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If hail knocks your garden down, give it some TLC

Courtesy of Darrin Parmenter

After a hailstorm, fruit such as apples and pears may be pitted.

By Darrin Parmenter

Oh, hail, no.

In arid Southwest Colorado we typically don’t see hail or hail damage like our brethren on the Front Range. Our days are typically filled with plenty of sunshine, a monsoonal rain shower in the late afternoon to cool things down, rainbows over the mountains and even unicorns. Yes, it is a dreamland of epic proportions where everybody smiles and streams of lemonade come trickling down the rocks.

Until the day, when on a relatively rare occasion, it hails. According to the National Severe Storms Laboratory, hail is a type of precipitation that forms when updrafts in thunderstorms carry drops of rain back up into colder areas of the atmosphere, where they freeze into balls of ice. These projectiles have violent collisions with supercooled water droplets, increasing the size of the hailstone. If the updrafts are strong enough, the hail continues to be pushed toward the tops of the clouds until at some point the air cannot support the weight of the stones and they come crashing down – at speeds estimated near 100 mph – to Earth.

So for science geeks, this is an incredible process. But if you have trees, vegetables or a car, hail is typically not a welcome form of precipitation. Two weeks ago, a powerful system moved through our area, dropping hail from the Hesperus area eastward through Ignacio and even into western Archuleta County. Localized hail caused significant damage to a number of gardens and farms. If your landscape has been hit by one of these storms, here are some suggestions:

Your squash and cucumber plants are going to look awful. The large, fragile leaves could be shredded. But fortunately, cucurbits are such fast growers that they typically recover relatively quickly.

Leafy crops also may be shredded. Try to remove all damaged leaves, and hopefully the plant will regenerate new growth.

Fruit, such as apples or pears, may incur damage in the form of pitted fruit. This fruit is not marketable and, if it does survive, almost always will be scarred.

Most plants will respond favorably to a light application of nitrogen and some micronutrients after the hail event.

Editor’s note: Get Growing, written by the La Plata County Extension Office’s Master Gardener Program, appears every other week during the growing season. It features timely tips and suggestions for your garden and landscape.

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