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Healthy Soils, Healthy Communities
A research and education partnership with urban gardeners.

Led by Cornell University, Cornell University Cooperative Extension-NYC, NYS Department of Health, and GreenThumb/NYC Department of Parks and Recreation.




Urban community gardens provide many benefits, yet garden soils can contain contaminants. The Healthy Soils project exists to help urban gardeners and other community members understand potential risks associated with soil contamination and implement healthy gardening practices. More information and project resources are listed below.


NEW NYS Community Garden Map
Our new map of more than 900 community gardens in New York State was based on the work of New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) as part of the Healthy Soils, Healthy Communities Project. We hope this map will help raise awareness of the large and growing number of community gardens in New York State which can provide nutritious food to communities and offer many other health, environmental and social benefits. We also hope the map will help potential community gardeners locate gardens in their areas and aid neighboring gardens in finding one another and sharing resources.

Lead and Other Metals in Urban Garden Vegetables
A Healthy Soil study of metals in urban garden-grown vegetables has been published in the journal Environmental Pollution. The study evaluated levels of lead, cadmium and barium in soil and vegetable samples from urban gardens in NYC and Buffalo, NY. Urban soils can have higher levels of contaminants because of human activities including fossil fuel combustion, incineration, and past use of leaded gasoline and paint containing lead another metals. Lead and barium, in particular, have been found at levels above health-based guidance values in NYC community garden soils, but it was unknown how much was getting into the vegetables. Overall, the study found that levels of lead, cadmium and barium in urban garden produce were generally below health-based guidance values. (click for more)

Lead and Other Metals in New York City Community Garden Soils
The Healthy Soils, Healthy Communities team published a study of metals contamination in NYC community garden soils in the April 2014 issue of the journal Environmental Pollution. The study, which involved testing more than 500 soil samples from 54 community gardens, found that levels of lead and other metals, while higher than background levels found in rural soils, were similar to levels found in other studies of urban soils in NYC and other cities. (click for more)

Urban Soil Contaminants and Soil Testing

Sources and Types of Contaminants • Collecting Garden Samples Understanding Soil Test Results

Healthy Gardening Practices

"What Gardeners Can Do", "Metals in Urban Garden Soils", and other resources

Healthy Soils Project Information and Research Manuscripts

More project information and research findings

Healthy Soils in the Media

Additional Resources for Urban Gardeners

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