Thursday, May 7, 2009

Hail Damage

Two weeks ago, on Thursday, 23 Apr 09, we had hail. This was just little hail, smaller than regular marbles at my house, but there was a LOT of hail (the ground was white with it).

A couple of my tomato plants were snapped in half, so I replaced those with a couple of my “back-up” plants (I usually grow a few spares, for emergencies). Figs were knocked off my fig tree, but there isn’t anything I can do about that except heave a big sigh and resign myself to a longer wait for figs, when the next crop sets later in the summer.

The Hosta leaves have holes where the little hailstones went right through, and the leaves on my Bigleaf Magnolia are absolutely shredded. Luckily, not all the leaves on the magnolia, or even all the Hosta leaves, were completely unfurled, so the leaves that have emerged since the storm aren’t in such bad shape. In other words, in my yard, the damage was fairly minimal.

This Monday, though, a friend asked about damage to the beefsteak tomato plants she had grown from seed. Hers were planted out at a much larger size than mine, and they have white spots on the stems where they were bruised by hailstones.

The article “Farm Photo: Hail Damage to Local Farms” discussing crop damage from a 2008 hailstorm in North Carolina mentions the possibility of lowered production and the increased risk of disease resulting from mechanical damage to the tomato stems where they were hit by hail.

This makes sense because tomato plants will seal off vascular tissue at areas that have been damaged; this means they won’t get good nutrient flow, and the tissue at those bruised sites could die. Dead tissue is always a treat for bacteria, so any resulting disease wouldn’t be a big surprise.

However, I remember a couple of years back, seeing Grandpa Bill’s tomato plants in Choctaw, Oklahoma, that had been through a spectacular hailstorm. That hailstorm was later in the season; the plants were loaded with tomatoes, and most of those were damaged beyond usability. In addition, the plants were very battered, and the bruised places all turned black. Not pretty. Recently, when I asked Grandpa Bill about how those plants did after the storm, he said that they produced plenty of good tomatoes before the end of the season.

Since the Oklahoma hailstorm was later in the season, replacing them after the storm, if they had been totally flattened, probably wouldn’t have been a realistic option. Now, though, in Georgia, it is still early enough to plant out larger-sized transplants and expect an abundant harvest. If any tomato plants were battered beyond recovery, the likelihood of good production, just a bit later than hoped-for, from new transplants, is high.

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