When establishing a new garden, it is always a good idea to get your soil tested. A regular soil test will give you information about your soil including the pH (level of acidity/alkalinity), lime application rate if needed to neutralize the acidity, and various nutrient levels to determine fertilizer needs. To address your concern about soil contaminants, you can request additional analysis for heavy metals, which are common pollutants in urban soils.
Please see below the link to a list of soil testing labs serving Oregon to find a soil testing lab near you. Please call them to ask for more details like the cost of soil tests, Do mention the purpose of the soil test and that you plan to establish a vegetable garden at the site. They will give you instructions on how to collect and submit a soil sample.
Here are some resources from Oregon State University Extension that will provide more information:
- Laboratories Serving Oregon: Soil, Water, Plant Tissue, and Feed Analysis
- A Guide to Collecting Soil Samples for Farms and Gardens
- Organic Gardening Fundamentals
You might also want to check the website of Growing Gardens, an organization that promotes home-scale organic food gardening in the Portland area. In addition to their programs to support low-income home gardeners, they also offer free workshops on various organic gardening topics that are open to the public: http://growing-gardens.org/our-programs/workshops/
I hope these soil testing and organic gardening resources will be helpful to you. Please let us know if you have further questions. You can also call your local OSU Extension Master Gardener hotline for any gardening questions
Multnomah County Master Gardener Hotline
Sponsored by: West Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District
Address: 2701 NW Vaughn St. Suite 450 Portland, OR 97210
Hours: 10:00 AM - 2:00 PM Monday - Friday