Sunday, June 10, 2012

Environmental matters

On a garden tour this weekend I saw tomatoes 4 feet tall with fruit already set. The gardener said she got an early start and used water walls that were lifted off the plants a week ago. Quite a bit different than the June 1st planted plants I have that are 15 inches tall and just starting to flower. Temperature modification for an early start makes a big difference.

Speaking of temperature, both of our plants will be affected by tonight's low that is supposed to be in the forties Fahrenheit. It's always hard to believe that we could have temperatures this cool only a day following a 95 degree day that tied a record. Tomatoes will be stunted for a few days because the nighttime temperature is below the desirable nighttime low of 50 degrees F for tomatoes. This stunting increases the days needed to grow fruit to maturity. This is typical in high altitude areas in the summer and makes tomato growing difficult.

On another subject, the effects of the hail discussed last time continue. The leaves of all types of plants are taking on a faded appearance from the hail nicks scarring the leaves. Plants look similar to when they are in need of water. Check soil carefully before resuming irrigation and if wet, don't water. Plants also may have yellowed lower leaves from roots that shut down due to the excessive rain that came with the hail. Adding more water too early will only compound the hail damage.

It can't be stressed enough to dig down and check soil moisture in the root zone before watering anytime but particularly following heavy rains.

Photo credit: Plant four days after hailstorm - Carl Wilson

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Hail - Nature's pruning

Widespread hailstorms and rain struck the Front Range Colorado area the evening of June 6 from south Denver to Parker and on south to Colorado Springs. Hail sizes ranged from rice grain to one inch sized and even higher. Copious amounts of rain accompanied the storms. In southwest Denver, my garden received 2 inches of rain and rice grain size hail.

The most important action the day after is to stand outside the garden for a post-event look. Check your raingauge and asses the size of the hailstones; pea-sized hail or less is generally not a big problem for plants. Avoid stepping into gardens because wet soil compacts easily. Turn off automatic irrigation systems. Then go away and wait for soil to dry out.

After a few days to a week, pick up detached branches and leaves. Damage to vegetables often looks worse than it really is. These plants are annuals and respond quickly to pruning. When soil dries and it's time to water again, use a low-strength liquid fertilizer to stimulate new growth. Vegetables that are newly established and reduced to sticks may have to be replaced while transplants are still available. It's also early enough to reseed many vegetables. The plants pictured here will recover nicely without replacement.

Patience and waiting for recovery and new growth are the best actions to take following hail events.

Photo credit:  Hail at base of raspberries with set fruit. Hail damage to summer squash and tomato. All credit Carl Wilson