Topsoil for vegetables

Asked October 3, 2019, 12:56 PM EDT

I have access to screened topsoil that was left over after a recent construction project. I do not know anything about where the topsoil came from and therefore what contaminants it might contain. What soil testing (I'm not concerned about pH, I'm concerned about heavy metals, etc.) do you recommend before I use this soil in a raised bed garden for growing family vegetables? Thank you.

Cecil County Maryland

1 Response

For vegetable gardens, we recommend a soil test from a professional lab that includes lead testing. The U. of Delaware and U. Mass both include lead(Pb) testing in their basic test. (You should ask them about arsenic if you think it may be a problem.)
Here is our publication about Lead in Garden Soils:

See the soil testing link below from our website. Begin by reading our soil testing fact sheets HG 110 “Selecting & Using a Soil Testing Lab” & HG 110a “List of Regional Soil Testing Laboratories,”
You can also view our Video “How To Take A Soil Sample” and “FAQ’s.

Select a regional soil testing lab, download their forms, and submit your soil samples with a check to the lab. A cup of soil is needed for each garden area or bed that you test. You can use a ziploc bag to send in each soil sample.

If there are other contaminants that you want the soil tested for, ask the lab, but otherwise you should go to your favorite search engine and search for ‘Environmental Testing Services in Maryland” or “Analytical Services in Maryland”.

You would need to inform the lab exactly what you want to test for. This type of test may be expensive.

We would also suggest for a raised bed that you mix topsoil with compost, Leafgro or other organic addition at a ratio of 70/30%.