Like a lot of you, I’ve been kept inside by the rain from Florence. With so much flooding, let’s talk about what to do when your vegetable or herb garden gets flooded.
This Week’s Tip
Most of these tips are common sense, but in the aftermath of a weather emergency, we don’t always think clearly. I pulled many of these from Carolina Farm Stewardship’s Hurricane Florence Resources For Farmers webpage.
First, establish what kind of flooding you’re dealing with. Is it simply rainfall that hasn’t had time to be absorbed by the soil? Are you dealing with runoff from a neighboring property? Or has a nearby surface water source overflowed its banks onto your garden? While the runoff from adjoining properties can be contaminated, it’s the creek, pond, or even river that can carry some real danger. In a true flood, water may be contaminated by pesticides, gas, oil, or even sewage. Any of those make garden produce unsafe to eat.
Remember to protect yourself from that same contamination. Handling and even walking in the left-behind sediment can be a hazard. Don’t forget to use safety gear when you’re using power tools, too.
Don’t be in a hurry for the floodwaters to recede. Let the garden drain naturally. You stomping around in all that muck won’t help things at all. You don’t have to wait for the garden to be bone dry, but wait for a bit. The soil structure will thank you.
Establish a flood debris compost area. If your community is picking that up, great. If not, put all of that storm debris in a separate pile and get the compost pile as hot as you can. This will help deal with pathogens and contaminants. Then keep all the waste in the pile for a year or two. I’m erring on the side or caution here, but some chemicals re quite persistent. I wouldn’t use that compost on vegetable and herb crops, either. Again, I’m being very cautious, because every situation is different.
If there’s any debris to remove, do it as carefully as you can. Fallen trees and branches will have done enough without you adding more. And it goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, be careful with the chainsaw!
Take up all of the loose debris and add that to the flood compost pile. Prune away any damaged plant parts, like broken vines or snapped stems. Remove all plants that are too damaged to survive, and put all that stuff on your flood compost pile. By the way, if you can chip this to a smaller size, that will help the microbes in the pile break the material down faster.
Rinse all of the plants left in the garden, especially on the underside of the leaves. This will remove or dilute remaining contaminants. And irrigate the garden to dilute any contaminants in the plant systems or in the soil.
I’d take all of the food that’s been in contact with the floodwaters and compost it. Don’t eat it, and under no circumstances should you give it to somebody else. If the plant can still grow on a bit, the new edible parts should be OK in a month or so. That’s a little arbitrary, I’ll admit, but better safe than sorry.
Add a bit of compost to the beds to add some new microbes to the soil. All that water will have drowned a lot of the good “critters” that live in the soil. An inch or two of a good quality compost should be enough.
Over time, your garden should become the same productive source of good, fresh food you had before. And if it floods again, it might be time for a new garden site. But that’s another story…
Sustainable Ag 104, September 27 – November 15, 2018. 6-9PM
Lomax Incubator Farm, Atando Road, Concord, NC
This class is a part of Rowan-Cabarrus Community College’s Agripreneur Academy. If you want to learn to cultivate an income through growing food, flowers, fiber, fuel, pharmaceuticals, and fermented beverages (unfermented ones, too), then come learn my “Cash Crop” method. Details and registration are here.
Home Composting, Tuesday, October 3, 2018 630-930PM
Lomax Incubator Farm, Atando Road, Concord, NC
This is our second class at our new location. Compost is a great addition to any garden. It solves so many garden problems simply by adding organic matter to the soil. It’s easy to make, doesn’t need a fancy bin, and keeps food scraps out of the landfill. We’ll look at a simple compost system that will let you create lots of great garden soil. Here are the details.
Edible Landscapes, Tuesday, October 9, 630-830PM
Renfrow Farm, 409 W Charles Street, Matthews, NC We tend to look at our food crops through a single purpose lens. How much food will this plant yield? But many of our fruits and vegetables look great in the garden! Come learn how to add these plants to our landscapes. We’ll feed our souls beautiful gardens while we feed our bodies good food. Details and registration here.
Where I’ll Be
Monday-Wednesday, September 17-19, 2018
Thursday, September 20, 2018 Sustainable Ag 103 600-900PM
Lomax Farm, Atando Road, Concord, NC
Demand for sustainable or organically grown products continues to increase. USDA Certified Organic produce is in short supply at all major grocery stores. Opportunities abound IF you can produce a quality product, grow in sufficient quantities, and know the proper marketing channels. I’ve been teaching farmers to cultivate profit since 1996. Come join us at the Lomax Farm to learn how to grow good food in a certified organic farm. We’re going to be on a working farm, so dress appropriately. That includes dressing for hot, humid weather. Closed toed shoes are required on the farm. This is a hands on class. Be prepared for most of the class to be in the field. Your own water bottle is recommended, as is sunscreen and a hat.
Friday, September 21 2018 Matthews, NC
I’m available for home landscape consultations. Contact me here.
Saturday, September 22, 2018 On the road
I’m doing regional consultations. Contact me if I can help you.
How Can I Help You?
Summer is great for spending time in the garden, not just working, but enjoying your garden. Feed your body good food from the garden. Feed your mind new knowledge as you learn more about nature. Feed your soul just by watching things grow. All this while having a beautiful place to sit and enjoy coffee before breakfast or a glass of wine in the evening. Get the kids outside and away from “the screen”. Decompress after a hectic day on the job. The movement and exertion of gardening has long been considered a beneficial physical activity, and you get food or flowers as a result!
If you’re not getting those benefits from your garden, right now is the time to change that. I can help you evaluate your home landscape and find the right landscape for your family. In a one hour consultation, I can solve problems, identify plants, show you some opportunities, and teach you some cool shortcuts that make gardening more fun and interesting. If you’re interested in enjoying your garden even more, contact me here.
Organic farming has seen tremendous growth over the last few years, even while other sectors of agriculture have slumped. I farmed and operated a plant nursery in NC for 15 years, and was an NC Cooperative Extension agent for 8 years. In that time, I learned a LOT about farm production and farm business management. I can help you with organic certification, transition to organic practices, and marketing your farm and food products. To learn how to cultivate profit on your farm, contact me here.
As a former Small Business Center Director in NC, I can tell you that these are times of great opportunity for small business owners. Many small businesses can be started for as little as $100! To take advantage of these opportunities, strategic planning is essential. I can help you write a business plan, construct enterprise and cash flow budgets, and do market research. Individual consultations and group trainings are options for getting the information you need to succeed! To take advantage of the opportunities that are available to small business owners, contact me here.
Remember to enjoy your garden, because THAT’S what makes you a Successful Gardener!!!
Peace, Grace, & Love,