Summer of 2015 Barre Flood destroyed our garden

Asked April 20, 2016, 9:59 AM EDT

My husband and I live in Barre City, VT. We had developed our back yard over the course of 2 years for growing food and flowers. Last year, we were on our way to having the biggest and most beautiful garden yet. Mid-July we were hit with the flood which all but destroyed our garden and dumped huge piles of sand throughout the back yard. We would like to revamp the garden... We already have started growing in our grow station in our house. We just aren't sure of what steps we should take outside to make the backyard a growing space again. Is there any way you could help? Any recommendations you could make?

Washington County Vermont

2 Responses

I'm sorry to hear about your flooding damage. It sounds like you did not lose any of your good soil (it's hard for me to tell from the damage picture).

UVM Extension's Master Gardener program runs a Help Line if you wish to speak directly to someone - and that page has info about submitting samples.

While your obvious issue is the physical problem because of piles deposited on your garden, the more important issue is whether the deposited sand contains any pathogens or toxic compounds that might affect your garden and produce health. Also beware of migrated weeds that you did not previously have to contend with - be especially diligent with your weed control this year as some can be particularly noxious (e.g. Japanese knotweed).

Here is some good info created to help commercial growers deal with flood damage after Irene: While your home garden is not subject to these FDA rules as a commercial garden would be, of course the issues for safe food will be the same. #11 gives info about soil testing for heavy metals, #18 provides info about determining sources of contamination, and #12

My field has large depositions of silt and debris. Do I need to remove this, test it, or can I till it in?
Large debris in your fields should be removed, but the silt deposited by flood water and smaller debris do not need to be removed. Soils should be allowed to dry sufficiently and then tilled to at least six inches deep before planting crops. Adding compost or other organic matter when tilling will be beneficial to the soil’s biological activity, which can promote decomposition of some contaminants.
And here is a search of nationwide Extension articles on "garden flood" which may provide some additional helpful information.

Is there any way to protect against repeat flooding - stabilize stream banks or create barrier to impede flow?

Assuming your deposits are not contaminated, remember that river bottom soils tend to be wonderful growing soils because of a history of flooding with rich silty deposits from upriver.

Wishing you better luck in your 2016 garden.

I just bumped into this blog post from last year, which might provide some useful information for you. Andy Jones has a vegetable farm in Burlington's Intervale, which is a floodplain.