One of the most heartbreaking losses a gardener faces is hail damage. In minutes the yard can go from beautiful to broken. My farming background has prepared me well for the destruction a violent battering by small (or larger) ice balls can wreak on a garden, but for my husband it’s a completely new experience.
His resistance to losing it all to a big black cloud has led to some ingenious building projects in the back yard. Together he and I have engineered a few versions of prevention on the theme of screen protection for our larger planting areas.
The first experiment was a hidden roll of mesh tarp under the arbor atop a raised bed. We used three lengths of metal conduit – one to suspend the tarp between the uprights and two to create rigid weights along the bottom edges that both keep the tarp down and serve as a core for rolling it up.
Stretch cords and screw hooks keep the tarp down and off the plants. Similar cords an hooks hold the roll up inside the chamber when not deployed. This tarp has proved helpful for keeping hail out but letting some light, rain, and wind through. It is flexible enough to resist tearing and tough enough to take a beating.
Several smaller projects provide protection for our clematis and a couple of wall gardens. These versions are not as camouflaged, but are quite effective. They also utilize conduit but the material is a plastic mesh, much more course than the tarp we used on the ‘farm’. It is also rolled up and secured with Velcro straps rather than bungee cords.
When deployed there are cast-off tent poles, minus their shock-cord, used to hold the screen away from the plants, attached by zip-ties to the conduit at the bottom edge. The short poles rest at a right angle to the fence in modified conduit clips (not pictured).
A similar design was employed to protect the prize clematis. These photos prove that the system only works when you have time to deploy…the before and the after.
The initial design used on the first raised bed was also used on the second raised bed with minor modifications. They come down quickly, and even if we are going to be gone a few days the shades can stay down without damaging the plants below. One of the weaknesses of these screens as they are is that once the plants get too big, about halfway through the season, putting the screens down can do some damage as well. They are also easier to put down and roll up with two people, but given enough time one of us can do it just fine.
Now to figure out how to protect the big pots as well…
Submitted by Corinna Sinclair