Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Western Mountains and High Plains
July, 2011
Regional Report

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It's not hail damage that's afflicted my garden, but deer that have munched off the tops of my tomatoes.

Summer Garden Woes

Hail, or "the white combine" as the old timers refer to it, is an unwelcome weather event that gardeners dread. Many of you have sent me comments on the hail that devastated your gardens. Unfortunately, when hail hits late in the growing season, there is little that we can do to make the garden recover. First aid for hail-damaged gardens depends on the extent of damage, what kinds of crops you're growing, plant maturity, and the recovery time left in the growing season.

I am among the fortunate in that hail has not paid a call on my garden yet. However, another threat has made a visit to my vegetable garden. Not even my homemade remedy, which in the past has been almost foolproof, has worked so far. I might not get that wish for bountiful tomatoes I made last column.

Deer have made a visit to the garden and munched away the tops and tiny fruit on the majority of my tomatoes. My homemade remedy of four egg yolks blended in a quart of water did not repel the many young deer that found entry into the garden. Now all I can do is hope that the tomatoes will regrow from the portions left and set blossoms again that will be followed by fruit. There is enough of the growing season left so there should be a tomato crop, late though it may be.

To further protect the tomato plants, I've decided to erect a fence around them at least four feet tall and with a removable chicken wire top. I'll continue to apply the homemade deer repellent, as it does not wash away readily and it is not harmful to the plants.

For those of you who have experienced hail damage, be patient with those plants that have potential for recovery. Leaf crops may take a week or two to recuperate. If re-growth does not resume, you still have time to plant a late crop of leaf lettuce, spinach, and Swiss chard. Avoid the urge to apply heavy doses of fertilizers, as this can add insult to injury by burning the existing foliage. If you do fertilize, do it sparingly at half the recommend rate.

Many perennial flowers suffered the fate of early deadheading and foliage damage. As long as there is good, healthy root growth, these plants will recover. Clean up the garden by removing severely damage stems and leaves, cut back to healthy growth, lightly cultivate the soil to reduce compaction, and lightly apply an organic-based granular fertilizer with moderate nitrogen and higher phosphorous content.

Landscape plants including trees and shrubs may have sustained bark wounds and limb damage. Though fungicides may help to prevent canker diseases, they must be applied within 24 hours after damage to be of any help. Otherwise, natural callusing of the wounds will occur.

It's summer gardening. Be prepared to take a roller coaster ride filled with a few bumps along the way.

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