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Hail Damage & Recovery

The hailstorm last Wednesday evening didn’t appear to cause much, if any, damage in the Demo Garden. (Thank goodness! We didn’t need more challenges this year!) My community garden plot, on the other hand, took quite a bit of damage. I thought I would share some of the pictures with you all, as well as how we chose to clean up afterwards.

(I promise that eventually, someday, we will be back to posting pictures of beautiful plants and succulent harvests. For the time being, it would seem that we are stuck with more death and destruction.)

About half of our tomato plants came through pretty well. the other half are in pretty bad shape. Of course, the one that looks the worst is our Chocolate Cherry plant. You can see the battered appearance in the picture, but let’s take a closer look.

You can see here that the stems have some severe injury and are almost shredded. The wounds were severe enough that I chose to cut these branches off, even though I could see some new growth coming out. The stems were slightly squishy where wounded, and this type of damage is just asking for strange diseases to take over.

By the time I was done pruning out the damage on our poor Chocolate Cherry tomato, I think all the possible new growth sites were gone. No leaf axils for potential buds even. (I had pruned out the lower suckers before leaving town 2 weeks ago, so even those were gone!) We found a plant at the Farmers Market on Saturday and stuck it in next to the remaining stub to start growing.

The other thing I had to do was go through and pick off all the tomatoes that were damaged. The open wounds, like the one above are another great place for diseases to enter and rot the fruit. No thank you! We lost a lot of tomatoes (either knocked off by hail or badly damaged), but not as many as I was afraid we might. That said, on a plant that is severely damaged, you should probably pick off all the fruit to give the plant a chance to recover some growth. Our roma tomato plants were relatively unscathed, luckily.

Our kale & Swiss Chard were both pretty well flattened. My husband cut everything back to about 1-2″ off the ground and picked up all the leaves. Again, we’re just trying to avoid collecting any diseases or insects that would take advantage of a weakened plant.

As bad as the tomatoes, kale, and chard looked, the cucumbers by far took the brunt of the damage. We were pretty much left with cucumber sticks.

The squash…well, it was pretty well squashed. I picked off all the baby squash and then cut back all the damaged stalks and leaves. Oh yeah, and while I was doing that I found Squash Vine Borer eggs on the base of the plant. ARGH! I picked them off, but we’ll probably go out and spray with spinosad if we remember.

Here’s my Chocolate Cherry after pruning. I think you can see why I chose to get another plant to put in. Not much hope for regrowth there. Still, I’m going to leave it for a couple weeks just to see if the plant will generate any buds. Sometimes they will.

You can see signs of growth on the cucumber vine sticks. I think most of the cucumbers will make it, but just to be safe, we put a few more seeds in. If necessary, we’ll prune out some of the extra plants later.

The Swiss Chard & kale are both putting on some nice new growth. I expect that in a couple of weeks, we won’t be able to tell the difference! (Well, the planting might be thinner, but we were going to have to thin the plants out soon anyway.)

The squash plant put on new growth pretty quickly. Now if we can only beat out those vine borers…

We don’t have any root crops in our garden, so if you have beets, carrots, or onions that were severely damaged you should assess the size of the roots. The thing with root crops is that they’ve been storing energy in the roots, which we eat. If they were already sizing up and get hailed on, the plant will steal energy from the roots to put on new leaves. You could end up with a situation where you end up with small, poor quality root crops if you let them go. If you have decent size on the roots already, you may be better off harvesting them now.