Quiet Remediator

A floral landscape that stabilizes lead in the soil while registering your household caffeine levels.

SunPart Shade










Sun, Part Shade

Lead has accumulated over time in our urban soils through industrial emissions, automobile, truck, and airplane emissions, and the disintegration of old paint. The Quiet Remediator is an option for lots where you believe (or know) lead may be present (or may become present) in the soil. For example, you may have already tested the soil on your lot, or you may have a concern that lead has previously been deposited on or into your lot from exposure to dust from industrial activities near your neighborhood. This lot design assists with the chemical stabilization of lead in the soil by adding soil amendments.

The soil amendments that are part of this design will help bind the lead present in soil to organic matter. As the pH in the soil rises (a result of this process) and the soil turns more acidic, the hydrangea plants in this design will turn blue. As part of this design, you can use coffee grounds to feed these flowers, change their color and stabilize your soil!

This lot design helps to stabilize lead—which means that over time, this lot design may prevent lead from chemically affecting humans or pets — however, it does not actually remove lead from the soil. If you are planning to plant an edible garden, be sure to get your soil tested for all of the heavy metals and other contaminants prior to planting.

Ideal Location: Bald or freshly demolished lot in full sun or part sun.


The estimated cost of the Quiet Remediator is moderate and based on using volunteer labor. The majority of the cost is from the purchase of hydrangeas and the soil amendments. Although shrubs are the most expensive items, costs can be reduced by buying smaller and younger shrubs, or by planting plugs, rather than the 3-5 gallon pots. The cost assumes that residents or volunteers have access to basic safety gear and garden tools. If you have the time, soliciting coffee grounds from a local business is a recommended route to remediation—an instant money saver.

Green Infrastructure

The soil remediation activities in this lot design are good for our watershed and the health of the Great Lakes Ecosystem!

Vegetation and Visibility

The flexibility of this lot design enables a lot with greater amounts of privacy or greater amounts of clear visibility. Shrubs will grow as tall as you let them; over time this will create more privacy on your lot.

Planting Type

Most Interesting Season

Other Consideration


Installing the Quiet Remediator will make for a fun and rewarding weekend with your friends, family or neighbors. The installation of this lot should not require professional assistance if you, with the help and support of others, would like to build this design. Please refer to the Step-By-Step section for guidance. The installation process does not require any special, mechanized equipment. The most strenuous physical tasks will be preparing your planting area by removing any existing vegetation and then power raking, or tilling, the entire surface of your lot. You will also need to dig the holes for your shrubs. If you are purchasing soil amendments and the 3-5 gallon pot sized plants we recommend, this lot design will be more easily constructed if you have access to a car or by making arrangements to have your materials delivered. Finding coffee grounds might take a bit of work—think about gathering these ahead of time! Always hire a professional if you are not up for the challenge, but remember, this will increase your costs.

Build Time Estimate

Ten hands or less! If you’ve completed your soil testing and gathered your soil amendments, with the help of your friends, family or neighbors, this project can be completed in one weekend. The Field Guide recommends three to five healthy volunteers—but more volunteers can shorten your build time! The Field Guide also assumes the lot is ‘construction ready,’ and all equipment and materials required for the lot design have been acquired and are ready to use.

Build Difficulty

Number of People Needed

Neighbor Labor

Time Taken to Build

Build Season

Transportation Intensity

Permit Requirements


Plants require care and maintenance to thrive. The Quiet Remediator is a manageable lot design with low-maintenance hydrangeas.

Plan ahead and remember to think about where and how you will access water following construction! Shrubs must be watered regularly at first. Watering and weeding around the stems of your hydrangeas will be required during the first few years. You will also need to add mulch annually to help suppress weed growth.

Continue to sprinkle old coffee grounds, tea leaves and bone meal onto your lawn and your hydrangeas. Coffee grounds and tea should be mixed with a handful of garden lime and sprinkled over the ground evenly, and any clumps should be broken up to prevent fungal growth.

Seasonal Upkeep Levels

  • Spring: Low
  • Summer: Low
  • Fall: Low
  • Winter: Low

Upkeep Frequency

Upkeep Skill Levels

Professional Assistance

Special Tools