How to Garden Blissfully after your Precious Plants have been Decimated by Hail
Want to hear something funny? While I was writing my recent post about Living Blissfully, I started to hear a pinging sound on the roof. I immediately attributed it to the neighbor boy who was outside shooting a BB gun in the backyard, but the pinging continued even after the neighbor boy ran inside the house. That’s when I had the dreaded thought that every Colorado gardener has about this time of year: hail. I had flashbacks to the hailstorm two years ago when I was home alone as golf ball-sized orbs of ice effortlessly flew through my double-paned windows. I had premonitions of the insurance company refusing to pay for a third new roof in a four-year timeframe.
Here in Colorado, dealing with hail is a gardener’s rite of passage. Is it discouraging to see your newly planted garden flattened so soon after all those hours of labor? Yes. Is it insurmountable? Certainly not. Here are a few tips to help your garden – and you – recover from a hailstorm. Soldier on, fellow gardener!
- Take a walk around your garden and assess the damage. Be encouraged. Yes, it is sad to see those tender plants and gorgeous, blooming flowers destroyed, but those plants are tougher than we think.
- Clean up the leaves and branches that have fallen off trees, shrubs and flowers. Think of it as wiping the horticultural slate clean so that you can start anew.
- Deadhead flowers that have been destroyed but are still on the plant so that the plant doesn’t continue to send its energy to those flowers. Prune away broken stems or branches as well as branches that have lost all of their leaves. If the branch is intact but the tips are bare, prune back to the last healthy set of leaves on the plant. If you’re not familiar with pruning, Fiskars (a major manufacturer of well-designed, reliable gardening tools) has some helpful videos on Amazon.com (on the left side of the page with picture details) that walk you through the different pruning tools and how they differ. I personally use their 28 Inch Bypass Lopper to prune branches on trees and their Traditional Bypass Pruning Shears to trim small plants and deadhead flowers.
- Continue to water the garden and lightly fertilize if there is still foliage left on the branches. I prefer organic fertilizers for my plants and use Espoma Organic Rose-Tone to fertilize my roses, Dr. Earth Organic Vegetable & Herb Fertilizer in my vegetable garden and Jobe’s Organic Bulb Fertilizer on my dahlias, gladiolas, and other precious heirloom bulbs.
- Walk away from your garden for two weeks. Do not look back. Do not check on your plants every day to see if they are still alive or if they are budding again. Trust me – this is for your own mental health.
- Now turn your attention back to the garden and reassess. Are some of the plants putting out new buds? If the storm was early in the season, some plants may be able to put out new buds and flowers and quickly recover. For those poor casualties that do not start budding again, it’s time to re-plant.
- When choosing new plants, try to plant perennials that are native to your area. Here in Colorado, the Columbine is the state flower – it is an extremely hardy perennial that thrives in gardens here. Guess which flower was the only one standing in my perennial bed amidst a sea of botanical destruction?
So, dear reader, I hope that this has encouraged you to pick up your gardening tools and start anew. A hailstorm can bruise our gardening spirit as well as our dear plants, but we shall not be broken…hail no!
Postscript: Some further encouragement not to give up on some of those plants that looked so sad and beaten-up after the hailstorm…this little tomato plant:
Has, two months later, blossomed into this: