Overwhelmed? – How to Rejuvenate Flooded Soil

Permaculture design reduces risk. Risk causes heartache, resources and effort loss. And one of the greatest risks comes from flood. So, soil scientist, Ian Thomas shows us how to work with nature to heal the soil. And build abundance again.

Perhaps you heard about Australia’s the biggest flood event on record. The flood was heralded as a one-in-hundred year event. But then, a month later, it flooded again. The people in Lismore are famous as creative, resilient and lively. But the latest flood event has shaken the community and destroyed a vital food growing region of the nation.

Ian Thomas, soil scientist, advising flood victims for free

Some of the risks from floods may surprise you. These include contaminated water with sewerage, heavy metals, pesticides washed down from farms and people’s basements. Other chemicals include pollutants from industrial sites such as hydrocarbons from Petrol stations.

The problem with chemical contaminants is that we just don’t know which ones are lurking in there. We can’t smell or taste them. So let’s not assume that’s ok. Contaminant testing gives us peace of mind.

Ian Thomas

Meet Ian Thomas, Foodscaper

Soil is a complex topic. So, Ian offers guiding principles to help people revitalise their gardens. In response to the great flood, he offers a free short course to help flood victims or anyone who feels overwhelmed by deluges.

“When food is grown to be as nutritious as possible, not only does it taste better, last longer, is more nutritious and better for us,
but it’s also easier to grow and has less pest problems”

Ian Thomas, soil scientist and foodscaper

The Danger Period

4-8 weeks after a flood is the period where plants are picking up contaminants. Assume flooded plants are contaminated, use gloves. Remove food plants or give them a heavy prune to stimulate regrowth. Any plant tissue that grows later, will be ok. Compost the contaminated plant material but don’t use this compost on your food gardens. Use it on ornamental plants.

leafy greens catch and store contaminates

Do plants eat contaminates?

Leaf crops are the worst crops for absorbing contamination because they have a large surface area. And the leaf is transpiring moisture and the moisture after the flood leaf crops absorb toxins and biohazards.

On the other hand, fruits don’t transpire. Fruits that didn’t get flooded, are the least likely part of a plant to gather toxins. This is because the plant doesn’t want to pollute it’s offspring. For root crops, more toxins are held in the skin than in the centre.

Key Flood Recovery Steps

First up, get your soil tested. Then, dispose of any plant tissue that were flooded. Compost the material for ornamental gardens. Let them go and start afresh. Don’t risk your health. Prune hard to stimulate new growth.

Next step, rejuvenate your soil to fast track the natural decontamination ability of soil micro-organisms. Soil microbes can eat toxic compounds and harmful bacteria.

Decontaminant with Plants

Rather than use harsh chemicals which kill vital soil organisms. Plants are effective decontaminants. Phyto-remediation uses plants to immobilise, degrade and remove contaminants. The star helpers for Phyto-remediation are Sunflowers, brown mustard, corn and maize, brassicas, broad beans, radishes, lettuce, sorghum, barley and oats.

Phyto-remediation plants mop up a wide range of contaminants. Image by Ian Thomas

Clever little soil microbes

Soil microbes enhance phytoextraction. But in the short term they have the potential to increase contaminant solubility, improve mobility of contaminants. But they work to modify soil conditions such as the pH, redox and mineral balance. Using plants to address the issues of contamination gives the best long term results.

worms and microbes are willing workers

Rejuvenate your soil with plants. Buy bulk cheap seed to mop up contaminants. Soak and inoculate the seeds with compost. Loosen the soil surface (wear a mask in case of contaminated dust). Cover the area with mulch thinly. Thin the plant for maximum photsynthesis. Then remove the plants before flowering or fruiting. Compost them on ornamental garden beds.

Ian addresses the next steps in upcoming videos. He goes on to demonstrate how to assess and improve the soil structure (part 2/5). Boost soil microbial activity (part 3/5). Grow as many plants as possible to help boost community food security part 4/5). Check out Ian’s channel and find him on FB and Instagram. https://www.thegourmetgarden.school/

Thank you Ian Thomas for another great example of how to work with nature to heal the environment.