Is lead contamination ancient history?

Lead's use may be – but we still have a lead problem, especially in urban areas. The first extraction of the metal lead from ores was ancient – around 7,000 BCE. In the millennia since, Egyptians have used it in cosmetics, Romans in their pipes, the British in their ammunition, and now every society in … Continue reading Is lead contamination ancient history?

What is phytoremediation?

What could be greener than using plants to clean up polluted soil? Phytoremediation, the use of green plants to repair unhealthy soil, has sparked the curiosity of scientists and plant lovers for decades. Plants can do things that people can’t, like pull pollutants out of soil while leaving the soil in place. Why worry about … Continue reading What is phytoremediation?

The discovery and general uses of phosphorus

Celebrating the 350th Anniversary of Phosphorus’ Discovery! Did you ever wonder why your home and garden fertilizer has specific ratios of nutrients? Well, the story goes back even further – to the discovery of those elements! Phosphorus is one of the main “ingredients” for healthy plant growth. This year, 2019, is the 350th anniversary of … Continue reading The discovery and general uses of phosphorus

How do I keep more of the nitrogen in my soil?

If you garden, do lawn maintenance, or farm, you’ve probably added nitrogen fertilizer to your soil. Nitrogen is the most common nutrient to limit plant growth – because plants need quite a lot of it (10-60 g per kg of plant mass, to be exact). It also doesn’t stick around very long in the soil. … Continue reading How do I keep more of the nitrogen in my soil?

Why are petroleum, chromated copper arsenate and radon bad for the soil?

As outlined in our February 15, 2019 Soil Matter blog, natural soil is uncontaminated. Use by humans, especially in cities, can cause some unintended consequences. Long-term exposure to items like petroleum products, chromated copper arsenate and radon can cause problems for humans – and other plants and animals dependent on healthy soils. Petroleum The most … Continue reading Why are petroleum, chromated copper arsenate and radon bad for the soil?

Are there salinity problems for urban soils?

Salt. Some of us cannot get enough of it on our food. Think of a potato chip without salt, it’s a very bland thing! Others avoid salty foods due to health issues and are a bit more disciplined keeping their intake low. In a similar way, plants have varying salt tolerances. There are desert plants … Continue reading Are there salinity problems for urban soils?

What is “porous pavement” and how does that help soils capture and clean water?

Porous pavement can look just like regular pavement, but it has an important environmental benefit. It allows water to trickle down through the usually impermeable street or sidewalk. This means the water can be naturally filtered by the soil, and does not have to be transported to storm drains and eventually main waterways. There are … Continue reading What is “porous pavement” and how does that help soils capture and clean water?

What considerations go into rehabilitating land back to native grasses?

Using native grasses is a great idea for new – or old – housing developments. Once the areas of native grasses are established, they will have thick surface coverage of healthy, green grass. Maintaining these grasses can be managed in the same manner as turf grasses. Mowing and weeding these areas will provide long-term stands … Continue reading What considerations go into rehabilitating land back to native grasses?

How does biochar work to improve, or even decontaminate, soil?

Biochar – as the name implies – is made from formerly living substances. Source materials can be plant materials like leaves, stems, and woody tissue. Biochar can also be made from manure, or even biosolids (the solids left after wastewater treatment). Biochar is the material left over after burning one (or more) of the above … Continue reading How does biochar work to improve, or even decontaminate, soil?

What is the soil microbiome?

Have you heard of the gut microbiome? Or do you take probiotics? And did you know that the common antibiotic, Streptomycin, was discovered in the soil? The soil is home to the world's greatest biodiversity. That biodiversity includes insects that live in the soil–like ants and nematodes. It includes the world's largest terrestrial organism–a fungi … Continue reading What is the soil microbiome?