Ask SAM: Could fallout from the Weaver fire affect my home garden? | Local News


Q: How has the fallout from the two recent Weaver Fertilizer Plant fires affected the soil? I am a dedicated home gardener who lives very near Wake Forest University. Our neighborhood’s air was filled with dangerous substances for over 24 hours during the December fire, and for many days during the January fire. I am a senior on a fixed income and I grow several hundred dollars’ worth of groceries each season to save money. But, now I am concerned about the health of my soil. Is this a good year to skip food crops and plant a cover crop to help draw toxins out of the soil? I don’t want poison in my tomatoes from the plant fire.

Answer: Leslie Rose, an extension horticulture agent at N.C. Cooperative Extension, Forsyth County Center, looked into whether the fire fallout could be a problem for homes gardens this year.

“The ammonium nitrate itself is not a concern for negative impacts on soil or plants. Nitrate is mobile in the soil, so excessive (amounts) not used by plants can be carried out from the soil and transferred to bodies of water; this is why there was concern about water quality surrounding the fire.

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“It is reasonable to assume that other things were burning and not just the fertilizer, and small or large ash particles could have deposited onto nearby soil. The ash could contain harmful chemicals.”

Rose recommended having a soil test done. The tests are available through the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA&CS). From April through November, the tests are free. In other months, there is a $4 charge per box. The test will measure pH and nutrient levels of elements that the plants need.

“Copper, zinc, and manganese would be metals of interest to look at in the soil test report — these are included as micronutrients in a standard soil test report provided by the NCDA&CS.

“The standard soil test does not test for heavy metals; however, the NCDA&CS will test for heavy metals in soil for a fee of $25 per sample.

“Typically, your local Extension office can provide the forms and sample boxes for soil testing through the NCDA&CS,” she said.

The Forsyth County Center is located at 1450 Fairchild Road, Winston-Salem, off North Liberty Street, near Smith Reynolds Airport.

More information is available at, and


Get your tomato seeds started so that you can have plants in the ground from mid-April to the beginning of May and ripe tomatoes on the vine in summer.

D.H. had a suggestion about getting COVID tests: I wish you had explained to JB they could request free home test kits from the government (COVIDTEST.GOV). That would have spared them the expense of going to Novant to be tested and receiving a nurse bill.

Holy Family Catholic Church, 4820 Kinnamon Road, Clemmons, will have a paper-only shredding event from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday in the church parking lot. Suggested donations of $5 per bag will be collected by the Knights of Columbus. Checks may be made payable to the Knights of Columbus.

Mount Carmel United Methodist Church, 4265 Ebert Road, Winston Salem, will hold a paper shredding event from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. A donation of $5 per box would be appreciated. All proceeds will benefit local missions.

Email: [email protected]

Write: Ask SAM, 418 N. Marshall St., Winston-Salem, NC 27101


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