Things You Can’t Control: Hail

Not what I was expecting when I came out to water that day.

According to the life-philosophy of the Stoics, there are things that you can control, and things that you cannot control. Long story short, figure out which is which and put your efforts into what you can control. What you can’t will take care of itself. Hail is one of those things I can’t control. What I can control is my response to it. It is part resignation, part curiosity, and part thinking about how to minimize the damage next time.

Mental note: tomatoes don’t like hail.

I was not unaware of the possibility of hail. However, I understood it to be of less threat than it is in, say, Wyoming. It could happen, but wasn’t necessarily something to take a proactive stance on like deer or rabbits. However, after the storms last week, I think I do need to be more proactive. About a week and a half ago Showcase 2 and the RCG beds got flattened by a charming combination of torrential downpours and sizeable hail. Fortunately, Showcase 1 is tucked close enough to the house to have been mostly sheltered. The next night brought a second storm that had a tornado watch out east of town. It was the worst hail since 2004 or earlier, so I will accept it as a fluke. However, given what weather has been doing in the last few years, knocking together something for hail protection will fall under “better safe than sorry” for Showcase 2 at the very least. I was told recently that it appears that even years tend to be hail years, so these storms may well not be the last of it. The resignation is that I was aware of the possibility and chose not to take steps as the monetary cost of setting up some sort of shield appeared to outweigh the probability of serious hail damage.

Potatoes, fortunately, are slightly more forgiving.

Hope for recovery.

My curiosity is wondering what will recover and what will not. When I first looked at Showcase 2, I thought that the peppers were all stripped to their stems. A day or so later when I took a closer look, it appears that each has at least one leaf and the stems remain green. My fingers are crossed that they have enough photosynthetic surface areas to recover. The tomatoes had fewer leaves, but they also have stems that are insisting on remaining green, so we’re giving them the benefit of the doubt. The ‘tater bed is in tatters, but they fared the best of all, as they have had months of vigorous growth. They went from a bed of solid green to being able to see the individual plants, but I expect them to be fine. The obnoxious part is that the turnips and radishes no longer even have stems, let alone leaves. I haven’t quite decided whether I want to see if they’ll try again or if I want to give up and just replant.

Water damage. That had all been woodmulch.

I spent a couple of hours the following Saturday afternoon helping out in the food bank beds at the Ranch Community Garden. Aside from my root vegetables being shorn and the flowers showing the insult of the deluge, my pepper and tomatoes were still small enough that they seem to have weathered the weather fairly well. There wasn’t much to do. However, some kind soul donated gobs of tomatoes and assorted other plants to replace the abused ones in the beds and they needed to go in the ground. I noticed that the foodbank beds weren’t the only ones getting a significant re-do. My understanding is that given half a chance, plants will do their best to recover from a hailstorm. However, seeing the bedraggled state of most of them, I can understand the desire to replace them with a plant that is immediately more vigorous. My fingers are crossed partially because I want to see what they can do for themselves, and partially because I would hate to replace my own heirloom plants with whatever is left over at the garden centers after half or more of the gardeners in Colorado Springs have replaced their plants.

My poor turnips. That had been 16 healthy little plants in tidy rows getting ready to give me some tender greens.

Now to the proactive part. None of the gardens I have been working with are producing food that is a requirement for the family’s table. All of them are simply an appreciated supplement. However, I do need to think about this as both a supplemental food source and a main food source. Eventually, I hope to be able to feed myself primarily from my gardens and I would like to help people that have limited access to good produce if they don’t grow their own. Good food, after all, should be a right not a privilege. I have a lot to think about. Hardware cloth seems to be the protection of choice, since it is very permeable for light and rain, but less so for hail. If I had my tomatoes in cages, I could just give each cage a roof and call it a day, but the ones under my protection are all on trellises. Do I build permanent structures or things that I bring out when hail threatens? This storm gave warning that it was going to be ugly, but not all of them do around here. Do I build something that is strictly for hail, or should I just go ahead and build multi-purpose structures? How much of the garden should I cover? The place the peas are growing is not going to lend itself to protection, and the potatoes seem to be doing fine without it. Should the structure have a flat roof (easier) or a peaked/rounded roof to help shed the ice? At what point should I bow down to local circumstances instead of insisting on getting what I want? Naturally, the grasses and lambs-quarters are doing just fine. Fortunately, I hear lambs-quarters make excellent salad greens. I will keep you updated as decisions are made and plans are put in place.

As every gardener knows, weeds always survive . . .

4 responses to this post.

  1. I feel ya! we have had a downpour start every afternoon that usually carries on into the night. Everything in the back yard is a huge wreck. Especially some seedlings planted before it started. I hope everything grows back prosperously for you! good luck!


    • My parents have been fighting too much rain back east, too. Some of my plants, at least, seem to be taking this setback more or less in stride, so I have hopes for the rest. Hope things dry out for you, too! Isn’t fencing with Mother Nature fun? 🙂


      • it is something! definitely a grand adventure and who couldnt love that? 🙂 we’re on the east side. the rain has helped our desert of a back yard to become almost a jungle of grass and weeds. its time to mow the lawn but awesome to see all this greenery

      • Oh, a local! Hi! I’ve been watching the clouds come in each night, but it’s always a tossup as to whether I need to take care of the evening watering or they will here in town. It is always nice when it gets done for free 🙂

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