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WVU Extension Service offers flood recovery tips for gardeners and farmers

Morgantown, W.Va. – Floods have far reaching effects that extend past the immediate damage and danger that high water presents at the crest stage. In addition to the clean-up efforts afterwards, there are agricultural considerations for the home gardener and farmer with livestock.

The West Virginia University Extension Service has resources available and residents affected by flooding can get in touch with their local WVU Extension Service office for additional information about how to handle their land, plants and animals after a flood event.

Flooded fields are a concern for producers if they’re used for hay or pasture. If the field is used for pasture, it should be cut to 2- to 4-inch stubble and allowed to decompose after a flood. Once the grass has regrown to 8 to 10 inches and the damaged forage has fully decomposed, livestock may return to the pasture to graze.

In the case of harvested hay, do not feed any bales that have come in contact with flood waters, including inline wrapped bales that aren’t sealed on the ends and unwrapped bales. Individually plastic-wrapped bales may be safe to feed, but closely inspect bales for punctures or separation in the plastic layers. If either is present, discard the bale.

Soil and sediment is generally moved with flood debris, so exposed livestock should be vaccinated for clostridial diseases, including tetanus. Livestock that were not exposed to flooded areas during the event, but will be placed on a pasture that was previously flooded should also be vaccinated prior to being placed there. All age classes of livestock should be vaccinated. Consult a local veterinarian should questions arise regarding animal health.

Gardeners wondering if their produce is safe to eat after a flood should exercise extreme caution if any of their garden comes into contact with flood water. According to WVU Extension experts, the safest answer is no — discarding all produce that was touched by flood water eliminates any and all risks and is the only surefire way to ensure they, and their families, don’t become ill from eating these items.

Late-season vegetables that come from flowers produced on growth that develops after flood waters recede should be safe. Cook these vegetables thoroughly, or wash them well and peel them before eating.

The following season, consider growing crops on elevated or raised beds to improve soil drainage. Soils with high clay levels can have sand or organic matter mixed in to improve drainage. If a hardpan restricts water infiltration, a broadfork or subsoiler can be used to loosen the soil. Constructing drainage ditches in low areas of the garden that tend to accumulate water can also help.

If there’s still time left in the growing season, consider planting crops that do well late in the season such as beans, beets, cucumbers, summer squash, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, collards, Brussels sprouts, lettuce, kale, spinach and carrots.

To make amendments for the following season, cover crops can be established on flooded gardens to remediate the soil during a summer/winter fallow period. Summer cover crops, such as buckwheat, soybeans, ryegrass and sun hemp, can be established in July through August.

In the fall, winter cover crops, such as rye, ryegrass, triticale, crimson clover, red clover and hairy vetch, can improve soil health while reducing soil erosion.

For more information about steps to take after flooding occurs, contact your local WVU Extension Service office.

The WVU Extension Service serves as an outreach division of West Virginia University. Extension has offices in all 55 counties, which provide citizens with knowledge in areas such as 4-H and youth development, agriculture, family and consumer sciences, health, leadership development and community and economic development. 

-WVU-

zl/08/08/17

CONTACT: Zane Lacko, WVU Extension Service, 304.293.8986; zlacko@mail.wvu.edu

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