I finally had enough.
The shredded vegetables. The waves of anxiety every time I’d see a storm cloud on the horizon. The months of work gone in a second.
I just couldn’t do it anymore.
So we built a circus tent over the garden.
A logical response, obviously.
Ok, so maybe it’s not actually a circus tent, but it definitely resembles one from the road.
(And it’s definitely caused more than one neighbor to do a double-take as they drove by.)
As many of you know, Christian and I don’t do anything small… and this is no exception.
Anyway, we’ve been getting a TON of requests for more info on our one-of-a-kind hail netting system we built over the garden this year, so here are as many details as I can pack into one post.
The Light Bulb Moment
Prior to building our crazy hail protection structure, my plan to prevent hail damage was dismal at best. It usually involved a mad dash to the garden with buckets and sheets whenever a thunderstorm approached on the horizon?
Needless to say, it was not only stressful, but mostly ineffective.
And if we happened to be gone when a storm hit? Then it didn’t work whatsoever.
After a violent afternoon storm SHREDDED the garden and murdered the trampoline last summer (2019), I told Christian I couldn’t garden another year unless we had some sort of hail protection plan in place.
It felt like I was playing Russian Roulette with my garden every year… I would plant my seedlings in March, nurture them for months, carefully transplant them outside, weed and water, only to have them randomly destroyed.
It was too much work to gamble on.
And so, we started scheming.
Initially we thought about hail cloth, which isn’t really cloth, but more of a rolled wire mesh. It can be a brilliant option for protecting your garden if you build a frame and stretch the cloth over it. However, due to the size and quantity of our beds, Christian wasn’t super stoked about building individual hail cloth frames for each and every bed…
I then started picturing some sort of netting that would be retractable.
I could pull it over the top of the garden when nasty weather was on the horizon, and pull it back when the skies were sunny.
Unfortunately, due to the size of our garden plot and our legendary winds, we ultimately realized we’d need something a little more permanent.
Orchard Netting to the Rescue
I’d never seen anything like the covering I was envisioning my mind, so Google and I spent some quality time together as we brainstormed our options.
Turns out, gardeners are not the other ones who fear hail– orchards are just are susceptible to hail damage, and orchard owners have come up with a brilliant option:
It’s lightweight, easier to handle that large quantities of hardware cloth, and won’t block too much of the sun.
And so we ordered this 300-foot roll of 17-foot wide hail netting from Oesco.
Building the Structure
“The boom truck will be here on Friday…”
As soon as those words came out of Christian’s mouth, I knew this would be no small project.
(Also. Thank the Lord for neighbors with boom trucks.)
Since we needed the netting to be HIGH, Christian decided to use old oil field drill stem (it’s 4-inches in diameter) as the basis of the support structure for the hail netting. (We got it used off of Facebook Marketplace.)
We opted for 1/8th-inch rubber coated aircraft cable since it wouldn’t stretch out and could be strung tightly from pole to pole.
Each end of the garden has 5 poles. We created two peaks and brought the two strips of hail netting together in the middle and attached it with small S-hooks. The idea is that if we get a large amount of hail, it will roll into the middle and fall through into the walkway of the garden.
And there are 2 sets of poles along the sides as additional support.
Originally we attached the netting with small metal S-hooks, but they tended to fall off during windstorms.
So, he transitioned to small plastic Christmas light hooks instead, with small bungee-cords on the side to hold it down.
So, Is it Working?
Naturally, this the first year in AGES that we’ve had hardly any thunderstorms.
However, our moment of truth finally came a couple weeks ago during a violent storm that rolled through.
(Actually, for a few minutes, I was more concerned about a potential tornado that hail… as there was a massive cloud rotating behind our house. Thankfully it dissipated quickly.)
While the storm didn’t produce large amounts of hail, it did dump a decent quantity of pea-sized hail for 5-10 minutes.
The netting held up like a champ.
I’m even more impressed with how the netting has held up in the extreme wind, as there has been plenty of that this summer. You can hear the wind whistling through it, but it’s held fast.
What About the Shade?
A lot of folks have asked about the shade factor, which can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on where you live and how intense the sun is.
This netting only provides about 17% shade, which I think is just enough to help diffuse our intense high-plains summer sun, and the plants have seemed to appreciate it.
Christian surprised me with the strings of lights– they serve no real purpose other than being pretty. 😉
All in All?
I’m super happy with this build. It took a little effort and some definite engineering, but the peace of mind I have when the storms roll through is SO WONDERFUL.