Thursday, July 23, 2009


Dear Gardeners,

We were visited by a terrible thunderstorm on Monday night which hit Arvada, Golden, Lakewood, and Wheat Ridge in Jefferson County Colorado especially hard. The storm devastated the gardens of many Jeffco Colorado Master Gardeners. Here are some of their accounts. As you will read, we are an optimistic bunch; we know life has cycles and while we mourn our losses, we also count our blessings.

Jerry Peterson:
I too was hit by the wind and hail storm. The bad news: my veggie garden was devastated, shredded, and cut to ribbons. My wild flower garden looks like a Humvee ran over it (my wife had just picked a bouquet the day of the storm), my perennials are in need of some major cleanup and cutback.
The good news: both of our cars were safe in the garage, we had no broken windows or other damage to the house.
Although I'm upset about losing most of my plants of various kinds and I feel sorry for all the Master Gardeners who were affected by the storm, I also feel very fortunate when I drive down 38th Avenue in Wheatridge or down 44th Ave. Just this evening we saw a huge tree that had fallen right on a house and completely demolished the second story. Everywhere we look, there are broken windows and downed trees. My rhubarb will grow back, my perennials will, I think, survive, I can plant another veggie garden next year, and look at all the fresh air and exercise I'll get in cleaning up the yard.
Bottom line: What do I have to gripe about?????

Loay Boggess:
We live NE of Jewell and Pierce. Damage here about is not as severe. The open space's trees are all OK, they are mostly venerable cottonwoods. [Don't get me started about what Lakewood's trail project has done to the open space; that's a story for another time]
We heard the warning sirens last night and headed for the basement. As you said, we couldn't see anything because of the hail and the amazing amounts of rain. The roaring sound was weird, tho'it was hard to tell if it was a tornado or the raging flood in the easement behind our yard. Both, no doubt.
I awoke this morning to 6 inch 'icebergs' behind the backyard where the hail had washed up against the retaining wall. I have a badly damaged front yard veggie garden. The eggplants are no longer lush and beautiful, and may not recover, the peppers probably will. The tomatoes took a beating, but the basil (surprise) shows no damage. The back yard veggies faired better, and the tomatoes and squash will be OK. In general our perennials and trees are OK, though there is a lot of compost-able materials left on the ground.
The plants that faired better were sheltered a bit by fences, bushes or trees to the NW, so I am guessing that's where the wind came from. If the hail hadn't been horizontal, they would have been damaged too.
I went to Kaiser on Alameda this morning, and noticed that the damage was much worse west of Wadsworth. Kaiser lost 5 trees along the street, and the men with the tree grinding equipment told me they were broken by the hail. (Yeah, right) A tree on Pierce was hit by lightning and split in half. I saw, near Alameda and Balsam, and tonight, around Jewell and Balsam—trees that were denuded at the tops; old trees twisted, broken off and leafless. Kendrick Lake's xeric garden is mostly shredded to a pulp. Heart sickening. However, the xeric plantings along Jewell east of Wadsworth are not badly damaged.
My daughter called to tell us that she had gotten an automated call from a local TV station weather reporter who said that there was tornado around, so she and others in her apartment house went to the basement. She lives at Allison and Mississippi.
I am so sorry for your losses. Those helpless hurt feelings are hard to deal with.

Joyce D'Agostino:
I live in Wheat Ridge, not far from what they said was the center of it all. My garden is also pretty much gone. Some of the plants were hit so hard they literally vanished into a pile of shreds.
Only things that survived was a hot pepper plant in a pot that I happened to put a wall of water around the day before. The wall of water was damaged a little and the top of the plant but most of it remains. Also have one tiny brandywine tomato, also in a wall of water, that survived.
A few herbs are also standing - lemon thyme, mint, oregano.
But everything else was literally shredded. Our house had torn screens and on the North side, the siding was riddled with holes. Had never heard a storm like that, and I grew up in Kansas. It sounded like someone throwing rocks at the house. Had some broken trees in our yard too.
I did some pruning this afternoon in case anything still was capable of surviving. A few of the plants had intact stems and some new leaf growth close to the stems, so I pruned away the damaged parts and we will see. Pretty much all of my heirloom tomatoes were lost, along with everything else. Even if some of them do survive, I wonder if the growing season will be long enough to allow them to set fruit and then have it ripen.
Sorry to all of you who have lost their gardens. I certainly feel your pain!

Peter Bockenthien:
My garden is gone. I'm sure many others lost theirs tonight as well. I'm holding a funeral at my place tomorrow and then walking over to Kendrick Lake to survey the damage.
Our permanent gardens and perennials are gone as well. I've never seen
an Agave leaf split in two. Some look like someone took scissors to
I'm going to need counseling after this. What to do? I'm stunned into
disbelief. I've never seen anything like that. I was certain it was a
tornado because it was coming down sideways and nothing but an
extremely loud roar.
On the positive side it sure smells nice. That's because it's crushed
veggie and herb leafs galore. And hey, no more weeds! I'm going to
cry myself to sleep over the loss of my heirloom squash. Another
positive note: the compost pile is going to be fantastic. Here is a link to my personal devastation.

Dave Moland:
My sincere sympathy to those who lost gardens in Monday night’s storm. I was lucky to escape this time, but have had several similar experiences in past years with wind and hail. However, I have never had big trees uprooted, as happened several places in this storm.
I drove along Kipling from Jewell up to just north of I-70 this morning, took a few side trips, and saw much damage. Some nurseries along the way, including Echter’s and O’Toole’s, had experienced considerable damage but had mostly cleaned up the aftermath and were open for business. Life goes on!
My wife and I both come from farm families, where hailstorms can mean not only smashed gardens and crops, but also loss of income. Gathering clouds and the ominous sound of the first hailstones have always brought us running to the windows and doors, as if there were something we could do to prevent it.
The weather people are saying that most of the damage was probably caused by a “microburst” event. These generally result in straight winds that topple trees in one direction, and wind gusts may in some cases exceed tornado wind speeds. I have seen the results in other states. Visit this site for more details.

My thoughts in the aftermath of the storm are expressed in this Haiku poem:

Requiem for a Garden

Wind, hail, smash gardens
Time will heal, but now we mourn
Mother Nature rules