dog feces in planting soil #129815 - Ask Extension

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dog feces in planting soil #129815

Asked May 26, 2013, 11:27 AM EDT

Here is my dilemma: I had asked my husband to clear the grass from a small (4'x8') area in our backyard for a vegetable bed. We enclosed the area in railroad ties about 6 inches high, and my plan was to work through the soil that was already there and remove rocks, etc., then mix in enriched soil and manure, and fill it to the top of the railing. While I was working through the existing dirt, I came upon dog feces. We do have a dog, so I didn't think much of it, got rid of it, and proceeded to add soil and manure and begin mixing it together with the original soil. However, I kept coming across more and more pieces of dog poop (I kept stepping in it as I worked the soil.) It turns out my husband, after clearing the grass in the area, had then buried about a weeks' worth of dog poop he'd gathered from the lawn that day. He buried it about 4 inches deep. He thought it would eventually decompose and be good for the soil, which of course I know is not true of dog feces. At that point I stopped working the soil and got as much of the intact pieces of poop out as I could but I have no doubt that at least some is still in there, either mixed into the soil or solid pieces. If I add more soil on top, 6-10 inches deep, and don't mix it in with the current layer, will it be safe to plant vegetables in? Or is the soil unusable?

Delta County Michigan

Expert Response

 The primary concern in using dog or cat feces in your vegetable garden would be eggs of the common large roundworm (Toxocara canis), which are carried in dog excrement and can be transmitted to humans. The vegetables will be safe to eat if washed properly. The main danger would be accidental ingestion of roundworm eggs from the soil through the mouth or nose. I'd select another site where you should avoid use of any dog/cat or fresh animal excrement. Dog/cat feces should be bagged and disposed of with your garbage. 

The second concern is the use of railroad ties for the raised bed. Railroad ties contain creosote which can leach into the soil and vegetables with watering and rain. Avoid using any treated wood products. A cheap alternative may be concrete blocks or the suggested use of cedar which is safe and long lasting. See Colorado State reference for other construction material suggestions.

The following references :
www.extension.umn.edu/yardandgarden/.../h238manure-dog-cat.html
cmg.colostate.edu/gardennotes/713.pdf
Barbara Fredrick Replied May 26, 2013, 9:02 PM EDT

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