What if.....?

susanlynne48(OKC7a)April 12, 2012

We get baseball size hail and damaging winds (not gonna mention tornados, cuz obviously it would take everything out and I need not worry whether the plants have even a slim chance of survival) and our plants, especially tomatos and pappers, are shredded down to the stem? Are they salvageable or will they grow back quickly from the roots?

I have mine sitting under and close to the trunk of the heavy leaved pines and other trees for now. No way can I move them all inside the house. So, I'm just having to leave this up to the Good Lord and the plants' resilience and recuperability powers.

Thought now might be a good idea to discuss this if you all have experienced these issues, and if not, a little info for us newbies will be extremely helpful - before we toss those pots out.


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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

It all depends on the plants themselves, how well they are established, and how large the root systems are. Some plants bounce back well from hail damage, and others don't. The time of the year matters too. July hail, for example, is devastating for plants because then they have to try to regrow in extreme heat. April hail, while frustrating, isn't as bad because the weather is milder and it is easier for plants to regrow and still have a chance of producing a harvest.

I have had both peppers and tomatoes regrow from roots only after hail has broken them off right at the ground. They usually show new growth from the tiny stub of the stem within 2 weeks, or maybe 3 at the most. Other plants like corn and sometimes onions usually won't bounce back if the growing tip is broken off. You can harvest damaged onions and use them as green onions or as small bulb onions depending on their size. If your onions have grown enough that the bulb's top is protruding out of the ground and they get hit by hail, I go ahead an harvest them. I know from experience that the hail-bruised part of the bulbs become a gateway for the various onion diseases if I leave them in the ground.

When a tomato or pepper plant is damaged, you have to assess each plant individually. I try to prune off as much of the damage as I can, except I do try to leave some sort of foliage on the plant if it is at all possible because the foliage conducts photosynthesis. Even if the foliage looks like crap, the amount of photosynthesis it can conduct will help the plants rebound more quickly and, later on, after the plants are putting out new foliage, then you can prune off the crappy-looking damaged foliage left over from the hail- or wind-damaged plants.

Most other garden veggies will rebound. Even bean plants broken off near the ground will regrow, but if the weather is already insanely hot, they may not be able to set a crop before heat slows fertilization to a crawl.

I keep a large assortment of boxes and plastic buckets in the garage and will cover up whatever is small enough to still be covered if I can see a storm approaching that is likely to have hail. However, in high wind, those boxes or buckets can be blown around and can do damage too if they become projectiles. When I have time, I will put a brick or paving stone on top of each bucket to hold it down.

Most of the time, I don't have that much warning with hail. Good heavens, with the way that a chance of hail is in the forecast practically every other day in April, May and June, you'd have to cover up the plants 3 or 4 days a week and that's just not practical.

The good news is that while the risk of hail is in the forecast often, it rarely hits any given spot. For our first 12 years here, we averaged one hail storm a year, but then last year we got hit with it 11 times in the spring (luckily, it was mostly small hail) so that blew our average out of the water. I guess from now on I'll have to say it averages twice a year here when I roll in last year's numbers with all the previous years.

Hail is one of the reasons I always have some plants in containers. I can pull them up under the patio cover and usually they survive unless high wind blows the hail sideways up underneath the patio cover. Even if a person only has, let's say, 3 tomato plants and 3 pepper plants in a moveable container, that still leaves you something undamaged if the hail takes out every plant in the garden.

Once the tomato plants are caged, as mine are now, covering them with buckets is impossible, but sometimes you can protect plants by placing something over the tops of the cages----a layer of 1" chicken wire, 1/4" hardware cloth, 6 mm or heavier sheet plastic, etc. When I do that, I use 2 x 4 lumber placed on top of the covering to hold it down. One year, when hail started heading our way from our southwest when I had just finished transplanting tomato and pepper seedings into two raised beds, Tim and I frantically carried white folding tables (I have 5 of them that I mostly use to hold seedling flats in the spring), all our lawn furniture, etc., to the garden and protected those plants from that hail storm. We put quilts and blankets over the furniture to try to prevent hail from coming in at the sides. After the hail hit, we left the furniture and quilts in place overnight in case the continuing storms brought more hail. If you were driving up our road, it looked like we had set up an elaborate garden party in the garden, lol, but it was just an effort to protect plants. I wouldn't go to that extreme usually, but with brand new transplants, it was worth the time to protect them on their transplant day.

Flowers vary in their ability to recover too, so I just prune them the same way I do the tomato and pepper plants and watch to see if they rebound.

Hail is very hard on fruit trees and I often lose the whole crop to hail. That's not much you can do to avoid it. You can't really cover up the huge crown of a mature fruit tree.

I hope the hail that is in the forecast misses us all, but as spread out as we are, it is likely someone's garden may get hit. Hail (along with late frosts) is also the reason I grow so many backup plants. That way, at least through the end of April, I have backups if the worst happens. I give the backups away at the Spring Fling, so after that, the plants I have in the ground had better survive!


    Bookmark   April 12, 2012 at 10:40AM
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Yes, that kind of hails will shred garden to ground zero. Last year our garden hit by hail storm about the size of quarter shredded everything in the garden. See pics linked below. But good thing was that all most all plants bounced back quickly, then hit second storm! Even with that second setback, plants managed to give me some produce. You can see storm recovery photos from 61 onwards. -Chandra

Here is a link that might be useful: 2011 Strom Damage

    Bookmark   April 12, 2012 at 10:41AM
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Wow, Chandra! Those are some shredded plants, but they did come back nicely.

I remember our 2010 hail storm with baseball size hail. That was the most frightening storm because the hail sounded like the house was being hit with cannonballs. Those hail stones hit with surprising power behind them. I had moved my plants under the big pines in the yard - they are very densely foliaged. They survived very well. But now I have so many that there is not as much pine coverage for ALL of the plants. Some of the hail did go sideways and broke the taillights on the car, and windows on the house.

Thanks for all the very helpful info, Dawn. Cardboard boxes? Who wudda thought. Great idea.


    Bookmark   April 13, 2012 at 7:30AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Susan, The cardboard boxes are most effective if they are still fairly dry when the hail hits. I've never had hail penetrate the boxes---it just bounces off. However, the largest hail I've had while covering plants with boxes was not quite golf-ball sized. Still, no matter the size of the hail, the cardboard will take the hit first and slow down the hail even if large hail can penetrate the boxes.

Even with warning, I cannot cover much of my garden because most all the plants in it are taller than the buckets and boxes I have. How can you cover up potato plants 3' tall or corn plants 2' tall? I think I mostly will rely on "hoping and wishing" for the hail to avoid us here. That's not much of a strategy, though, is it?


    Bookmark   April 13, 2012 at 10:44AM
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