BOULDER COUNTY – Though the gardens love the wet weather, one thing they could do without is the hail that came with it. If your plants were victims of the savage skies, take heart: it looks bad now but, depending on the plant, its maturity, and time left in the season for recovery, all may not be lost.
Vegetable root crops, such as potatoes or beets, with destroyed leaves could send up new shoots, and you should still get a good crop. For leafy vegetables, be patient: give them at least a week to recuperate after the storm, and if there’s no sign of life, replant.
Flowering annuals stripped of their leaves may not survive, and replanting now will ensure a good display later in summer. Yes, it’s hard to pull up those babies, so if there are a few bits left on the stem and you’re feeling nurturing, clean them up and a give them a light application of fertilizer. They might recover.
Severely shredded leaves on smaller perennials should be cut back to the ground, and if the leaves aren’t too damaged, leave them alone. Bleeding hearts and other perennials with soft stems that look reasonably unharmed should be cut back part way. Generally they’ll sprout new leaves along the stem at the junction between the old leaves and the stem.
Work fertilizer in around any damaged perennials that are well established to give them a boost for recovery. Those with firm stalks should be cut partially back. If they don’t sprout new leaves on existing stems, look for new stems pushing up from their roots.
With all the excitement we’ve had lately, people tend to forget weather that affected plants a few weeks ago. But the plants don’t get over it so easily. Keep an eye out for damage from the freezing snow we had the last week of April; many leaves might be a tad black and crispy about the edges. Perennials, such as hostas, that suffered a setback from their leaves being frozen should have pushed new growth by now.
Lingering effects of the dry winter continue to show up on lawns as well. Giant dead blotches in an otherwise green lawn is topping the list for calls to our office, and in many cases, the culprits were grass mites.
Hatched in October, mite numbers increased during winter during warm spells. Mites feed by rasping off the leaf surface and sucking up tender, interior cells; the damage appears as small yellow speckles on the grass blades. As feeding intensifies, the grass becomes straw colored and eventually dies, leaving large patches that don’t green up in spring.
This damage is often miss-diagnosed as winterkill or desiccation. If you’ve had mite damaged lawn, take a quick look to see if they’ve returned. Check the base of the plant for congregations of them during the day.
By Carol O’Meara, Colorado State University Extension, Boulder County. Colorado State University Extension, together with Boulder County Parks and Open Space, provides unbiased, research-based information about consumer and family issues, horticulture, natural resources, agriculture and 4-H youth development. For more information contact Extension at the Boulder County Fairgrounds, 9595 Nelson Rd., Box B, Longmont, 303.678.6238, e-mail [email protected] or visit ext.colostate.edu/boulder.