Tree Fruit Soils and Nutrition



Gardening on Lead- and Arsenic-Contaminated Soils

A soil analysis is recommended if land is suspected to contain elevated amounts of lead and arsenic. Suspected areas are gardens:

  1. within 20’ of buildings once painted with lead-based paints
  2. within 100’ of high traffic roadways and parking lots
  3. within 1 mile of existing or former smelters, fossil fuel-fired power plants or cement manufacturing facilities
  4. located on a pre-1947 orchard site
  5. located on or near tailings from current or former metal ore mines

Lead & Arsenic in Plant Parts

  • Seeds and fruits have lower concentrations then do leaves, stems, or roots.
  • Roots and tubers have highest concentrations, with the skin having higher concentrations than does the inner flesh
  • Tree fruits contain very low Pb and As concentrations

Ways to minimize exposure:

  • Wash garden crops with water before bringing inside and again inside with soap and water
  • Pare root and tuber crops (such as potatoes, carrots and radishes) and discard parings.
  • Do not compost unused plant parts, peelings and parings for later use in the garden
  • Select plants less sensitive to elevated lead and arsenic levels
    Land use
  • Grow only ornamental plants in gardens with high levels of lead and arsenic
  • Build containers or raised beds with “clean” soil with a barrier between the uncontaminated soil and underlying contaminated soil.
  • Replace contaminated soil (may require disposal as a “dangerous waste”
    Personal hygiene
  • Do not eat unwashed produce or other foods while gardening.
  • Wear gloves while working in the garden
  • Wear a dust mask or keep soil moist
  • Wash exposed body surfaces soon after gardening
  • Wash and store gardening tools and clothing outside
  • Designate certain clothing for gardening and wash separately
  • Remove gardening footwear before entering house
    Soil amendments
  • Plant lead concentrations decrease with increasing soil pH
  • Amend soils to as near neutral as possible
  • Increase soil organic matter
  • Use of phosphate-containing soil amendments sometimes can reduce plant uptake of soil lead (except if soils are also high in arsenic).



Updated July 15, 2004


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