Not Quite Hail-Proof

@SantaFeNM 2008jun28LAH 124When I first saw the dark clouds building over the mountains to the west, I was elated. My newly-planted perennials were thirsty, and now I could let Mother Nature do the watering. However, as the cloud mass grew and darkened, I quickly realized that rain wasn’t the only precipitation I could expect. The rounded pumps on the undersides of the thunderheads—the bottoms of convection cells—meant hail was on the way.

Sure enough, the storm that day did major damage in much of Colorado Springs. We were fortunate in that we missed the worst hail, but with hailstones up to an inch in diameter, we too took a beating. While my husband stared dejectedly at our pock-marked car, I ran to the window to see how my flowers fared.

Incredibly, I didn’t lose a single plant.

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Hail Survivors

centranthus-helianthemum-penstemon-trio-003Colorado isn’t an easy place to garden. Drought, late frosts and early snow storms, soils of sand and/or clay… to grow anything here, you have to be stubborn—and so do your plants. Our recent storms were so destructive, I thought I’d post something about how you can avoid a lot of hail damage in the first place. At least for ornamental landscapes, the key to surviving hail is plant selection.

A tour of the garden after a major hail storm will reveal some plants that are totally destroyed while others have nary a bruised leaf. What makes some plants hail-resistant?

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After the Storm

[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!]

m5auwe-golfballhail67-c-gazetteLast 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:

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Oh Hail!

hail_home_plh-1It was the house-shaking boom of thunder that first caught my attention. As my ears recovered, I heard a drumming on the roof, a steady beat that rapidly got louder and louder. More flashes of lightning. More thunder. I stopped chopping up celery for the stir-fry I was making, and looked outside. Sure enough, that wasn’t just rain I was hearing. It was hail.

Vicious icy balls almost an inch in diameter were pelting the house, bouncing on the driveway, burying the flower borders. I switched windows so I could see my veggie plot. That was a mistake. It’s such a helpless feeling to watch a lovingly tended garden, the beds I had so carefully weeded just hours ago, turn into lime sherbet.

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Quick and Easy Coldframes

Panel bed vented LAHWe all want to plant our veggie gardens now, but winter hasn’t quite let go of the Rockies. While last week was in the 60s, it’s snowing as I write this, and snow and frost are distinct possibilities for several more weeks.

This is the time of year when we suffer most from greenhouse envy. Yet, for a minimal amount of money, time and effort, you can build a mini-greenhouse right over your garden beds. Here’s how I went about it.

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