Gardening and Food Safety

Gardening can be very rewarding.  You can grow your own vegetables, herbs, and other produce for your family and it is a fun way to get your child interested in nutrition while being physically active.  
Gardening uses a few food safety rules to keep in mind when you are growing your own food.   Make gardening fun, safe, and healthy for you and your family!

When planning where you will plant your garden, keep these things in mind:
  • Put your garden on level ground and away from wells, septic systems, in-ground tanks, and garbage cans/dumpsters.
  • Call Miss Utility at 1-800-257-7777 before you dig, to avoid underground wires and pipelines.
  • Test ground soil, especially near high-traffic and industrial areas.  Chemicals, pesticides, and heavy metals such as lead are dangerous to your health, especially for children.
  • To learn more about soil sampling, you can contact your local University of Maryland Extension office and ask to speak to a Master Gardener.
If you don't have the space for an in-ground garden, think about growing your own vegetables plants in a container!  

Keep in mind these things when planning your garden!

         Things to Do
Things Not to Do

Use water that is safe for people to drink (called potable water). 
Do not use animal or pet manure/poop as fertilizer.  Animal manure carries bacteria/germs that could make what you grow unsafe to eat.
Use clean containers that you use to carry food in to carry water.
Do not add farm manure, pet waste, or human waste such as urine or excrement (poop).  Bacteria/germs can contaminate the produce growing in your food and make you sick.

Cover the ends of stakes and posts with plastic or metal cones to keep birds away from your garden.
Do not eat anything from the garden without washing it first.


Keep bird feeders, garbage cans, and compost piles away from your garden.


A fence (8 feet tall) may be good to keep deer away, or a shorter fence if deer are not a garden threat.

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This institution is an equal opportunity provider. This material was funded by USDA's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – SNAP. The University of Maryland Extension will not discriminate against any person because of race, age, sex, color, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, religion, ancestry or national origin, marital status, genetic information, political affiliation, and gender identity or expression. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides nutrition assistance to people with low income. It can help you buy nutritious foods for a better diet. To find out more about Maryland’s Food Supplement Program (SNAP), contact the Maryland Department of Human Resources at 1-800-332-6347 or apply online at https://mydhrbenefits.dhr.state.md.us/.
© Eat Smart, Be Fit Maryland!Maira Gall