Thursday, July 12, 2018

Gardening Under Cover by Joyce D'Agostino

Photo courtesy Joyce D'Agostino
Most gardeners have to deal with a variety of weather and growing conditions each season. These challenges can include early or late frosts, too much rain or too little, excessive heat or a variety of garden pests or diseases.

Here in Colorado, many parts of our state lie within a band that goes through the US and is known for hail damage. Protecting your plants from this damage is a necessity if you want to see your garden grow from early planting to fall harvests and what is the best way to protect.

There is no simple answer for this and it seems that trial and error may be a good way to approach the topic. Each year it seems that the hail can start earlier or last longer than normal and some areas can also have very large hail. While some hail may not destroy certain plants, it can cause other damage such as to tree limbs which can then allow pests or diseases to do damage. 

Consulting with your Extension Agent or an independent garden center expert may help you find products that can provide some degree of protection. For example, there is now a netting that some companies carry that has a good resistance to the impact or tearing that these hailstones can cause. Testing out frames, hoops or even structures is another way to try to find what works best for your garden and area.

While this is not to suggest any one method, there are a few things to keep in mind as you try to seek the best protection for your plants:
  1. Air Circulation – it can seem that the only way to protect your plants is to enclose them fully. While this might prevent the hail from hitting your plants, it can also cut off essential air flow which can be a big problem especially when the temperatures soar. If you install a system, check to see if the plants seem to tolerate the enclosure or if you need to adjust it so that air can flow better around the plants.
  2. Pollinator access – For plants that bloom, you will need to have a way for pollinators to enter and leave your plants to ensure they are properly pollinated. As soon as your plants begin to bloom, you will need to examine how they are covered and where the pollinators can access your plants and still have some coverage for weather protection. Just like with the air flow, you will need to watch the plants, especially while in bloom, to see if the pollinators can easily go in and out of the protection. 
  3. Research products before purchasing – Often there will be online reviews of products which you should consider before purchasing, especially if the items are costly. While we want to do what we can to protect our garden, we also have to consider if the products work within your budget and can give long term service. An expensive item that may not last more than a season or two, or one that can’t be proven to resist hail would probably not be a good investment.
It is a fact that many of us have to protect our plants with various methods to try to prevent plant loss from hail or other weather issues. Any method you have tried which you feel has worked, please feel free to share with us.

How to Care for Plants, Flowers Damaged by Colorado Hail Storms
Fire blight can also be caused by hail: see CSU Extension's Fire Blight