EARTH EDUCATION: Uncontrollable elements

McClatchy InteractiveMay 12, 2008 

I was all excited on Friday because I saw a flower on one of my tomato plants.

That night we had a hailstorm.

I was actually driving when the hail hit. We'd been having thunder and lightning, much to my dog's chagrin, but it seemed like sound and fury, signifying nothing. I started home from my friend's place at about midnight, and less than five minutes later, the pinging started. Then it became thumping. Then the skies broke open, and I felt like I was trying to drive through Lake Michigan. Novice that I am, it didn't occur to me to be concerned about my plants; when I got home, I was just trying to get from the car to the front door without dissolving.

It figures; the first year I try to plant a garden we get the only hailstorm I remember hitting since I moved here in 2001.

The next morning I saw the aftermath. All the plants are still alive, but the tomatoes look sad. They have a lot of broken stems, or branches, or whatever they are. The flower is still there, and in fact, another plant has grown a blossom, too. They all seem healthy at the core, despite the missing foliage. We shall see how they ultimately do.

The peppers came through much better. They have a few holes in their leaves, but that's the extent of the damage. I even see buds on a couple of them, so I'm hopeful I might see progress soon. The raspberries - still unplanted, until I get a reliable soil tester - have a few ratty leaves, but came through like troupers. The parsley looks tragic. Again, I think it's still basically healthy, but it looks like a broken wreck, the Miss Havisham of the garden plot.

So, for today, I need to snip the dead bits off the tomato plants and the parsley. I also have to weed again. I'd like to get another soil tester today, so if I go to the garden store, I'll check out the seeds too. I still have two empty rows to fill.

Kristen Halverson is hoping her car isn't dented. Email her at

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