Just as the trees were flushing out, veggie gardens were popping up everywhere and spring budding out nicely - BAM! In just a few minutes Mother Nature pounds, shreds, and smashes it all back. Plants of all kinds took a beating, and many customers have been asking us what they can do to salvage their gardens and trees.
So, how can you help a battered and torn plant recover? Obviously it depends on the severity of the damage, the type, age and size of the plant. Luckily, plants will bounce back much better from a hail storm in the spring than one occurring in late fall. Here's a few tips:
Trees & Shrubs: Remove any broken, hanging branches. Prune as necessary so the tree will be balanced as it grows from this point on. For fruit trees, it's best to remove all damaged fruit, because lesions on the fruit will serve as a point of entry for rots & disease and the fruit are unlikely to ripen properly anyway. Lacerations on tree trunks can be left to heal naturally, but treatment with a copper fungicide will help prevent diseases from infecting the tree. If you have not fertilized your trees yet, you can now, but it is advised to use a light dose of slow-release fertilizer so the tree can recover at a natural pace. This is not the time to "push" the tree. Reapply mulch as necessary. Slower-growing shrubs and trees will take a little longer to replace their shredded leaves, and will be more susceptible to insect and disease problems for a while. Just keep an eye out so you can treat at the first sign of a problem, and they'll likely recover just fine.
Annual & Perennial Flowering Plants: Sparingly trim off damaged parts, stripped stems, and branches with tattered leaves. Trim off flower stalks so the plants can focus their energy on re-growth instead of blooming for the time being. Some plants can be trimmed to just a few inches from the ground and still bounce back nicely at this point in the growing season. Other, more tender plants, will not recover if all leaves are gone or severely damaged. Fertilize lightly and replace mulch if necessary. Give the plants about 1-2 weeks to show signs of new growth, and replace any that don't recover within that time.
Vegetable Gardens: Similar to annuals & perennials, simply trim damaged parts, fertilize lightly, mulch, and wait for new growth. Plants such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant have a terrific ability to recover, although their growth form may be bushier than normal and yield may be slightly reduced. If there is a significant branch with a split, often you can gently put it back together then wrap the split with blue painters tape or strips of cloth. More tender plants such as cucumbers, squash, and melons (which are likely just past seedling stage) will most likely need replacing. Below-ground crops, such as potatoes and onions will likely recover well, although potato tops may need just minimal trimming. Because damaged plants are highly susceptible to disease and rots, it is recommended to treat all of the above plants (especially tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, potatoes) with a copper-based fungicide as a preventative measure. Also, pick up and dispose of all broken plant pieces from the ground around the plants, as decaying plant matter can serve as a host for disease entry into the garden.