If your property is flooded, rescuing and recovering your home and personal belongings will be first on your mind, but sooner or later, you will need to face the questions of how to recover and repair your garden and landscape. The Agriculture Department of North Dakota State University has provided these suggestions:
- If floodwater was contaminated with raw sewage, do not eat the produce it touched. Crops that can be washed thoroughly with disinfectant (bleach), peeled and/or boiled should pose minimal risks. However, crops that are eaten uncooked, especially leafy crops such as spinach and lettuce should not be eaten because removing all of the contamination is so difficult.
- Resist the urge to replant immediately, give the soil a chance to dry out first.Working wet soil will have long-lasting effects on soil compaction.
- When soils are completely flooded, oxygen is prevented from reaching the root system of trees and shrubs. Some are more tolerant of water logged conditions, but the longer the lack of aeration, the greater the chance of root death. Most landscape plants can survive being submerged for about a week. However, extended lack of aeration to the roots will result I root die-back, with the above ground symptoms appearing as leaf yellowing, droopy foliage, leaf dropped, eventually branch die-back. Waterlogged roots systems are more susceptible to attack by root-rot organisms. In areas of severe flooding, concerns for plant health also include soil erosion and deposits of additional soil and silt. Both can damage root systems.
- Don’t be too hasty to cut limbs. Remove only those that are physically damaged or obviously dead. Branches that have lost leaves aren’t necessarily dead; even though leaves may drop, buds may be able to re-leaf. A light fertilization may be helpful to replace nutrients that were lost and to encourage re-growth.
- After floodwaters gave receded, the landscape probably will be covered in thick silt and may have a raw sewage like odor, which indicates a lack of oxygen in the soil.Many plants will look dead. Never fear, plants that have shown good survival after two weeks under floodwaters include most native trees, shrubs, perennials and hardy bulbs.
- Once your landscape is dry remove trash, debris and any uprooted plants.
- Remove accumulations of sediment and organic debris by shoveling or hosing and then mow the grass. Remove only about one-third of the height at this time. Applying about ½ pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet will encourage turf recovery, and then follow normal maintenance practices.
- Inspect and flush your sprinkler system.
- Call before you dig. Know where buried power lines and cables are before digging in your lawn.
- Consider using plywood or wood chips on paths where heavy equipment will be to save wear and dear on the landscape as your renovate.
- Beavers and other wildlife can be displaced during floods and cause significant damage to trees and shrubs. Valuable trees and shrubs can be encircled with woven wire or hardware cloth that is at least three feet high and at least 10 inches from the trees or shrubs.
For additional information on flooding recovery: Flood Recovery
Billie Nicholson, Editor