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Nebraska Extension

Garden soils need to be dry enough to work and warm enough to plant cool season vegetables before gardeners get started. Here are safety tips about planting into flooded garden areas and some spring planting tips.

If your garden area was affected by flood waters, there are key safety tips to be follow. These areas could now be contaminated with bacteria such as E. coli and other types of bacteria.

In gardens affected by flood water, it is recommended to observe a minimum waiting period between flooding and using the produce.

Soils can be worked and vegetables can be planted into the garden during this waiting period. As always, be sure to wear gloves and follow good hand washing practices after working in the garden and especially before handling food.

On the recommended waiting period, for crops where the edible portion does come into contact with soil, like asparagus, rhubarb, lettuce, carrots and potatoes, wait 120 days before eating the produce.

This recommendation basically makes it unlikely asparagus or rhubarb could be harvested this year from a garden impacted by flood waters. The same goes for lettuce. Consider planting lettuce or other leafy greens in a container or as a fall crop this year.

For crops where the edible portion does not come in direct contact with soil, such as corn, peppers, and staked tomatoes, wait 90 days before eating produce from vegetables planted into flood affected areas.

For morel mushrooms, because their porous and fragile structure makes it impossible to adequately clean them, we recommend not harvesting morel mushrooms from flooded areas this year.

Before starting spring work, soils need to be dry enough. Working wet soil creates compaction and damages soil structure. This will lead to long term problems in the garden.

Once soils are dry enough, it is fine to do soil preparation, including incorporating well-rotted organic matter like compost. Manure is best incorporated in the fall. If manure, especially manure that is not fully composted, is incorporated in spring it increases the risk of E. coli contamination.

As with flooded areas, if manure is incorporated in spring, wait 120 days to harvest crops that come into contact with soil and wait 90 days to harvest crops that do not come into contact with soil.

Soil temperatures need to be warm enough for seed germination and seedling growth. For many cool season vegetables, the minimum temperature is 40 degrees Fahrenheit, but even warmer soil temperatures are optimal.

If seeds or transplants are planted into too cold of soil, they can rot or become stunted. This sets the plant back all season and harvest is delayed. Yields are also likely reduced.

Monitor soil temperatures and wait until they are warm enough before planting cool season vegetables. For some warm season crops, a minimum soil temperature around 55-60 degrees is ideal.

For Nebraska soil temperatures, go to: https://cropwatch.unl.edu/cropwatchsoiltemperature.

Kelly Feehan is a community environment educator for Nebraska Extension-Platte County.

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