to be able to bag the samples tomorrow and make it to the post office in time to mail them. Results are sent back within 7-10 days. I figure it's good to know what I'm up against before the winter sets in, and my gardening planning kicks in.

And I'm hoping for the best possible outcome. My house is from the 1950s. Let's hope they didn't use lead paint.

Comments

  1. This is very interesting, Jen. I really had no idea lead could be in the soil. On our 1/2 acre I am regularly mystified by why some plants thrive and others just will not. I've done some testing should get all of it done.

    Thanks for the info!

    Georgianna

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