Soil Kitchen events provided a free opportunity for food growers to test what was in their soil. Soil testing helps food growers know what nutrients their soil may lack and if harmful heavy metals are present. The final Soil Kitchen event was held March 4, 2023 at Givens Recreation Center.

March 2023 Soil Kitchen Results

Thank you for attending the Soil Kitchen!

View metals results. What do my metals numbers mean?


Soil to Groundwater (the metals can leach from the soil to groundwater)

Total Soil Combined (includes inhalation, ingestion, dermal, and vegetable consumption pathways)

Arsenic  5 mg/kg  24 mg/kg
Lead  3 mg/kg  500 mg/kg*

* there is no known safe level for ingestion of lead so wash that produce.

  • If you have heavy metals below the Soil to Groundwater numbers, in general there is no need to be concerned about lead or heavy metal exposure.
  • If your results are between the Soil to Groundwater number and Total Soil Combined, conduct best management practices (BMPs) to minimize lead exposure from vegetable gardens: maintain high pH for fruiting vegetables; keep soil mulched to minimize dust inhalation.
  • If your numbers are very close to the Total Soil Combined, then you should consider not growing leafy vegetables or root vegetables.
  • If your numbers are above Total Soil Combined, you should consider a raised bed or do not grow a vegetable garden. Place mulch, gravel or paving stones around the raised beds to prevent dust inhalation as you garden.

View soil nutrients results.

If you have high levels of nitrates or phosphorous, your garden may be contributing to groundwater and surface water pollution.
Gardeners sometimes might need to add nitrogen fertilizer to their gardens to provide just the right food for their plants. While an addition of nitrogen and phosphorus to the lawn and garden may be necessary, homeowners often use more than what is recommended, and over time this excess nitrogen (over 19 ppm) and phosphorus (over 50 ppm) pollutes water and air. Nitrogen and phosphorus at higher levels causes a loss of certain plant species, death of fish and aquatic organisms and contamination of drinking water.

Talk to us

We hope your garden will grow wonderful fruits and vegetables this spring and summer. Send us an email if you have questions or do not know your sample number.

Soil testing resources for food gardeners

For soil nutrients, you can submit samples to the Texas AgriLife Soil, Water and Forage Testing Laboratory.

For heavy metals testing, visit the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and select an environmental laboratory accredited to analyze solids (soils) and metals.

Your local county extension office can provide resources on gardening and growing food in your county:

The Soil Kitchen was sponsored by the City of Austin’s Brownfields Revitalization Office and the Region 6 Environmental Protection Agency.

Visit Austin's Grow Green page for additional gardening advice.