Perfect summer weather in our region is seldom long-lasting. Seasoned locals can tell the tales of late June freezes, snow on the fourth of July or winds that blew away the trampoline. Savvy gardeners are also studious weather observers, ready to act no matter what Ma Nature throws our way. Here are some of our common wild weather extremes and tips for damage control.
Snow: A light blanket of snow over blooming flowers and emerging leaves will do little damage, but accompanying cold temperatures can be an issue with tender annuals, hanging baskets and veggie gardens (see ‘frost’ in the following paragraph). Heavy snow on fully leafed-out trees and blooming flowers can topple whole trees, break branches and squish flowers. If it’s snowing and accumulating heavily, shaking branches free of snow can help reduce the weight and chance of breakage. After a summer snow storm, cut or prune anything damaged or broken. Healthy trees and plants will eventually re-grow.
Frost: The good news is that frosts are usually forecast. The bad news is that frost can happen any day of the summer. A daily habit of checking the weather forecast will arm you with the information needed to act. If/when frost is predicted, cover tender plants and veggie gardens with frost cloth (we sell DeWitt™ N-Sulate), an old sheet or a tarp. Harvest any ripe produce from your veggie garden and when possible, move tender hanging baskets and potted annuals indoors. Frost damage can be trimmed off with clean, sharp pruners. Perennials, trees and shrubs may be slightly damaged after a cold night, but usually will regrow.
Hail: This is probably the least predictable and most damaging weather event we can experience. If hail is imminent, take down exposed hanging baskets and cover veggie gardens with frost cloth, a tarp or an old sheet. Hail can tear holes in leaves and strip leaves off trees, shrubs and flowers. Extreme wind gusts can break branches. After a hail event, the best course of action is a good clean-up. With clean, sharp tools, trim branches, flower stems or anything broken. Rake up shredded leaves and plant bits. Fertilize everything with a low dose liquid plant food for additional energy.
Heat: Most mature plants can adapt to heat, but new plants with small root systems can struggle. Plants won’t bloom as well or develop fruit in hot weather. Regular watering early morning or evening hours is best. Be sure to water deeply at the root zone, not just wetting the foliage. Hanging baskets and plants in small containers can dry out very quickly. Some planters and baskets may even need to be moved into a protected shady spot for relief from the heat (this is also a good strategy when you’re gone for a few days). If plants get too dry, the tips will turn brown and crispy. In this case, cut off any of the damage, soak the plant thoroughly and fertilize with a mild liquid plant food.
Wind: Extreme winds associated with storms can break or damage tree limbs or other plants. Once the wind event is over, use clean sharp tools to trim anything broken or damaged. Continuous high winds can dry out hanging baskets or new plants in a snap. If possible, move plants to a sheltered spot such as a covered porch. If it’s not possible to move plants, be sure to water deeply at the root zone. During hot and windy weather, plants may wilt even though the roots are moist simply because they are transpiring (losing moisture from foliage) faster than they are able to take up water from their roots. Plants will usually rebound once the wind dies down and the day cools. If plants get too dry, the tips will turn brown and crispy. In this case, cut off any of the damage, soak the plant thoroughly and fertilize with a liquid plant food.
Fortunately, plants are very adaptable to many weather extremes and will put on new growth after being damaged. Routine maintenance will encourage healthy plants that are able to recover from weather extremes.