This last week I’ve been slogging through my digital library of photos to clear out duplicates, photos from projects long past and trying to streamline it so that I’m able to backup those images that I truly cherish.
While it’s been fun going down memory lane (were my kids really that small!?), it’s also been a bit of a reminder at the importance of being prepared when the hail comes around.
As far back as 2009, I have pictures that were taken during either the second or third week of June, where massive hail storms moved quickly into the area and after shredding the garden and leaving a thick layer of ice-balls around, moved on and outwards towards the plains.
As a result of so many years of mourning the garden that could have been, and hoping that I wouldn’t need to replant, I’ve put into place an ‘emergency weather plan’ that has become part of the annual calendar.
I share it with you in the hopes that if you are relatively new to the area or if you are new to gardening in NoCo that you might be spared from the heartache of seeing only stems standing after one of Mother Natures outbursts storms through.
Tomato Cages – with tomatoes, peppers and other ‘fragile’ crops I used to wait until the plants were more established and needed the support, but now I install them on planting day. The cages provide a solid structure that can support the weight of protective material without crushing the plants. For me, those are bed sheets.
Retired Bed sheets – Over the years as we’ve replaced linens, the larger sheet sets are reserved for use in the garden. spread over the tomato cages, they provide protection against hail and other freaky weather that damages plants. During the fall, they’ll be spread out on those nights where frost is anticipated. This helps extend the season when daytime temps are still high enough that the plants produce fruit.
Clothespins – Not only do these do a fantastic job at holding clothes onto a line, but they also do wonders at holding bed sheets to tomato cages. This is important when high winds are likely to make your bed sheets billow and fly off.
Pruning – Unlike many, I prune my tomatoes so that energy is put into the plant for higher yields but also to ensure that it is able to support itself. Tomatoes are vines by nature and if left to their own, they will sprawl out over the ground as far as possible. If you are mulching with straw it’s often not a problem, unless there is a high rodent population in the area.
I’ve found that for my growing conditions, caging and pruning produce the best results. Many times I’ve had the plants grow so big and unwieldy that they’ve literally flopped over under their own weight. Unfortunately, over the growing season more plant was produced than fruit. Pruning helps to promote fruit production and it helps keep the plant in a manageable state should late season storms arrive.
During this time of the year, knowing that the days are approaching ‘hot’ and afternoon thunderstorms will soon be regular features of the day, I tend to look nervously at the skies and check the weather radar apps more frequently to make sure that when the hail comes, I’ll be ready to sprint to the garden, bed sheets and clothes pins in hand to prevent another spilling of chlorophyll in the garden.
I’m a die-hard gardener, and I imagine that at some point I’ll probably be the older gal who spends the dark of night weeding by headlamp to avoid the summer heat. Until then, I’m ok with the neighbors having a laugh at what honestly looks like a comedy of errors as I (and the kids if they are home) attempt to cover the garden while trying to stay this side of ‘drowned rat’.
Over the years, as I’ve met people who are also avid gardeners it’s inevitable that the conversation of hail carnage will come up as will the methods that are used to prevent damage and what folks do to encourage a vigorous recovery. Knowing that there is so much that I don’t know, I’m always looking for suggestions and ideas that have worked for you.
Being a weather enthusiast, I’ve gotten into the habit of posting on social media when inclement weather is on the way so that friends are able to spring into action if it’s needed. Should any such storms occur this season, I’ll be posting on FB, Twitter and Instagram as well as here on the blog.
For now, I’ll be looking to the skies and tending to the weeds and hoping that when the hail comes, that we’ll be home to make sure that the garden is covered.
Until next time, may your knees be green, and your spirits light.