Ok, which one of you thumbed your nose at Mother Nature, upsetting her enough to visit the Wrath of a Ticked Off Elemental on us this summer? I can’t remember the last time we’ve had such awful hailstorms.
The one Monday night – July 20 – brought gale force winds, two small tornados and Dorothy clutching Toto as they flew by. While the big stuff – farms decimated, power knocked out, dented vehicles – is very serious and sad, there is one group so savaged by the hail that just seeing the pictures in the Denver Post had me howling in anguish:
Uprooted and flung, limbs and trunks torn; the destruction is profound. Many landscapes had trees completely defoliated, their branches now bare of leaves. The question is: is this fatal?
To find the answer, I went to Robert Cox, a co-worker with Colorado State University Extension. Robert is one of the most knowledgeable people I know when it comes to trees, a fellow who cares a great deal for the strong, silent plants.
“If they’re pretty well-established deciduous trees they should be ok,” said Robert, “because they’re used to putting out several flushes of leaves each season. The ones that concern me only put out one flush, like pines or spruce – they can be badly damaged.”
Though we’re well into July, deciduous trees should be able to leaf out again, but buds for next year’s leaves may be compromised. Trees set buds for next year in summer; if those buds were torn off along with the leaves, the trees have to form new ones. These young buds won’t have as long on the tree to grow plump and healthy before the tree goes dormant.
The result may be small leaves next year, and sparser amounts of them. “Trees will look peaked, they won’t have as many leaves,” said Robert. Make a note not to panic on your calendar for next year to remind yourself of the devastation this week.
Bruising of the bark and the cambium below it may interfere with the tree’s ability to transport water, causing it to struggle in the heat. Pay close attention to the water your tree receives, making sure it isn’t going dry. In other words, water your tree.
Help your tree with a light touch – too much love will end up adding insult to injury. Clean up any broken branches by pruning them off with a clean cut. Should the bark on the trunk be torn, use a sharp knife to clean off jagged edges of bark around the wound, then let the tree seal itself – without any wound paint.
Apply a fungicide to the damaged area to keep disease at bay.
Above all, don’t fertilize the plant. Yes, I know – our nurturing instinct is to offer a soothing cup of tea to the wounded; in this case it’s a splash of fertilizer to make it feel better, but for trees in July, this is counter productive.
“Fertilizing now won’t be seen until August and September, and that new growth won’t harden off in time for winter,” says, Robert, “if you want to do something, the best thing to do is give it a light – LIGHT – application of foliar fertilizer, at one-eighth strength.”
Mix up a batch of liquid plant food at this very dilute rate, then spray it on the remaining leaves on the tree. Make sure you winter water your tree this year, once every four weeks if we don’t receive a lot of snow.