Posts Tagged ‘hail’

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:

 The trees.

 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.

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“Are we in Seattle?” came the question today when another round of severe storms pushed into the area.  “Reminds me of Boston,” was overheard yesterday after a week of nasty weather graced our skies.  And though the gardens love this wet weather, one thing we can all do without is the hail that’s been teaming up with it.

If your plants become victims of the savage skies, take heart: though it looks bad now, depending on the plant, its maturity, and time left in the season for recovery, all may not be lost.

At highest risk are vegetable root crops, such as potatoes or beets, whose destroyed leaves could mean the plant sends up new shoots, compromising quality of the crop. For leafy vegetables, be patient:  give them at least a week to recuperate after the storm, and if there’s no sign of life, replant.

Flowering annuals stripped of their leaves may not survive, and replanting now will ensure a good display later in summer.  Yes, it’s hard to pull up those babies, but a shredded stalk is not going to give your neighbors cause to envy your landscape.

But if there’re a few bits left on the stem and you’re feeling nurturing, clean them up and a give them a light application of fertilizer.  They might recover.

Severely shredded leaves on smaller perennials should be cut back to the ground.  If the leaves aren’t too damaged, leave the foliage alone.  Bleeding hearts and other perennials with soft stems that look reasonably unharmed should be cut back part way. Generally they’ll sprout new leaves along the stem at the junction between the old leaves and the stem.

 With well-established perennials, work fertilizer in around damaged plants to give them a boost for recovery.

Perennials with firm stalks should be cut partially back. If they don’t sprout new leaves on existing stems, look for new stems pushing up from their roots.  At this time, cut down the older stalks that were left standing after the storm.

Trees and shrubs will push new leaves if they’ve been healthy this spring, so just rake up and compost and plant parts that fall to the ground.  Examine your woody plants for wounds in the bark or torn limbs; clean up the wound site with a sharp knife and let the plant heal itself.  But if the wounds are severe, treat them with a fungicide to prevent canker diseases within 24 hours.

With this unsettled weather, lightning, hail and tornadoes are a bigger worry than protecting your plants.  Once the heavy storm sets in, TAKE SHELTER.  Don’t make yourself an entry for the Darwin Awards by putting your plant before your life.

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