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Coping with Hail

By Ruth Ann Hales, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension Agent, horticulture

It's raining. You're glad because the weather has been hot and dry. Then the shower turns into a torrent of rain and hail, and your pleasure turns to dismay as you remember the unprotected young flowers and vegetables in your garden.

Coping with hail can be tricky because it comes suddenly, but gardeners can use several strategies to protect tender transplants.

If you have an open-style fence, you can plant vegetables and flowers along it and create a protective "lean-to" with wooden slats or cardboard boxes when hail threatens.

In small city gardens, leave clay pots scattered upside down throughout your garden. When hail clouds roll through, quickly cover young transplants. Plastic milk jugs with the bottoms cut off can offer protection as well, although hailstones more than an inch in diameter have been known to take out both jug and plant.

Pieces of fiberglass, wood or sturdy cardboard fitted together in the shape of a teepee with open sides can protect transplants growing in raised beds. Because they provide good air circulation, a gardener can set such protective coverings over plants in the morning and leave them on all day if a severe storm is predicted. Avoid using clear fiberglass for an open-style teepee. It might create a greenhouse effect, causing plants to wilt or die from excessive heat.

Another strategy is to grow plants in containers. Small pots are easy to move to shelter during a storm. Put large, heavy containers on wheels to facilitate moving them inside or under a patio quickly.

Photo courtesy of Glendale Community College

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Date last revised: 01/05/2010