Phytoremediation here we come!

We found that some of the wood containers in one section of our garden might have been leaching something into our soil and plants that I don’t want to have around.

Our garden has been chemical free for almost 16 years now and I would like to keep it that way.

So first off my son and I went to the hardware store to find the right, weird, not common, drill bit to remove the ginormous screws my husband used, apparently so the garden boxes would survive Armageddon.

When my daughter arrived, she jumped in to help take them apart, slightly horrified by the garden spiders, but equally happy to see all of the happy worms in the soil (that is always a great sign you are doing something right).

‘Said’ wood is gone now.

Wheel barrels put into transport mode with seven raised gardens beds worth of soil to be moved to a new area.

lots of dirt to add to our compost pile, that is never a bad thing!

I will be seeding this big mound of loved soil that I have tended for years with – hairy vetch, common sunflower (helianthus annuus), and indian mustard (brassica juncea L.). I use Seeds of Change if I need to purchase seeds. I am a seed saver, I sell some of our seeds, and I also try to purchase seeds from some of our other local seed savers. This is super important to me.

So why am I seeding with this mix? Well it turns out that there are certain plants that actually cleanse contaminated soil, this is called Phytoremediation.

“Phytoremediation refers to the natural ability of certain plants called hyperaccumulators to bioaccumulate, degrade, or render harmless contaminants in soils, water, or air. Toxic heavy metals and organic pollutants are the major targets for phytoremediation.”

The Hairy Vetch is actually the plant I use as a cover crop, rotating throughout my gardens as it actually adds nitrogen back into the soil, amoungst other great things. Because we don’t have grazing animals in our garden, when it has released its seeds for the following season, I use the plants as green manure for our compost (as well as borage, comfrey, winter rye, and anything else that needs to be thinned out)

“Hairy vetch fixes large amounts of nitrogen (N) that help meet N needs of the following crop, protects soil from erosion, helps improve soil tilth, and provides weed control during its vigorous growth in the spring and when left as a dead mulch at the soil surface. Hairy vetch can also be grazed or harvested as forage.”

There are other plants that you can use for cleansing the soil, like Indian Grass, Poplar Trees, and White Willow.

By next year I should have a huge pile of healthy soil, free of the bad stuff, rich in nitrogen, to add back into my garden.

So it is another vitamin D day, another day in the dirt, another day in the garden with my dogs, and another day …

story with basket of herbs


We will be a bit low on some of our herbs and greens this year, I had to take out most of our snow peas, beets, and kale, but not by too much, I hope.



5 Comments Add yours

  1. Darci Shane says:

    Just to let you know-Zoe is going to my parents and not with me. I am going to scope things out before I even consider bringing her with me.


    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      I think this might be a good way to get started up north without putting her into a situation you might be unaware of.

  2. Teri says:

    Great Article, thank you

  3. tippysmom2 says:

    That’s a lot of work, but well worth it in the end. Was the problem with the wood that is was pressure treated? I’ve heard you don’t want to use that for raised garden beds.

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      yes it is a lot of work, but necessary.

      The wood was untreated gorgeous cedar, no sealants of any kind, thick, and perfect. it had been sanded down for the most part. But I found out it was reclaimed from a guest ranch and used in 1922, and the residue that was left in patches was questionable, as in that era, they used asbestos to adhere tar paper for a vapor barrier for flooring. In the 1920’s there were no rules as to what could and could not be used … SO, we are doing that now … Nancy

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