For many of us in the Omaha area we woke up early May 28th to a thunderous roar of hail. Depending on the location in town the size of the hail stones ranged from pea to quarter sized. Our back yard it was quarter sized and lasted for about 10 minutes.
Large leafed plants took the hardest hits. Hosta, rhubarb, lungwort, peonies, and more took the brunt of the damage. One of the first things we should not do is cut plants down to the ground. The best advise it to wait a few days up to a week to see what recovers and what does not. Peonies for instant need as much leaf surface area to take in energy for next year. If we would to cut them back now we would deny the plant the remainder of the season to take make energy. This could lead to issues down the road such as lack of flowers and smaller plants. However, those stalks that have been damaged (bent or broken) should be mitigated. Cut below the break and try to leave stalks with as many leaves possible.
Hosta plants look like they went through a blender and care should be taken as you start to assess the damage. Leaving as much leaf material intact will be the most beneficial thing to do. It will take a few days before you will know which leaves will make it and which will not. We often forget that the petiole (leaf stalk) photosynthesizes. It might look tacky but leaving the petioles will aid in the recover the plant.
Annuals that were hit hard from hail will probably need replaced. There are a few exceptions. Petunias and sweet potato vines usually recover from damage. However, impatiens, coleus, vinca flower, salvia, begonias, and more may need replaced depending on the damage and your level of patients. Vegetables such as eggplant, peppers, okra, tomatoes that were stripped of their foliage should be replaced. Stems that were damaged will be avenues for pathogens to enter and it might just be easier to replace than deal with a headache further down the season.
Trees and shrubs that were damaged should be left alone. All that should be done is to prune damaged branches that might be broken. If the branch has more than 1/3 of the bark stripped it will probably be a candidate for removal. Consult an arborist if you have questions or if you need to lift a chainsaw above your head.
There is some mixed feelings about the use of fertilizers after a major weather event. Colorado State University does recommend a light application of a low (less than 10%) nitrogen fertilizer. If in doubt you can skip fertilizing all together.
Spring has been educational this year and it looks like Mother Nature has one or two lessons left to teach. I just hope the next lesson is . . . a little more gentle.