Summer Storms Impact Garden

Leaf tearing, plants stripped of leaves, tree branches dinged worse than our cars – it’s gotten a bit ugly out amongst the flowers and vegetables. (Photo: Shutterstock).

 

Carol O'Meara, Colorado State University Extension

Carol O’Meara, Colorado State University Extension

Gardeners have an unusual take on things. One moment we’re in a frenzy of panic over aphids in the garden, the next we’re shrugging off near total loss of plants due to weather. We’re not adjusting our medication; it’s just that some things we can’t control.

Hail, for example. We’ve been luxuriating in a wet season, with plenty of rain to keep lawns and gardens happy. But Mother Nature has a dark side, and she’s also sent some severe storms to go along with it. Leaf tearing, plants stripped of leaves, tree branches dinged worse than our cars – it’s gotten a bit ugly out amongst the flowers and vegetables.

If your plants were victims of the savage skies, take heart: it looks bad now but, depending on the plant, its maturity, and time left in the season for recovery, all may not be lost. And there is also time to resow some things.

Vegetable root crops, such as potatoes or beets, with destroyed leaves could send up new shoots, compromising quality of the crop. In this case the produce may not be worth the growing space. For leafy vegetables, be patient: give them at least a week to recuperate after the storm, and if there’s no sign of life, replant.

When choosing plants for replacements of vegetables, keep in mind how many growing days are left in our season. If you don’t mind planning to cover the plants in the odd snow squall we might get in September, you could get away with crops that take longer than 65 days to start producing. Cabbages, beans, Napa cabbage, and broccoli all were sown in my garden this week, replacing plants I’ve lost.

Flowering annuals stripped of their leaves may not survive, and replanting now will ensure a good display later in summer. Yes, it’s hard to pull up those babies, so if there are a few bits left on the stem and you’re feeling nurturing, clean them up and a give them a light application of fertilizer. They might recover.

Severely shredded leaves on smaller perennials should be cut back to the ground, and if the leaves aren’t too damaged, leave them alone. Bleeding hearts and other perennials with soft stems that look reasonably unharmed should be cut back part way. Generally they’ll sprout new leaves along the stem at the junction between the old leaves and the stem.

Work fertilizer in around any damaged perennials that are well established to give them a boost for recovery. Those with firm stalks should be cut partially back. If they don’t sprout new leaves on existing stems, look for new stems pushing up from their roots.

Examine your woody plants for wounds in the bark or torn limbs; clean up the wound site with a sharp knife and let the plant heal itself. Turn over and empty containers that might have captured rain to prevent mosquitoes from using it as a nursery.

Our gardens will recover after this weather, and soon we can return to scouting for aphids, slugs, and other thugs in the yard.

By Carol O’Meara. Carol is an Extension Agent – Horticulture Entomology at Colorado State University Extension Boulder County. For more information contact CSU Extension at the Boulder County Fairgrounds, 9595 Nelson Road, Box B, Longmont, 303.678.6377, e-mail comeara@bouldercounty.org or visit ext.colostate.edu/boulder.