Can we eat food grown on roadside gardens

When folks ask me to design a road garden a common question is, can we safely eat the food we grow there?

It’s a lot safer than stuff from overseas that’s been treated to kill foreign pests and insectides – none of those treatments have been applied to your own food you grow – you grow it and know what’s been done to it.

But what about car fumes, air pollution and the soil in the road gardens?

Here’s some advice from one of Australia’s leading soil scientists:

“During the 1990s a lot of research was done on lead emission from car exhausts on Main Roads. It was found that on busy roads lead emissions were limited to 30 cm high and within 15 metres of the edge of the road. There was no noticeable impact on less frequently used non arterial residential streets from car exhausts. The removal of lead from fuel in Australia has resulted in lead no longer being a health issue for emissions. Hydrocarbons and benzene degrade rapidly and do not impact plants, in fact they are a growth stimulant at low levels.

Road verges may historically have elevated metal levels and PAHs levels in soil from runoff of zinc roofing and from fill from unknown sources. This applies to all soil in the inner city area. Plants have protection mechanisms to prevent the uptake of lead. Copper and zinc are trace elements and can be taken up but this is beneficial for humans. It is recommended for all root crops grown in home or public gardens that the roots be washed and peeled before consumption. Furthermore as recommended by the Department of Health all food for consumption should be washed prior to consumption. If this simple common procedure is undertaken health impacts from food grown on roadside verges and other simple public land is not expected to cause any health issues”

Advice from Phil Mulvey, Managing Director, Environmental Earth Sciences…

If you wish me to work with you to design, get approvals for and to arrange affordable products that work for you with low maintenance on your road garden please send me your request, here:….au/requestgarden.htm

May the gardens be with you,


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  • Michael Mobbs

    Michael is a former Environmental Lawyer who is uniquely placed to consult in four main areas:

    • Sustainability Coach and Speaker,
    • Sustainable Urban Farm Design greening, watering and cooling the cityscape, roads, parks, suburbs,
    • Major Projects Consultant Commercial and Industrial,
    • Residential Sustainability Consultant.
    For permission to re-print any articles or to book Michael for a speaking engagement go to Contacts. Please ensure all quotes from Michael's blog include a reference to