Ask UConn Extension: Residential Gardens and Flooding

The recent flooding has impacted many in Connecticut, including residential gardeners. UConn Extension has collected information on flood resources and information all in one place at https://s.uconn.edu/flooding. Below are answers to some questions specifically pertaining to home gardeners:

Can the produce be eaten after a flood?

person wearing tall rain boots standing in a muddy puddleThis is a very difficult question to answer. The simplest and safest answer is a resounding, “No! You cannot eat produce from your flooded garden.” The floodwaters may have come from pastures, sewage treatment facilities, and other sources of disease-causing contamination. Produce has too many nooks and crannies to thoroughly clean and disinfect. Cooking or preservation does not render it safe to eat. Fresh produce that was submerged by floodwaters should be discarded. Seeds and young plants are unlikely to survive being submerged by floodwater. You will observe discolored leaves and stunted growth, or plant death. However, if a flood occurs early in the growing season, it may be possible to salvage at least some of the garden produce. All produce that is consumed uncooked or raw, e.g., spinach, lettuce, cabbage, should be discarded. Soft fruits, such as strawberries and all melons must be discarded. Flood-damaged garden produce that is unfit for eating should not be preserved, including freezing, canning, or dehydrating. The recommended processing and cooking time may not be sufficient to kill pathogens. Early season crops that will not be harvested for 120 days and have not been touched by floodwaters may be safe to eat if cooked or peeled. It must be completely intact, with no cracks or bruises. If you are unsure if flood water contacted the produce, throw it out! Late-season vegetables that come from flowers produced on growth that develops after floodwaters recede should be safe. Visit UConn Extension’s food safety program for more information.

How long after a flood do I have to wait to plant? 

You can replant after the soil has fully drained and the top two to three inches of soil has completely dried. This may be up to 60 days. Plants that can be started later in the late gardening season after the flood should be safe after an early spring flood. Cover crops can be established on flooded gardens to remediate the soil for the next growing season, rather than letting it lie fallow. When your landscape floods, be patient. Many plants will recover over time. Again, where edible plants are concerned, the safest response is also the simplest, “No! You cannot eat produce from your flooded garden.” Find additional information from Penn State Extension.

What produce can be planted mid to late summer?

You can successfully grow some root crops, greens and other vegetables from late June, July or August plantings. It is important to know the average first frost date in your area. This will help you calculate when to plant these late vegetables so they will mature before cold weather damage. The Midwestern Regional Climate Center has produced an up-to-date of first fall and last spring freeze dates. Some vegetables will tolerate some frost and keep growing even when temperatures are in the low forties. Others cannot tolerate frost and stop growing in cool weather. Bush snap beans mature in 45 to 65 days, but even a light frost (temperatures between 30° and 32°) will kill the plants. Kale takes just as long to mature, but the plants continue to grow when temperatures are cool, and can survive cold down to about 20°F. Cool-season vegetables including kale and others in the cabbage family may be the best choice for mid-summer sowing. An earlier-than-expected frost will not kill them before they are ready to eat. Many of the cold-tolerant vegetables actually have better quality when grown in cool weather. More information: https://homegarden.cahnr.uconn.edu/factsheets/succession-planting/ and  https://extension.umn.edu/planting-and-growing-guides/planting-vegetables-midsummer-fall-harvest

How should I treat my flooded lawn?

If your lawn is flooded in the early spring, turf grasses can withstand several days of submersion without serious damage. The damage is done by a lack of oxygen and light. However, later in the summer, when temperatures are high, ponding water can cause damage or even loss within a few hours, mostly due to high water temperature. Once the floodwaters have receded, pick up any debris from the lawn. This is essential as the deposited debris is a safety hazard to persons operating equipment, like mowers. As soon as the lawn is dry, and this can take many days or even weeks, aerate it. If the soil temperature remained below 60°F and the water remained for four days or fewer, the turfgrass will probably recover. If the lawn was submerged for longer, repeat aeration in the autumn, and the following spring. Break up the aeration cores and over-seed in the autumn. Pre- or post-emergent herbicides may be needed to treat weed seeds that have come in with silt deposits. More information is available from Penn State Extension.

What effect does flooding have on trees and shrubs?

