Hail damage is an ongoing concern for Colorado gardeners. Successful first aid for a hail-damaged garden depends on the type of crop, plant maturity and recovery time left in the season.
Early in the season, vegetable root Crops with destroyed leaves are only good for the compost pile. Allow leafy Crops at least a week to recuperate after a hailstorm, then replant if you see no signs of regrowth.
Late in the season, root Crops may be mature enough to survive and be harvested. Remove damaged parts of leafy Crops and hope for some recuperation and continued growth. Replace plants lost to hail with fall cold Crops.
Flowering annuals with no leaves may not recover. Plants, such as petunias, that normally require dead-heading, may survive if some leaves remain on the plant after a hailstorm. Clean-up and a light application of fertilizer may help them recover.
Herbaceous perennials stripped of leaves need to have good root and top growth for winter hardiness and spring vigor. To achieve this, remove all flower stalks, cut back to viable leaves, lightly cultivate the soil, and apply a light dressing of low-nitrogen fertilizer. Remove flower stalks, because they use energy that plants need to overwinter and grow vigorously the following season. Allow biennials with buds, such as foxglove, to bloom, and enjoy them, because they won't return next year.
Inspect woody plants for bark wounds and exposed live tissue. If severe wounds exist, you may want to treat the plant with a fungicide to help prevent canker diseases. Application should occur within 24 hours. If wounds are less severe, allow natural callusing to occur.
For more information, see the following Colorado State University Extension fact sheet(s).
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Updated Tuesday, November 19, 2013