Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Plants, Soils, and Climate

Committee Chair(s)

Paul Grossl


Paul Grossl


Melanie Stock


Kelly Kopp


Urban environments are at an increased risk of soil contamination and poor soil health due to anthropogenic causes. As healthy farmland is developed, new urban farmers and gardeners are often left growing food on unwanted land with unknown histories of previous use. Varied research and methods for obtaining healthy soils can cause new growers to make decisions that negatively impact soil health and fertility, or on the other hand, conflicting information can cause individuals to become unnecessarily fearful of common soil contaminants and their effect on human health. Common soil contaminants, like trace metals (often referred to as heavy metals) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), have complex information available regarding human and soil toxicity, safe screening levels, and remediation techniques. With the help of Utah State University Extension, two fact sheets were written and added to the database to inform the public’s understanding of common soil contaminants: Trace Element Contamination in Urban Soils: Testing and Management and Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH) Contamination in Urban Soils: Testing and Management. Both factsheets provide concise information on understanding, testing, analyzing, and interpreting results for common soil contaminates. Information from the latter fact sheet along with soil tests and analyses conducted in the Spring of 2021 were used to inform remediation decisions for Wasatch Community Garden’s Cannon Greens site, which was closed due to high levels of the PAH benzo(a)pyrene in 2019. Along with misconceptions surrounding common soil contaminates, urban farmers and gardeners can have limited understanding of proper soil texture, drainage, and its effect on water holding capacity and salt buildup. In partnership with Frog Bench Farms in Salt Lake City, a study was conducted in Summer 2021 to improve drainage and soil texture in raised greenhouse grow beds with the expected result of seeing an increase in water holding capacity, decreased salt levels, and more water efficient irrigation schedule.