AUSTIN, Texas—It’s spring! Time to get gardens ready for tomatoes, peppers and all our favorite summer vegetables. But before planting, gardeners can test their garden soil for nutrient levels and screen for heavy metals. Austin Brownfields Revitalization Office, a division of Austin Resource Recovery, is making this process easy by sponsoring free soil testing at the Soil Kitchen.
On Saturday, April 13, the Soil Kitchen will be at the free East Austin Garden Fair hosted by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and Travis County Master Gardeners. The Fair includes a variety of enjoyable activities ranging from building a rain barrel and bee keeping to raising backyard chickens. Soil sample drop offs will be accepted at Parque Zaragoza, 2608 E. Gonzales Street, Austin, 78702:
Saturday, April 13, 2017 - 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Sunday, April 14, 9 a.m. – noon
The testing is confidential. Gardeners simply list their initials and the closest intersection on their quart size zip sealed bags. A number is assigned to the sample and the gardener can look up their number online around mid-May to see results.
To help educate Austinites about services available via the City’s Brownfields Revitalization Office, the Soil Kitchen event highlights the similarities between screening backyard garden soil and testing commercial land for possible contaminants before future development.
“Austinites can test their food garden soil for risks from heavy metals,” said Christine Whitney, Program Manager for Brownfields Revitalization Office. “It’s free, anonymous and accessible. In the process, Austin’s urban gardeners learn how to grow food that’s safe to eat.”
Gather together a garden trowel or spade, a spoon, a quart size plastic (zip-top) bag, a waterproof marker and a clean shallow pan.
Label the bag with the following information:
list your street and the closest cross street. For privacy protection, PLEASE do not give exact address.
Go to your garden area and collect soil in five to 10 different spots around the garden bed(s). Dig to a depth of six inches, using your trowel to make a cone shape into the soil and then extract the samples. Place each of the collected samples into the shallow pan.
When you have completed the sampling, take your trowel or spoon and mix all the soil together in the shallow pan to obtain a more representative sample.
If the soil is very wet, leave the soil to dry out in the pan overnight. Make sure to remove any rocks, grass or dead plant material.
Put two cups of soil in a plastic zip-top bag and seal it shut. Your one bag of soil will be sampled for the presence of heavy metals AND for soil nutrients.
Drop your sample off at the Soil Kitchen. We will give you a card that has information on how to obtain your soil results online around mid-May.
About Austin Resource Recovery
Austin Resource Recovery provides a wide range of services designed to transform waste into resources while keeping our community clean. Services include curbside collection of recycling, trash, yard trimmings and large brush and bulk items; street sweeping; dead animal collection; household hazardous waste disposal and recycling; and outreach and education. Austin Resource Recovery offers free, voluntary and confidential consulting services to help Austin businesses reduce waste and comply with the City’s recycling ordinances. In December 2011, the Austin City Council approved the Austin Resource Recovery Master Plan, which is the City’s road map to Zero Waste. The City of Austin is committed to reducing the amount of waste sent to area landfills by 90 percent by 2040. Learn more at austinrecycles.com.