Vail Daily column: Hail damage is the gardener’s worst nightmare, but there’s hope
The growing season is off to a rough start with hail pelting many areas along the Front Range. With this being just the beginning of the hail season throughout Colorado, it’s good to know what precautions you can take ahead of time — and what you can do for plants after hail has dealt its blows.
MINIMIZE DAMAGE IF YOU CAN
Since there will likely be more storms ahead, have precautions in place to minimize damage. If you tend to be home in the afternoon when storms typically swoop in, place buckets or old pots close to the garden so you can quickly cover your plants.
Put heavy container plants that are beyond the patio or porch roof on wheeled bases so they can easily be moved under cover.
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Have copper soap or a similar product on hand to spray on plants right after the damage. It keeps fungus from getting into the open wounds, much like when you put antiseptic on a cut. You need to apply it ASAP — within minutes or no more than a few hours after the storm. Otherwise, it won’t be as effective
HAIL-DAMAGED ANNUALS, VEGGIES
When plants are shredded by hail, do remedial work. Prune shredded leaves and broken stems on most plants. Here are some specifics:
Flowering annuals with no remaining foliage will probably not recover and should be replanted. If there is some foliage left on petunias, they may survive. When they are damaged early in the season, there is time for them to recover, so it’s worth trying to nurse them back to health.
Early vegetable root crops such as carrots left without foliage won’t recover. They need green leaves to produce energy to grow.
Leafy vegetables may recover. If you see no signs of new growth after a week or so, you will need to replant.
HOW TO TRIM DAMAGED PLANTS
Keep as many of the remaining leaves as possible. If half or more of the leaf is in tact, keep it at least awhile so it can create energy for the plant.
Remove branches, leaves and stems that are broken or badly shredded.
If the top of a plant is shredded — for example a tomato plant — clip the plant down to where there are healthy leaves.
Spray the cuts or broken places as soon as possible with a copper product. Copper, commonly found in fungicides, will help keep diseases from entering the plants. Read the label before applying a product to veggies.
Wait to fertilize for a week or so, until the plant shows signs of growth. Use a liquid or granular fertilizer.
Minimize stress on the plants by watering consistently and evenly without over- or under-watering.
TREES AND SHRUBS
As with winter storm damage, trees should be inspected for wind damage and broken branches.
All broken branches should be pruned properly and wounds on split branches should be cleaned with a sharp knife or pruning shears. Do not apply paint or wound dressings to these areas.
Trees will usually re-leaf, but this takes a lot of energy. Provide adequate water throughout the growing season — approximately 1 inch per week, depending on the species. Applying 3 inches of mulch around bases of trees will help keep the soil cool and maintain moisture, but avoid placing mulch where it touches the trunk.
Becky Garber is member of the Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado, of which Neils Lunceford, a landscaping company, is a member. You may contact them at 970-468-0340.