Health Care. Nutrition Care. Mental Health Care.

Gardening In Flint

Eating fresh fruits and vegetables is one of the best ways to fight the effects of lead.

YES, but make sure you have your soil tested. Edible Flint is offering soil testing kits, hose filters, starter kits and education for Flint residents. For more information visit or call 810.244.8547. If you are still concerned about the soil after it has been tested or if it tested high for lead, you can plant a garden in raised beds off the ground in purchased soil.

  • Edible Flint supports Flint residents in growing and accessing healthy food in order to reconnect them with the land and each other.

If you have canned vegetables in unfiltered water since April 2014, you need to throw those items away. Your vegetables were likely canned in lead tainted water and the canning process will actually make the lead worse!

YES, but you need to use bottled or filtered water to can. Water from an unfiltered tap is NOT SAFE even for canning!

Any food preparation including cleaning fruits and vegetables should be done with filtered or bottled water.


  • Lead occurs naturally in soil, but at high levels it can potentially be harmful to your health
  • Previous land use can be a contributing factor to soil lead levels – common sources of elevated lead levels in urban soils are from the past use of leaded gasoline and lead-based paint in homes
  • Before growing a vegetable garden, get your soil tested if you are unsure of your soil lead levels
  • Locate vegetable gardens as far as possible from roads, driveways, and old painted structures
  • If soil lead levels exceed 300 ppm, prevent children from accessing that soil (young children are at risk for eating soil – direct ingestion) by covering it with mulch; planting ground covers or turf; or installing stones/pavement
  • If gardening in low lead soils (100 – 400 ppm is the US Environmental Protection Agency’s low lead range), improve soil health by adding organic matter like compost, and maintaining soil pH between 6.5 and 7.5


  • Vegetables do not readily uptake lead from the soil or water
  • Do not plant a vegetable garden if soil lead levels exceed 400 ppm; generally, it is considered safe to use garden produce grown in soils with total lead levels less than 300 ppm
  • If elevated soil lead >300ppm is a concern, use raised beds or containers, fill with fresh, non-contaminated soil; select low risk crops
  • If elevated soil lead is a concern, another option is to use raised beds or containers for your vegetable garden, and fill with fresh, non-contaminated soil


Irrigation with lead contaminated water does not significantly increase soil lead levels. If you are concerned about watering with lead contaminated water, you can:

  • Purchase a lead filer that attaches to your garden hose
  • Purchase a rain barrel or make a rain water catchment system that is best for your garden
  • Work with Flint’s OASIS TEAM to get water bumped from the Flint River delivered to your garden

Crops by Risk

Depending on the soil lead levels you can plant different crops to manage potential risks

Low Risk Crops

Fruiting Crops—can be safely planted in soils with lead levels of 400 ppm or lower. Examples include:

  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Corn
  • Beans
  • Squash
  • Cucumbers
  • Peas

Other Crops

Do not plant if your soil test results lead levels are 300 ppm or higher. If you have low soil lead levels these are safe crops. Examples include:

Leafy Green:

  • Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Cabbage

Root Crops:

  • Carrots
  • Radishes
  • Turnips
  • Beets
  • Potatoes

Garden Sanitation

  • Soil dust or particles on the surface of fruits and vegetables is the primary concern with produce grown in lead contaminated soil
  • Thoroughly wash your hands, and wash produce in filtered water prior to consuming; peel root crops and discard the outer and older leaves of leafy vegetables; do not compost the peelings or leaves
  • Wear gloves while gardening, and avoid tracking soil into your home

Can I Still Garden?

In general, vegetables and fruits grown in urban soils are considered insignificant sources of lead in diets. With proper urban soil management practices, the benefits associated with urban agriculture through improved nutrtiion and food security far outweigh the potential risks posed by elevated soil lead.


  • Check with your local Extension office for updates and soil testing services at or call 1-888-678-3464.
  • Edible Flint’s services are available to area gardeners, including soil testing, garden kits and training. Visit; 810-244-8530
  • The Neighborhood Engagement Hub’s resources include a community tool-shed, a mobile toolkit, and a place to hold meetings. Call 810-620-0078 or 810-620-1299.

Contact Us

If you would like to contact the Flint Recovery Group’s Communication Team, please fill out this form.  We value your feedback and questions.  A member of the team will respond to your inquiry shortly.  

You can also dial 2-1-1 for immediate assistance.

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