Thursday, July 23, 2009

Coping with hail damage

The hail storms that pounded the west Denver Metro area and Englewood early this week and later the Castle Rock area have prompted this post. Some landscapes took golf ball sized stones. My own garden received a 15 minute dose of marble sized hail leaving only the skeletons of tomatoes (click photo left to enlarge white hail stones and plant destruction details).

First, hail is generally accompanied by an ample amount of rain so stay out of the garden. Wet soil compacts easily and tramping on wet ground only worsens garden problems.
Another reason to stay out of the garden is that plants are more resilient than you may think. Don’t let the damage discourage you.

Most vegetables are annuals and respond to hail pruning with new growth. The limiting factor is the amount of growing season left to them before frost. Brittle plants such as peppers and large-leafed plants like squash (photo right) suffer the most. Leafy vegetables will re-grow and yield, root vegetables are protected underground and survive, and fruiting vegetables generally suffer the most.

Tomatoes tend to surprise in their ability to come back. My hope is that by hedging my bets through planting some shorter season Early Girl and cherry tomato types, I will still realize something where longer season heirloom types will probably not produce. The deep, extensive tomato root systems in my raised beds will help plants recover. I’ll keep you posted on this hope.

Once the water dries and its time to water again, I’ll begin using a weak fertilizer containing nitrate-type nitrogen in the water. Nitrate nitrogen signals plants to grow.

I will also continue sowing mid-summer vegetables for fall harvest as discussed in the July 2nd post. It’s not too late. Though I’m by nature accepting of hail events as a given in Colorado gardening, the act of planting does help soothe a gardener’s psyche. Doing something productive and once again seeing the wonder of germinating seeds is always energizing. Chins up intrepid Colorado gardeners!

Photo credit: Hail damaged tomatoes and Hail damaged crookneck squash, Carl Wilson


  1. Hi Carl -- great post! My garden (plants, roof, yard furniture, windows, car, fence, etc.) were trashed by the recent hail storm. All that was left of my potted plants and my garden were demolished stems, but I'm taking your advice and not giving up on them (which I had done). It's a perfect day to go out and "do something productive" as you said in your post.


  2. How far back should the damaged tomatoes plants be pruned? Mine are in large containers, and about 3 ft. tall. 30-50% of the foliage is gone.

  3. I live in wash park and my plants took a pretty bad beating last night. I found this post and it helped me to know what to do about clean up. Thank you :)