Can I eat produce (fruits, vegetables, and herbs) from my garden?

To be safe, throw away all produce that has been touched by the flood water, above or under the soil, even if it was only splashed with water or mud from the flood. Flooding can leave harmful or even poisonous material on produce that the flood waters touch. Eating food from a flooded garden can cause you or your family to become sick.

Is my soil safe to garden in?

Soil that has been flooded can become less dangerous over time. Many microorganisms are killed when the soil dries and is in the sunlight. To be safe, have your soil tested before planting again. After the flood water is completely gone wait at least 60 days before replanting.

What can I do to make my soil safe?

To be safe, have your soil tested before planting again. Info on soil testing in Houston: http://herselfshoustongarden.com/2008/02/soil-testing-the-best-bargain-out-there-for-gardeners.html.

If you don’t think there are chemical contaminants, you can take the following steps:

  1. Dig to at least 18-24 inches in depth and turn over the soil thoroughly. This can mix any contaminated soil with the clean soil underneath, making it less dangerous.
  2. Maintain a neutral pH balance of 6.5-7.0. Some metals can’t get into plants when the soil is in this range. You can test your soil with an inexpensive kit from a hardware or garden store.
  3. Add compost before each planting season, and small amounts during planting. Compost can dilute pollution and prevents some harmful metals from going into the plants as they grow.

Follow these simple steps to limit contact with potentially harmful materials left by the flood:

  1. Mulch paths and walkways between your planting beds. This helps prevent dust that can contain harmful contaminants.
  2. Wear gloves and closed-toe shoes to avoid bringing contaminated soil into the home.
  3. Wash your hands well after working in the garden, and wash the hands of children playing in the garden.
  4. Do not eat or drink anything, including chewing gum, before thoroughly washing your hands.