Do you live in an area that’s prone to hailstorms? If you’re going to cultivate a garden, you’ll need to work some hail protection into your overall design.
There are few things as devastating as watching helplessly as your beloved plants get destroyed by falling ice grenades. When I first moved to the Laurentian mountains, I lost two-thirds of my first garden to a freak hailstorm in July.
Fortunately, we learned from our mistakes and can share our experiences to help others avoid these issues! Read on to learn about a few different options to protect your garden.
1. Hail Netting
Regardless of your garden’s size, what you’re growing there is precious and needs to be guarded. Hail netting is your best option for garden hail protection if your area is known for this kind of weather.
This type of netting is also known as orchard netting and comes in various sizes depending on your needs.
It’s translucent, drapes well, and is porous enough to let light rain and sun through, but not hail. As a result, your plants get all the benefits of life outside, without being at risk from frozen sky detritus.
As a bonus, this netting is a great deterrent for many airborne pests and predators. You’ll likely discover that your hail nets fend off cabbage white butterflies that would otherwise annihilate your brassicas.
Similarly, birds that would otherwise eat all the berries off your bushes won’t be able to get through either.
You’ll need to rig up a support system for the netting that can either be simple or extensive. It really all depends on how big your garden is and what you’re growing.
You also need to decide whether this will be a permanent fixture or one that you can quickly unfold as needed if a storm brews up.
Since this type of netting allows both light and air to pass through, many people in hail-prone areas just set up their netting like a permanent fixture. Kind of like creating a big play tent, but for their plants rather than their children.
2. Row Covers
If you’re mostly cultivating low-growing plants like roots and greens, you can likely get away with basic row covers. These can be any structure that can support netting a good couple of feet above the ground.
This way, your plants benefit from the netting without you having to worry about them being damaged or weighed down by the fabric.
As far as garden hail protection goes, these are an ideal combination of cheap and easy to rig up. You can create makeshift row cover supports with a startling number of different reclaimed materials.
In fact, you may have the means to create them with stuff you have in your shed right now.
I have row cover frames created from 3/4 inch cut plastic hoops that I bought down the road at the thrift shop. I’ve also made them with reclaimed empty window frames that I found in the forest, along with the frame for an old metal temporary shed.
The components don’t have to be fancy: they just need to hold the hail netting up and away from your plants.
Similar to the big tent mentioned above, row covers are generally fixed in place. I like to attach twine to them so I can tie lengths of netting down at regular intervals so I can roll them back and harvest veggies regularly.
Amazingly, these row covers also keep the local groundhog (Charlotte) from raiding my sorrel and purslane beds.
3. Burlap Rolls
I grow my lettuces and spinach on the northwest side of my house, which gets partial sunlight throughout the day. Permanent coverings over my plants would reduce their light exposure even more, which isn’t ideal.
However, there’s an easy fix for this: burlap rolls mounted to the side of the house. These can be unrolled in seconds for super-quick garden hail protection and then rolled back up again after the threat has passed.
To do this, create the framework as you would for row covers without attaching permanent netting on them. Basically, you just have the skeleton there as a support structure.
Then, if hail is expected (or the sky goes green and your heart drops into your shoes), you can just run outside and give the roll a good yank. Pull the burlap out far enough, so it drapes well over the row cover framework.
Make sure you either have heavy wooden blocks, stones, or tent pegs handy to secure the burlap in place. Hail also tends to bring high winds, and your coverings aren’t going to do much good if they’re flapping all over the place.
In addition to the tips mentioned above, there are a few other things you can do as far as hail protection in your garden goes.
For example, if you’re growing crops along a fence, you can attach hinged flaps on the fence nearby. If hail is expected, just unfold them and prop them up with sticks or poles to umbrella your plants.
In addition, do you grow an assortment of herbs and dwarf vegetables in small containers? Just carry those to shelter as soon as hail threatens to strike.
Here’s a tip: put those containers in a child’s wagon and park it somewhere nearby. It’ll look cute out in the yard, and you can also drag it to safety under the porch or into the garage if they need sudden hail protection.
I know firsthand how upsetting it is to see beautiful plants damaged by inclement weather. Hopefully at least one of these handy tips will help save your garden someday!