We’ve had quite a few questions on our Facebook page about hail damage, and what to do with plants that have been broken or shredded by hail. I know gardeners all along the Front Range have had to deal with one or more hail storms this year. First let me offer condolences. Can there be anything worse than watching your beautiful garden wiped out by a fifteen minute storm? Sometimes it can happen in five minutes! We have suffered from two very serious hail storms here, one that was so bad it broke the shade house rafters and sent the roof crashing down on the poor plants underneath. Most of the perennials in the garden were crushed. I can honestly say I know your pain.
After the initial shock of the destruction, it’s good to wait a day or two before rushing out and pulling up plants in disgust. The grapevine, despite losing a bunch of leaves, still gave us grapes that year. Let the hail melt and the plants have a day of sunshine to help them stand back up on their own. It’s easier to see the real damage then, and to see what might have a chance of coming back this season. Perennials, in general, are not killed by hail. Even annuals can recover if the damage isn’t too great and there is enough time left in the season. Hail in June, while depressing enough, isn’t as bad as hail in August. Trim any broken stems and pick up the leaves that were knocked down. If you don’t clean the plants a little, you leave wounds for diseases to start.
Here’s something to think about for the future. Plants native to high mountain ranges, like alpines and many rock garden plants, aren’t as easily damaged by hail as something with big lush leaves like a hosta. Dianthus, creeping phlox, creeping thyme, creeping veronica….any creeper!….will be less damaged than other plants. Grasses, ornamental and native, are not easily damaged and they are quick to recover.
What about vegetables? Most of them are very vulnerable to hail. The leafy greens are easily shredded, but they’re also quick to recover. The real loss comes from something like a tomato or pepper that takes so long to produce and can be slow to come back. I wish everyone could plant tomatoes and peppers in a cold frame or greenhouse that has some protection, both from the cold and from the hailstorms. Late frosts and hail are part of gardening in Colorado, so we have to adapt. Shade cloth or hail cloth are a little expensive initially, but you can use them for years. Again, I’m offering this as something to think about for the future.
If you have more questions, please feel free to ask us on Facebook, or email directly.