[This article, by Joan Nusbaum and I, originally appeared in the Colorado Springs Gazette in 2005. I have edited it to make it even more applicable after last week’s storms!]
Last week, our part of the world was hit by a horrific hail storm. Drifts (if you can call them that) measured four feet high. Houses, cars, and, of course, gardens were ruined by hailstones the size of golf balls (as this photo by Pam Woodward proves). It’s quite shocking to watch from your window and see thousands of hail stones plummeting your favorite garden. Do not despair—the plants may recover! Hail usually does not damage the root system. Here are some things you might do to help your plants survive and even thrive:
Annuals: If the plant has any remaining leaves, wait a week. If new growth appears, fertilize it lightly and give it a little TLC. If the plant has succumbed, visit your local nursery for replacement.
Herbaceous perennials: Perennials with a mature root system are more likely to survive. Carefully remove all flower stalks, cutting back to the first viable leaves. Apply a low nitrogen, slow release fertilizer according to the package directions. This will stimulate root growth and help the plant rejuvenate. (Photo: Hostas after a hail storm)
Woody plants: Your trees and shrubs may have been tormented by the hail as well, resulting in small cankers visible in the bark. As a result, the plant may show some signs of stress or die back. If the tree is healthy, a natural callusing over the wounds may occur over time. You should prune out any broken branches or twigs and any bark that may have been stripped. You might want to disinfect your pruners between cuts with a 10% bleach solution to prevent transmitting any disease through the open wound. Note: painting over pruning cuts is no longer recommended, and my actually cause more problems.
Vegetables: Well, what can be said here? With such a short growing season, there may not be time to replant many of the plants that were flattened in your garden. Allow plants a week to recover and watch for new growth. Consider planting bush beans now, cole crops (broccoli, cabbage, kale, kohlrabi) and onions again in early-to-mid July, and lettuce and spinach in late July for fall harvest. Otherwise, there are only two words left to say: Farmer’s Market!
While we’re on this topic, here are some additional articles I recommend: