I live on farm field turned into a subdivision; is there poison in my soil?

Share this:

farm fieldI want to have a vegetable garden this year but am worried about that there is something poisonous in the soil. Where I live used to be a farm field and it got turned into a subdivision. I think that the farmer probably used too many chemicals and there is something bad in the soil. I don’t know if it is heavy metals or pesticides. How do I find out and how do I fix it? Does MSU test for poisons?
You may be overthinking this.

If your garden site was a chrome-plating plant or a zinc foundry in a previous life, there is a legitimate reason for concern. Generally, farmland is not host to heavy metals or excess pesticides being applied. Consider that you do not even have the same topsoil that was on the farm. Your builder scraped it off and it was sold to someone else.

Farmers rarely use pesticides in such quantity that there would be materials left years after the event. Even if the farmer was not environmentally conscious, he could not afford to use products above the label recommendations. He could not afford to do this and sell his crop and make a profit.

The soil test that you can get from Michigan State University is a nutrient analysis. It tests for levels of phosphorus, potassium, calcium and magnesium in the soil and it checks for the percentage of organic matter, the soil pH and gives you your soil type. It does not check for heavy metals or pesticides.

You will have to locate a private lab that does that kind of work. But if you have no idea what you want the soil checked for, each test is separate and each costs money. Since you have no ideas of what pesticide or heavy metal that might be present, you could spend hundreds of dollars.

raspberry bushHow do I prune raspberries? I put some red ones in several years ago but never did anything and now I have a mess.
Your mess may get worse because how you prune raspberries depends on what kind you have. If you do not know, is it possible you remember when the fruit was present?

There are two kinds of raspberries if we are talking about fruit production. There are raspberries that produce fruit in June and there are raspberries that produce fruit in the fall. If you think you have ever-bearing raspberries that produce a little fruit for most of the summer and fall, you actually have a fall-bearing raspberry that is not pruned correctly.

The first year a cane comes up, it is called a primocane and is a green color. It just grows. The second year, it is a floricane and it produces fruit. It looks older.

The third year, it is dead, with brown, peeling bark.

For June-bearing raspberries, cut out all the old, brown, dead canes and destroy them. Take the other canes and cut the tip off of them so they are about four feet tall. These will get bushier when growth starts. Leave six to eight canes per linear foot of row. After these canes produce their crop in June, remove them.

For fall-bearing raspberries, cut or mow them all to the ground first thing in the spring. New canes will come up and produce fruit in the fall. If they are fall-bearing and you want them to be ever-bearing, just prune them like the June-bearing raspberries. But remove all the dead canes now. These are the ones that can introduce disease or insects to your healthy plants.

Burn or bury the dead canes so they do not have the opportunity to create any problems.

About Gretchen Voyle 51 Articles

Gretchen Voyle is the MSU Extension-Livingston County Horticulture Educator. She can be reached at (517) 546-3950.