The Great Outdoors


We have all heard of outbreaks of E. coli in spinach crops as well as other vegetables, fruits and meats and poultry. But can this happen to us in our own gardens? Absolutely, this can happen to you in your gardens and in your kitchens. So what are the problems that cause E. coli to be found in your “safe” home-grown fruits and vegetables?

Well several problems that we probably even know about such as washing hands after using the restroom and cleaning cutting boards and utensils. But when it comes to vegetables, manure seems to be the culprit. Studies performed by Purdue and Colorado State have concluded that you should never put fresh manure into your garden just before planting eatable vegetables. Fresh manure, especially from cattle, pigs, chickens or horses could very likely be contaminated with E. coli so for that reason, only use properly composted manure.

It is best to incorporate manure into your garden after your last harvest, especially if it’s fresh so that at least 120 days has past before planting any vegetables into the soil. Of course this means prepare your garden soil in the fall so that it is ready next spring. Also when you do insert your plants in the spring, it is best not to harvest for 40 days after planting and always wash your harvest before eating. Make sure your garden is not located near an area where fresh animal manure has been deposited such as animal pens or livestock areas as the rain runoff could cause problems. Keep your pets out of your garden.

When watering your gardens, it is a good idea not to use water from creeks or ponds. Water from a deep well or treated water is best. This very much means that any river water that has come into contact with your vegetable gardens most likely has infected your eatable crops, as well as your garden soil with the E. coli virus. I would think more than twice about eating those vegetables raw. Tomatoes and peppers or other crops that do not come into contact with the soil directly may still be safe as these college studies do not think that the E. coli virus is transmitted up through the vascular system of plants. Only through direct contact with the infected soil, which would make root crops and leafy vegetables the bigger risk.

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Doug Hackbarth

Doug's is the former owner of Broadview Florist & Greenhouses in Waynedale. He authors a garden & landscaping article in the newspaper. In his adolescence he attended Hillcrest, Kekionga and Elmhurst HS. His expertise has been shared in print, tv and radio. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer