This week has been a shocker for thunder storms in NSW and here in the meadow we have had hail of varying sizes just about every afternoon this week.
It is unusual for us to get a series of storms day after day at this time of the year but hail is still a common event during the summer months, so I thought I would start with hail.
Hail can be a very damaging weather event, stripping leaves and crop from trees, decimating foliage plants and destroying fruit such as apples, tomatoes and pumpkins.
Hail is a very difficult weather condition to prepare for as the incidence of the storms, the size of the hail stones and the duration of the events are unpredictable.
Here are some strategies I use to try and reduce the damage hail can cause to my crops.
In the past if I have had any warning of an approaching hail storm I have raced out and covered a few vulnerable crops with buckets or pots to try and protect them, but this is a bit hit and miss and very limiting as to what you can protect.
However this year, due to the ferocious appetite of the local bower birds, crimson Rosellas and the sulphur crested cockatoos, I have built frames with steel post and poly pipe and thrown netting over the frames. I am using this type of protection for just about all my fruit and vegetable production spaces. Although the netting will not stop the hail, if I get warning of an approaching storm and I am at home, I can easily throw a cheap plastic tarp over the frames and tie then down securely and it will protect my crop against all but the largest hail stones.
This type of protection only works if you have prior warning, it is not a good idea to try and cover plants once it is hailing, always best to be inside the safety of your home during any kind of storm.
If your annual vegetables, especially any leafy plants, do suffer hail damage don’t be too disheartened and immediately pull out your damaged plants. Give everything a feed with a seaweed/fish emulsion product and wait a week or two to see how they recover. Even a slightly shredded leaf or one with a few holes will still photosynthesise enough to keep the plant growing, till new leaves are produced, then the damaged ones can be removed.
Hard fruit like apples that get marked should be OK though will not look pretty, but soft fleshed fruit like raspberry and tomatoes will usually rot if damaged so remove as soon as possible.
The reality is hail is one of those things we can do very little about except replant our annuals, remove damage material from permanent planting and hope for better weather next year.