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Boston Globe: Community Gardeners offer Tips on Contaminants

  • Subject: [cg] Boston Globe: Community Gardeners offer Tips on Contaminants
  • From: Adam36055@aol.com
  • Date: Mon, 14 Mar 2005 19:21:55 EST


NU conference offers advice on contaminants

By Christine MacDonald, Globe Correspondent  |  March 13, 2005

Sunflowers, salad greens, and sweet peppers transformed a bedraggled stretch
of Parker Street into the Mission Hill Community Garden back in 1979, about
the time similar urban gardens were replacing vacant lots in blighted
neighborhoods across Boston and the country.

''It was a weedy lot. I thought, 'Gee, it would be kind of nice to garden
here,' " said Pat Grady, who helped establish the Mission Hill landmark 26
ago and said last week that it has generally lived up to her expectations.

''It's just a pleasant place to come after work and garden and hang out,"
said Grady, one of hundreds of Boston residents expected to kick off a rite of
spring next weekend at the 30th Annual Gardeners Gathering.

The city has changed dramatically since Grady planted that first crop. So
have the recommended techniques for gardening in urban soil. Next Saturday's
gathering at Northeastern University's Curry Student Center will focus on the

Boston University public health professor Pat Hynes plans to share scientific
data about contaminants such as coal ash, heating oil, and other
petrochemical residue that linger in soil where houses and businesses once

Hynes noted that it was once commonplace to burn garbage in backyards,
leaving remnants behind. But she said the drawbacks are minimal compared to
advantages of urban gardens.

''There has really been a sort of growing knowledge base" about how to
minimize health risks, said Hynes, who has developed urban gardening
guidelines and
plans to continue her research this spring with two BU colleagues and help
from a US Environmental Protection Agency laboratory.

''The nutrition, exercise, and social benefits of gardening greatly outweigh
exposure to these substances, especially if people take these precautions,"
Hynes said.

She plans to share tips such as the importance of using gloves when working
the soil and scrubbing hands thoroughly after gardening and vegetables well
before eating. She also recommends adding compost to literally ''build up"
instead of digging down into contaminated soil for planting.

Once considered temporary measures to combat urban blight, the gardens have
become permanent landmarks, said Valerie Burns, president of the Boston
Areas Network. The network is sponsoring the gathering, which is expected to
draw hundreds of gardeners from dozens of community gardens around the city.

''Community gardens started as a way to hold the tide of disinvestments that
was happening in the neighborhoods -- a way to take the land back and have it
serve a community purpose," Burns said. In the last two decades ''as economies
improved, the city began to come back and residents came back to the city,
community gardens went from temporary uses and became an end in themselves,"
Burns said.

Burns said her group hoped to spread knowledge of the new research and
gardening techniques to gardeners like Grady, who said she had never seen
of soil contamination in Mission Hill but was eager to learn more about how to
minimize exposure to unseen toxins.

''It's a relatively new concern," Grady said. ''We'll be learning more about

) Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

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