We stood and watched two-and-a-half-inch hail devastate the landscape around us within minutes. All efforts of the growing season gone. Yet, in the aftermath, there is reason for optimism. Most vegetables are resilient. Take the local community garden for example, even the broad-leaved plants in our landscapes most affected can be resilient. The silver lining is if 50 percent or more of the leaves remaining on the broad-leaved plants, they have the opportunity to produce food for the plant survive. Broad-leaved plants such as daylilies can survive. In fact, at various public places I've worked, we intentionally cut the daylilies back after they bloomed then watered fertilized them. They produce a second bloom by late August and September. I don't recommend this every season. This is forcing a plant to bloom out of season and not the best cultural practice.
One other optimistic note after a severe storm, is if you have lots of native plants in your garden, it seems that they did better than any of the non-native herbaceous perennials, biennials and annuals. Amazingly, the native plants of the Plant Select Program fared the best in the Sedgwick County Courthouse Colorado, landscape. These include:
- Diascia integerrima 'P009S' Coral Canyon Twinspur
- Penstemon x Mexicali 'P008S' Red Rocks Penstemon
- Clematis scottii, Scotts Sugarbowls that faced the wind and hail head on came through with only a couple of seed heads pruned off the plant.
- Fallugia paradoxa, Apache Plume
- Ceroearpus intricatus, Littleleaf Mountain Mahogany
- Ratibida columnifera, Prairie Coneflower
- Nepeta "Pskite" PP 18,904 made it through with some tattered leaves as well.
- Echinacea purpurea, Purple Coneflower also made it through with just a few leaves tattered.
There are many methods to heal what is wounded by storm damage; I would suggest the following:
Herbaceous perennials that had prolific flower stalks: prune those back to good growth if there are any good leaves left on the stalks. If there are basal leaves or a rosette at the base of the plant, just prune the stalks to just above the basal leaves or rosette. If the rosette or basal leaves are damaged give a light fertilization. This will give plants further energy for growing new leaves.
Annuals: you may just have to call it quits, especially if nothing grows back in a week. Examine them to see if there is anything left to grow and fertilize. Sometimes with petunias, snapdragons and violas, you may find that they get severely damaged, yet there is still a mass of leaves to grow again and flower. With the petunias, pruning will be helpful. Other annuals such as zinnias can be pruned. There is still enough time in the season. I am recommending to lightly fertilize annuals once a week. On that note, too much nitrogen in the soil increases the mineral salt content. Excessive salt can dehydrate the plant. The symptoms would be burning or yellowing of the leaf margins. The best thing to do is water and wash the excess nitrogen in the soil. Nitrogen moves quickly through the soil. Excess nitrogen will slow root development.
Biennials: enjoy what is left because if they are flowering this will be the last year you will see them. You will need to start over next season.
Shrubs: prune out what is damaged and during the very hot days of summer give them a deep root watering. The timing for pruning won't be perfect for some shrubs and you may lose next year's flower buds.
Trees: prune out what is damaged and during hot dry periods such as an extended drought give them an extra deep root watering, but do not fertilize them. It makes sense to remove the branches that are hanging first and make nice clean cuts. Then examine the tree for any severe hail damage and prune properly. Even if your tree looks very thin, give the tree time, it will grow new leaves.
Fruit trees: remove the damaged fruit. The damaged fruit will attract pests. Again, look to see if there are any hanging branches and other severely damaged hail wounds on limbs that might not heal quickly. Open wounds are an easy entry for pests and diseases for trees and shrubs.
In answer to the question, "a reason for optimism after hail?" We have witnessed the wounds of severe hail, now we can apply optimism towards what remains on the landscape and heal. It is hard work, and that, in part, is what gardeners do!