The Q&A Archives: Hail damage to young fruit trees

Question: We just had a disaster strike. Last week three inches of hail fell on the garden in 15 minutes. My young fruit trees, grapes and kiwis had all their leaves stripped, limbs broken and the bark peeled back on the trunks. What should I do to insure that the trees and vines make it through the winter? Clifford Lambert Hysham, MT

Answer: Don't do any heavy pruning of damaged limbs this time of year, says George Evens, professor of Horticulture at Montana State University in Bozeman. By pruning out damaged wood now you'll encourage new growth, which would be killed back by winter weather, and lose excessive moisture through the pruning cuts, he says. Prune out damaged wood from the fruit trees and kiwi fines in spring. The grapes can be pruned as usual this winter to three or four buds per branch. You can paint the trunks of damaged trees with white latex paint or cover the bark with a commercial tree wrap to prevent any further damage. However, any tree that has the bark peeled back from its trunk more than halfway around its girth probably won't make it and should be removed, explains Evans.

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