During the summer the heavens open up periodically to pummel Calgary and area with various sizes of hail. Hail is always another poignant reminder that the weather of the Albertan prairie can turn unusual with little or no warning.
It is disheartening, especially if you are a flower or vegetable gardener, to essentially see Mother Nature’s shotgun blasting away at your greenery. If by chance you have ever been caught out in a hailstorm you know that the stuff stings unprotected skin. Even your trees and woody shrubs get bruised and battered by hailstones, and such cloudbursts can leave the more delicate plants looking like they are dead or damaged beyond salvation.
At Mirage Landscaping of Calgary, we have over three generations’ worth of experience in dealing with the aftermath of our local hailstorms. If your plantings have suffered from hailstone strikes that the situation is not as hopeless as it may first appear.
Give Them Shelter
Your first line of defense is one of our old friends, mulch or other ground cover. What good does ground cover do against hail? While it doesn’t protect the exposed part of the plant, mulch does protect the base of the structural stems. Ground cover also deadens the bounce hailstones can achieve from striking bare earth, preventing a second attack.
If you use hanging baskets for growing flowers, your solution to hail is simple. In a more protected spot under your eaves, simply mount a secondary hook for each basket. Then, if the forecast turns threatening, it takes mere seconds to move the hangers from the exposed position to the fall back hook.
For individual flowering plants or short shrubs, depending on their size, have some nursery pots, five gallon buckets, or trash cans stacked in your shed or garage ready to deploy against hail. If the forecast threatens to throw stones you can give each plant its own helmet. If the wind is blowing fiercely in concert with the storm, you can weight the tops of the pots or cans with stones or pavers.
Protecting an entire vegetable garden is a trickier prospect. Hail damage is a good reason for us to build you a greenhouse. If that solution isn’t practical, consider using the humble tarp. Most commercially produced tarps have built in brass or aluminum grommets mounted along their edges. Simply map out your garden to the known size of your tarp(s) and mount some sturdy stakes or poles where the grommets would be. Make the stakes or poles slightly shorter on the side that faces the prevailing wind so that the tarp sheds rather than traps the hail. Then screw a hook into the stake or pole, with the curved back to the sky. When the weather threatens you can then tension the tarp from underneath the hook opening, along all of the grommets. Any wind that “parachutes” the tarp will then be pulling against the hooks and keeping the tarp in place.
In The Worst Case
Of course it is impossible to be on a constant vigil against hail damage. If the worst happens, and your plantings get hammered from the sky, what should you do about it?
A lot of the damage will prove cosmetic. Yes, some bark may have been pocked, some stems and twigs broken, or leaves shot through, but things may not be as bad as they first seem. As long as the stems or branches that serve them are intact, don’t remove any damaged leaves. A leaf with bruising or holes in it may have limited ability to assist the plant, shrub, or tree, but if you remove it there is no remaining capability at all.
Unless the damage is severe, pruning is not recommended in response to hail damage, most bark bruising or pitting will be healed by the tree or shrub. Even for the grim looking plants, continued watering is essential to not compound damage stress with drought stress.
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