What Can be Salvaged from Flood-Damaged Gardens?
If your gardens were affected by recent flooding, can you use the fruits (and vegetables) of your labors or are they contaminated? Extension Educator John Porter addresses this issue in a recent article in GRO Big Red: Food Safety in Flooded Vegetable Gardens.
He writes: "It is difficult to know exactly what is in the flood waters that ravage communities, especially since the water is flowing in places where it was not expected to be. Aside from the standard level of pathogens or contaminants that may be in the water, there could be additional contamination from sewage systems, manure storage, industrial chemical storage, pesticide or fertilizer storage, and more. Due to the all the unknowns in regards to flood water, gardeners and produce growers should exercise caution in the upcoming growing season. Even if the water is just pooling in place and not visibly coming from a stream or if you think the area up-stream is free of contamination there is still a need to minimize risk from flooding."
Any produce that doesn’t have contact with the soil has a 90-day waiting period and any produce that does come in contact with the soil has a 120-day waiting period. It's recommended that in flooded areas rhubarb, asparagus, potatoes, and cucurbits not be consumed as they would have direct contact with the soil and would have absorbed flood water contaminants.
For other plants with produce that doesn't touch the ground, such as tomatoes, peppers, and beans, the plants might be kept but any fruit produced prior to 90 days would need to be discarded.
See the full article for more information on how to stay safe, even after the flood waters recede.