As many of us are trying to get back to normal after Hurricane Florence, we will eventually turn our attention to caring for our home gardens and landscapes.

Damage in the home garden after a hurricane can vary widely depending on the extent of wind, rain and flooding along with the type of plants.

Below is information that can help you as you clean up your gardens:


If you experienced flooding in your landscape and/or garden, wait until water has receded and it has dried out before beginning to clean up. Avoid walking or driving on saturated soils, which can lead to an increase in soil compaction.

If you have plants that were covered with sediment, first wet plants with plain water and then spray a solution of one tablespoon of dishwashing liquid per gallon of water to rinse silt off plants. Then rinse again immediately with plain water. Do not leave detergent solution on plant material more than a couple of minute. Do not use a pressure washer on plants because it will increase damage to plants.

Empty water from any sources that hold standing water and could be breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Empty water from items such as saucers under flower pot, children’s toys, tarps being used as covers, bird baths, etc. Mosquitoes breed in still, standing water so frequently removing water from these types of outdoor items can help reduce mosquitoes in the landscape.


It will be hard to know immediately what plants were negatively affected by flooding. It will often take time to see which plants survived or didn’t after flooding. Some plants, especially larger shrubs and trees, may not show full signs of flood stress for several years, often causing us to forget that past flooding could have played a role in the loss of a plant. Many factors play a role in whether a plant survives a flooding event or not including the previous health of the plant, time under water, plant’s tolerance to low soil oxygen, and drainage ability of the soil.

Do not make a snap decision on plants; wait to see how the plant recovers. Many deciduous plants will lose their leaves as a strategy for coping with flooding but will leaf out again in the spring. Because plants have been through a major stress, they could be more susceptible to insect and disease damage, so be on the outlook for pest problems that could arise.

Tree damage

If trees were damaged during the hurricane, you may be assessing the tree to decide whether to keep or remove it. Potential tree damage, especially if trees are leaning on your property, should be evaluated by a certified arborists (tree care professional). Certified arborists can be found by searching on the International Arborists Association website: Click on “Find an Arborist.” You can search by your location to get a list of certified arborists in your area.

Plant aftercare

Do not fertilize while plants are recovering as this can make the plant more vulnerable to insect and disease damage. Avoid any major pruning until next year. Prune only dead, diseased or broken branches during the first year after the storm. The plant will need as many leaves as possible to produce food to recover.

Edible-plant gardens

Floodwaters that came in contact with vegetables and fruits may be contaminated, so do not eat vegetables and fruits that have been in contact with floodwaters. If you had just planted your fall vegetable garden, unfortunately, newly seeded gardens rarely survive a flood. Allow the soil to dry out before replanting. Do not replant for two to three months in soils that were flooded. If flooding or poorly drained soils have been a reoccurring problem in your garden, it may be time to consider moving your garden to higher ground, an area with better soil drainage, or use raised beds.


Saturated soils and debris left after water recedes can kill lawns. Soil and debris that is 2 or more inches deep should be removed from the turf as soon as possible after floodwaters recede so that sunlight can reach the grass underneath. Level of injury after flooding will depend on water temperature and depth, whether leaves extended above water surface, and amount of time turf is submerged. Turfgrass species vary in submersion tolerance with bermudagrass being more tolerant than most other warm season grasses.

Learn more

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Ornamentals workshop

“Woody Ornamentals: Trees and Shrubs” workshop will be 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Wayne County Extension Office, The Maxwell Center, 3114B Wayne Memorial Drive. The workshop will cover how you can incorporate more trees and shrubs in your landscape. Learn about trees and shrubs that are suited for our climate to give you ideas for ones to add to your own garden Registration fee is $5. Pre-registration is not required. Arrive a few minutes early to register.

Jessica Strickland is an agriculture extension agent specializing in horticulture for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Wayne County.

Horticulture Extension Agent