Your worst nightmare has occurred. Your garden has flooded, and you just don’t know what to do to recover it. It can be hard knowing where to begin. What do you do with all of the standing water? How long will your plants last before they drown? What plants may be affected by sewage, bacteria, oils, or other toxins mixed in with the flood water? It can all be a colossal mess to deal with. This guide will help you with how to drain standing water from your backyard garden, clean up the mess that the flooding caused, and prevent flooding from occurring again in the future.

Step 1 - Drain

coiled hose

The first step is to try to drain your garden as quickly as possible. Many of your plants are going to very sensitive to large amounts of water and letting it sit on your plants for an extended period of time could kill your plants. Vegetables in particular are very sensitive to flooding so this could result in you losing your entire crop for the year. This is especially true if you live if saltwater from nearby is part of the flood.

You can try to bucket out the water to another area to help the ground have an easier time draining, but this may not be effective or efficient. Your garden hose, on the other hand, may be just what you need.

First, you’ll need to find a spot where you want the excess water to travel. This could be a ditch or street drain.
Then, put one end of your hose in the area that is flooded. You’ll want to try to be in the middle as much as possible. Start walking toward the drain or ditch from your flooded garden and put the rest of the hose into the water near that area. You’ll want to hold it all under until the bubbles stop coming from either end. This signifies that your hose is now full. This creates the suction that will move the water where you want it.

Next, create a seal on the end of the hose that is right by you by holding your palm tightly on it. This will keep that suction power going strong. Keep the hose low to the ground as you move it towards where you want the water to drain, and make sure as you move that the other end of the hose stays in the water. If it moves up and air is allowed to get in, you’ve lost your suction.

Move the end of the hose as close to the ground as you can while pointing it towards where you want the flood waters to go. Take your hand away and let it flow. Repeat this process with any other areas that are flooded in your garden and yard.

Step 2 - Clean Up

Now that you’ve drained the water from your flooded garden, it’s time to take stock. You’ll want to remove any debris that the waters brought in such as downed leaves or branches.

You’ll also want to assess your plants and their condition. Any that you eat raw that could have come into contact with sewage in the water need to be removed. This is typically your leafy greens and soft fruits. If you’re not going to cook it, it should go. This includes things like your tomatoes and soft-skinned vegetables, too. Chuck your peas, peppers, eggplant, summer squash, and beans that came into contact with flood water.

If you’re going to cook things like spinach or Swiss chard, be sure to sanitize it before cooking to remove the potential for eating contaminated produce. The same is true for your root crops, such as potatoes and carrots. Hard-skinned crops like pumpkins, winter squash, and watermelon can be sanitized and eaten as well.

As for the plants themselves, you may be able to tell already which ones aren’t going to make it and which have a shot at recovering. The ones that are dead should be removed from the garden to prevent them from causing any problems as they rot. Also, if your crops were exposed to saltwater, try to rinse off as much as the salt as you can. It may seem counterintuitive to do that since you’re trying to dry everything out, but getting this salt off the plants can make a big difference in whether they recover or not.

You may even want to add some fertilizer at this point even if it’s not when you’d normally fertilize. This could be a light amount just to get your plants over the hump.

Step 3 - Prevent Future Flooding

Raised beds

Depending on your location, it may be impossible to prevent all of the floods that can occur, but you can do things that make it easier for your garden to drain. One thing that you may want to consider is your soil. If your soil is more clay than sand, it could be a good idea to amend your soil to get better drainage. You could also consider using raised beds as this can help keep your plants above lower floods and make it easier for them to dry out. A final option is to look into creating better drainage by creating it yourself with a drainage system.

These steps will help you to recover your garden from a nasty flood. It may be sad to find that you’ve lost so many of your crops because of the potential for contamination, but in the end it will be best for the healthy crops that remain.