Gardening from the Ground Up!

Posted: February 12, 2016

Far and away, the majority of the questions that the Penn State Extension Master Gardener’s in Philadelphia receive are about the safety of the soil.

Gardening in any post-industrial city, which has had decades of lead paint on houses, lead gasoline exhaust from cars and all manner of manufacturing, poses potential risks to gardeners.  Lead and various heavy metals, volatile chemicals and hazards may lurk in our homes and yards. How can gardeners assess and mitigate their risks? This is a big question with no simple answer.  

With that said, there are clear “best practices” that improve both the health of the soil underfoot and the environmental impacts of contaminated and potentially contaminated land. In partnership with many soil scientists and researchers from Penn State University, the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) and the EPA, the Penn State Extension Master Gardeners produced a detailed and engaging pamphlet to help guide Philadelphia gardeners on how to “Garden from the Ground Up.” 
[MG Urban Soils Pamphlet]

The Penn State Extension Master Gardener’s in Philadelphia participate in many community gardens, demonstration gardens and numerous efforts to offer research-based information about horticulture and gardening to a wide range of Philadelphians.  Our “Ask a Master Gardener” tables at community events and our phone (267-314-6769) and email ( “hort-lines” answer garden questions from homeowners,  building managers and city workers on a range of topics from tree planting to pollinator habitat protection.