Late spring is hail season in 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
- Be prepared by placing buckets or old planting pots close to the garden so you can grab them quickly to cover plants when a storm rolls in, or set them in place before you go to bed if you expect a storm overnight.
- Put heavy container plants that are beyond the patio or porch roof on wheeled bases so they can easily be moved under cover.
- Have copper soap or a similar copper fungicide on hand to spray on plants right after the damage. It keeps fungus from getting into the open wounds. Just like you put antiseptic on a cut finger, you need to apply it ASAP—within minutes or a few hours after the storm for the best effect.
Hail-damaged veggies and annuals
When plants are shredded by hail, do remedial work. You should prune off 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, but if you see no signs of new growth after a week or so, replant.
How to trim back damaged plants
- Keep as many of the remaining leaves as possible. If half or more of the leaf is intact, keep it at least a little while 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. Caution: read the label before applying any product on veggies.
- Wait to fertilize for a week or so when the plant shows signs of new growth. Use a liquid or granular fertilizer.
- Minimize stress on the plants by watering consistently and evenly without over- or under-watering.
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