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WVU Extension expert offers tips on managing gardens and crops after a flood

A garden made of various green plants

Lewis Jett, WVU Extension commercial horticulture specialist, speaks about how damaging floods can be for gardens and advises people to dispose any plants that have been exposed to flood waters. The pictured garden is healthy and uncontaminated by flood waters. (WVU Extension)

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Excessive rainfall during the summer months can quickly lead to flooding and high water. Gardens are at risk of harm if the plants sit in flood water causing potential crop loss or a reduced yield at harvest.

Lewis Jett, West Virginia University Extension commercial horticulture specialist, is available to speak about garden-related flood risks and what to do if your plants are affected. 


“If you had flooding from a stream or creek in your garden, you should discard anything that’s been in contact with or submerged in the floodwater – even if it’s not mature or harvestable yet.” 

“If it’s just standing water, like rainwater itself, that’s not floodwater, and the garden should be fine. But if it’s runoff from another water source, chances are high that there could be some contamination from that runoff.”

“There could be contaminants, like raw sewage, oil or hydrocarbons, in the water that could be taken up by the plants. Some of that can kill plants, or it can be pulled into the plant and transferred to you when you eat the crop from the contaminated plant. The main risk is foodborne pathogens, however, there could also be dangerous chemicals in the floodwater.”

“If the crop is something like sweet corn or beans that are on a trellis, or anything high up that hasn’t been submerged, the plants should be fine. However, if the plants have been immersed in floodwater, they should be discarded just to be on the safe side.” 

“When the garden dries out, you can discard or compost the remaining contaminated plants. You could then re-till and make another planting in a month or so.” — Lewis Jett, Commercial Horticulture Specialist, WVU Extension

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