alwaysoutdoor
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Old decomposing trash in new garden site

hello fellow organic gardeners! I have a question for you all. I have just got rid of part of my lawn to make way for another garden upgrade. The dirt is looking better than expected, but on one side of the new garden there is quite a bit of decomposing garbage (mostly aluminum cans and broken glass). It is taking me a long time to sift through and clean up. Looks like whoever owned my property (about 30-35 years ago by looking at the glass bottles) made their back yard a trash heap then spread it around/leveled it out and covered it all over with lawn grass. I was wondering if there would be any health risks by gardening in this soil? There are quite a bit of worms around so it couldn't be too bad right? In a 12'x20' space I pulled out 4 heaping wheelbarrow loads of mostly aluminum that is about 2/3 to 3/4 decomposed (most of the cans keep their shape, but they crumble into a million pieces very easily.) Is 30 year old decomposing aluminum a deal breaker for a garden spot? The soil 1/16" immediately around the cans is an obvious rust color. Thank you!

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Kisal
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Welcome to the forum! :)

The situation with your property sounds kind of odd to me, almost like the area may once have been a public landfill. Have you checked the county records? :?
"Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?" - Douglas Adams

alwaysoutdoor
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Nope, not a public landfill- just household trash from a lazy, cheap previous landowner. My guess is whoever did the dumping it was their own land and they just planted a lawn over it to get it sold. This is what used to happen around here back in the day. Not uncommon to see this kinda thing in my area.

cynthia_h
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Are there any minors (persons under 21) in your household? They may be at risk from the glass and aluminum if they play or work in the yard, esp. the glass. Yikes! :shock:

Even adults can be injured despite precautions like wearing sturdy shoes, long pants, and leather gloves while working in such surroundings.

And...I almost hate to suggest it, but as a technical editor, and in light of some of the geoscience/engineering reports I've read over the last many years, I feel honor-bound to bring it up:

If the previous owners thought nothing of throwing glass, aluminum, steel cans, etc. out onto the property, might they also have blithely disposed of inconvenient paints, motor oil, or other such chemicals? If so, and you run into paints, motor oil, or other chemicals in the soil, consult your real-estate agent about the seller's disclosure obligations in the State of Washington and how to proceed with the necessary clean-up.

I would also suggest, if you run into such chemicals, that you STOP WORKING near them immediately. Just leave them in place; consult professionals (starting with the real-estate agent and seller liability) before proceeding.

With any luck, though, these people just chucked empty containers outside.... ::fingers crossed::

Cynthia H.
Sunset Zone 17, USDA Zone 9

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Kisal
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Those are good thoughts, Cynthia. My next door neighbor, who has since passed away, used to pour motor oil in the gutter, so it would run into the storm drain ... until the city caught him! :lol:

I remember my grandfather would pour used motor oil on the alley behind our house, as a means of keeping the weeds down. He also poured gasoline and other toxic liquids there. Thank goodness it was way on the other side of our property from our garden! But in those days, people didn't realize the dangers of those materials, in the same way that it was socially acceptable to smoke cigarettes. nutz:
"Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?" - Douglas Adams

DoubleDogFarm
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Not uncommon to see this kinda thing in my area.
Where are you located?
I remember my grandfather would pour used motor oil on the alley behind our house, as a means of keeping the weeds down.
Where I grew up in Auburn, our neighbor did the same thing. He would pour the used oil in a Scott's trough spreader. Walk back and forth in the alley. I believe he was keeping the dust down. :twisted:

Eric

alwaysoutdoor
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I am located in north central washington near okanogan/omak. I was just wondering if no chemicals are around how the rust and decomposing aluminum would effect the food I will be eating?

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!potatoes!
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Location: wnc - zones 6/7 line

everywhere i've dug new beds within the city limits of asheville, nc, there's been a LOT of broken glass, some metal scraps (like can bits) and a fair amount of smaller bits of coal. also occasional odder bits (pieces of procelain dolls, etc)...makes it an archealogocil dig every time. rust shouldn't hurt anything much...don't know about the aluminum leaching possibilities, though.

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JennieMig
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I get the same thing every time I dig. Aluminum cans, broken soda bottles, old toys. But here lately I've been afraid of sticking a shovel in the ground...
A few weeks ago a neighbor down the street was having some work done when one of the workers, who was digging a footer, found human remains. After days of investigating by our local police they found that they were indian remains from a few hundred years ago. Now archeologist are involved, and they said they've found pottery and tools.

tomc
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Trash middens are a fact of human existance going back all the way to cave residence.

Finding them and sifting them out of vegetable gardens is something I have done off and on for my whole gardening life.

Peeking under the sod for the existance of them is probably a prudent thing to do. It has long been my excuse for double digging garden beds.

Found litter gets fixed by me, by sifting it out.

Now if the 'litter' you find is a rusting model T, maybe thats not a good place for your garden.
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DoubleDogFarm
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I would definitely have the soil tested. What if you go through all the clean up, sifting and find the soil has heavy metals etc... then what?

Eric

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