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NC State Extension

Vegetable, Herb and Fruit Gardens Exposed to Floodwater

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Watch 75 minute video on how to manage damage to vegetable gardens from flooding

Floodwater that has washed in from rivers, creeks or streams can bring in chemical contaminants like petroleum-based products and also biological pathogens and parasites from flooded sewage treatment plants, and animal operations. In addition, wet produce may grow toxic mold.

Discard  (do not compost)

  • Do Not Discard SignThe entire plant with produce that has come into direct contact with floodwater, even if it has not been completely submerged. Including:
  • Surface crops such as leafy greens, tomatoes, and corn;
  • Underground crops such as peanuts and sweet potatoes; and
  • Crops with a hard outer skin, such as watermelon and winter squash.
  • Leafy greens, berries and other soft fruits that are difficult to wash even if they have only had indirect contact with flood water.

Wait 72 hours, thoroughly clean and cook (do not eat raw)

  • cooking potproduce that has had indirect contact with floodwater, for example by splashing.
  • Cooking will not eliminate the risk posed by industrial pollutants.


  • Wash HandsThoroughly wash hands after touching exposed produce, dry with a disposable paper towel.
  • Prevent cross-contamination by cleaning and then using one part bleach to nine parts water, or rubbing alcohol (ethanol or isopropyl) to disinfect surfaces, tools, and harvesting containers.

More Information on Flood Damage in the Landscape