It is very difficult to determine the long-term effect of being underwater on trees and shrubs. Some woody plants tolerate wet soils better than others. All will suffer from a lack of oxygen when the floodwaters fill all the air spaces between the particles of soil. Usually, landscape plants can withstand being submerged for about a week. Remember that the waterlogged root systems may be affected by floodwater, even though the soil surface has begun to dry. This makes them susceptible to root-rot diseases. There is not much that you can do about flooded trees and shrubs except wait and hope for the best. Watch for signs of dieback: yellowing and dropping leaves. But, again, be patient. Just because the leaves drop, does not mean that the branch or plant is dead. Often the dropped leaves are a sign of stress and the plant will re-leaf later in the summer. Live stems and buds will have some green tissue – look under the branch bark. Remove limbs that are dead or physically damaged. More information is available from Penn State Extension.

Answered by the UConn Extension Master Gardeners

Flooding Resources

Updated on July 24, 2023

Many of our communities are affected by the statewide flooding from the Connecticut River after heavy rains in New York and Vermont. Flooding conditions continued after more rain arrived. UConn Extension has the following resources to support agricultural producers, consumers, residents, and others affected. You can also sign up for mobile weather alerts by visiting weather.gov and CT Alerts. Anyone in a Disaster area can use the Ready.gov disaster recovery resources.

Ask a Question

UConn Extension provides answers you can trust. Our educators can also connect with agricultural producers, residents, and businesses individually. Ask us a question.

Agricultural Producers

Agricultural lands in central and northwestern Connecticut have flooded. The examples below are courtesy of farms along the Connecticut River.

Soil and Water Testing

Soil testing can help determine the extent of damage and any soil remediation needed. Visit our soil lab online for more information.

Water testing is also advised in some situations. Visit our website for more resources on how to get water tested in Connecticut.

State and Federal Reporting

In an effort to better understand the scope of the situation, we are asking producers to share estimated losses with us through our online reporting tool. This data will be shared with USDA Farm Service Agency and UConn Extension. By filling out this information it will assist these entities in determining if a disaster declaration can be obtained. Your farm name and contact information is not required, but if you would like to be contacted, please share that.

If you have not done so, please also contact your local Farm Service Agency county office to report your damages as well as your insurance agent to report impacts for covered crops. USDA disaster assistance information can be found on farmers.gov, including USDA resources specifically for producers impacted by flooding. For FSA programs eligibility, producers should contact their local USDA Service Center.

Food Safety

UConn Extension is part of the Produce Safety Alliance, and there are guidelines for flooded farms. We also recommend reviewing our farm worker training video series (y en Español) as the principles will help guide farm recovery after a flood.


Equine owners also need to be cognizant of disaster preparation, especially floods, and we have specific recommendations for these situations as well as on preparing for equine disasters.


Our team offers the following advice on extreme flooding:

Recommendations include: avoid areas with extreme flooding, as little as six inches of water can cause problems, do not drive through flooded water, check weather forecasts, and sign up for mobile alerts.

Flooding and erosion also cause issues on beach properties. Our Sea Grant program has a checklist for coastal hazards.

There are emergency preparedness resources for all residents available at our Adapt CT program. Coastal homeowners and businesses can also use resources specifically made for their situation.

Food Safety

Flooding sometimes impacts homes and gardens too. We have the following resources to help in those situations:

Soil and Water Testing

Soil testing can help determine the extent of damage and any soil remediation needed. Visit our soil lab online for more information.

Water testing is also advised in some situations. Visit our website for more resources on how to get water tested in Connecticut.


We have programs to help municipalities with stormwater and flooding, including the MS4 (Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems) and the Adapt CT program for climate adaptation, including flooding in coastal and other communities. There are also fact sheets available:

Governmental Resources

Many state and national organizations have programs and resources that can help with extreme flooding:

Resources from Other Extension Systems

From the National Healthy Homes Project

Putting People First is the focus so they will protect their health during the cleanup and restoration process.

Thanks to the National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH) and Enterprise Community Partners, A Field Guide for Flooded Home Cleanup (also available in Spanish) has received a makeover. The widely-used guide was first developed nearly 15 years ago to teach safe mold removal practices in hurricane-damaged homes.

In addition, NCHH has a free online training course to educate homeowners and contractors in mold removal safety.

The Rebuild Healthy Homes Guide was developed to help homeowners, volunteers, and other workers to restore damaged homes in a way that puts people first. It includes how-to methods, tips, and improvement ideas for safe restoration that result in not just a livable dwelling, but a healthy home that offers even more than before.