Signup to receive email updates

or follow our RSS feed


Blog Archives

377 Total Posts

follow our RSS feed

Blog Banner

Over the Garden Fence

Where gardeners come to find out what's happening out in the yard.

Flooded Garden Soils and Rain Barrels

Posted by Richard Hentschel -

Down the Garden Path

Richard Hentschel, Extension Educator
 Recent flooding of fields, back yards and garden beds has raised some concerns with home gardeners about using the vegetable garden this season. It is pretty clear that we do not know what was in all that water that saturated our soils. Was it just the rain water itself, was it from a nearby creek or stream, water from over taxed storm water systems, or a combination of sources. There is really no way to "test" your soil for what might have been in all that water as much as we would like to. The real world does not work like our favorite "CSI" show where the sample goes in the machine and before the show ends and crime solved, we get the results. If we even knew what to test for, it takes days or weeks for the results and you could only test for those chemicals that the lab has protocols for, so you could get a sample back that contains no known problems, yet be full of other chemicals that cannot be tested for.

The good news in all of this is that with the volume of rainfall we had, anything in the flood water would have been highly diluted. If a concern remains, consider monitoring the vegetable garden for weed growth. If you see broadleaved and grassy weeds germinating, then you know there are not likely any herbicides there to inhibit vegetables. Another way to determine this is doing what is a called a bio assay. Fancy words that say to collect a couple of flower pots of soil, sow some grass or corn seed in one and snap beans in the other and if they germinate and grow, you most likely can grow your garden. Be sure your soil has returned to a normal state of soil moisture before you attempt to work the bed. Some literature even suggests waiting 60 days before planting the garden. This year that would mean planning for a late summer and fall garden. Buying your spring and Early Summer vegetables from your favorite farm stand or farmers market would ensure you get your veggies at every meal until your garden begins to provide the produce.

The second part of this column is about using the water collected in your rain barrels. Recent press has talked about the potential for the stored water growing harmful pathogens. We assume that the water running into the gutters and then the barrel is clean. What is most likely happening is that the water is dissolving whatever has been deposited on the roof and what might be coming out of the shingles on the roof. Take those contaminates in the water with days the water remains in the barrel before it is used, that provides lots of time for the pathogens to build up in the barrel. For years gardening books have talked about using the rain barrel to make "manure tea" to use to fertilize our plants. This tea is also a potential source of pathogens that could be harmful to us. The current recommendations are to use the rain barrel water for your flower beds and watering other plants, but not your vegetable garden. Water those vegetables with well water or city water of known quality. 

Please share this article with your friends!
Share on Facebook Tweet on Twitter