How to Help Your Vegetable Garden Recover from a Hailstorm

You plant your garden in May, and by June it is looking perfect. The first blooms are on the peppers and tomatoes already. The nice afternoon showers are watering your garden and then it happens. An intense hailstorm hits and you get home and look at the hail piled in your garden like snow. Now what do you do?




We planted the vegetable garden in May and the first blooms were already on the peppers and tomatoes by June when the afternoon thundershower suddenly turned into a hailstorm. After the storm, the hail looked like snow and the vegetable garden was practically flattened.

When this happens, every gardener has to decide whether to replant the vegetable garden or try to mend the hail damaged plants.  You have to consider the time of year the hailstorm happens and if there is time to replant the vegetable garden. If the hailstorm happens early in the growing season, you can replant the garden if needed. In some areas, the growing season is not that long and helping the hail damaged plants recover is the best choice.

 How to Mend Broken Stems


Any broken stems or branches should be cleanly cut off. Cut the broken branch right at the break point or about 1/4 inch below the break (closer to the main stem). Look for any stripping of that branch below the break point and cut the branch where the stripping ends. Some branches might just be bent downward and not broken. You can prop them up with small sticks and they should soon turn towards the sun and start growing again.

You might see small white spots on the branches where the hail hit them. Don’t remove them yet as new branches could grow from them. You can reassess those branches in a week or two.

Hail Damaged Leaves


Leaves can be split, have holes in them or totally destroyed. Takes off the leaves where there isn’t much leaf left. With leaves that are just split or have holes in them, leave them on the plant. They provide food for the plant and will help the plant recover if left on.

Fertilize


After cleaning up the damage to the plants, they will need to be fertilized. This will get the plants growing again and help ward off disease. There are several good fertilizers to use including chemical fertilizers such as Miracle-Gro, Ferti-lome or any other good vegetable fertilizer. With any chemical fertilizer, make sure you follow the directions so the vegetable plants are not burned.

An excellent organic fertilizer for vegetable plants is fish emulsion mixed with kelp. Kelp is the same as seaweed and is soothing to the plants and works well as a fertilizer when mixed with the fish emulsion. A recommended brand is Neptune’s Harvest fish/seaweed blend, which I found at the garden shop and is also available online.

Watering evenly is also important, don’t soak one day and then forget it for a week. Keep the garden evenly wet.

Hail damaged tomato plant
© Sam Montana

Should You Replant Your Vegetable Garden?


If the hail damaged the vegetable plants too much, you might be able to replant the vegetable garden with large enough plants depending on your planting zone and the time of year the hailstorm occurs. Though usually after a hailstorm, everyone else is at the garden shop or nursery looking for new vegetable plants and they can be hard to find.

If it’s too late in the season to plant early season vegetables, plant late season and fall vegetables like radishes, lettuce, beets, snap peas or broccoli. Each planting zone is different so it's best to check your date of first frost and count the days to maturity for the new seeds and plants.

Hail Damaged Flowers


I used the same methods to repair the flower garden as I did with the vegetable garden. With any broken flowers or stems, just deadhead them as you normally would when the blooms fade. That means to take off the bloom of the broken stems and trim back the stem to the break point.

Hail Damaged Trees


If the trees have been completely stripped of their leaves, don’t worry about them since trees have a backup set of leaves and will actually bud and leaf again. Inspect the bark of shrubs and trees to make sure there isn’t heavy damage to the bark itself from the hailstones.

Conclusion


Realize that the hailstorm damage could stunt the growth of vegetable plants, but with proper cleaning, watering and fertilizing they should recover fine. One week later, I was seeing plenty of new growth and blooms on the tomatoes, peppers and other vegetable plants.

© 2013 Sam Montana

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