It’s vacation time. You’re taking a breather from work, but all the container plants, flowerbeds and houseplants you’ve worked so hard to plant and keep beautiful this spring are staring you in the face. How can you take time away from the garden without disrupting all the progress your garden has made? Here are some tips on keeping your garden going when you’re on vacation so you don’t return to find your vegetable patch ruined.
Tidy Up Your Garden
This is one of the first steps in garden care and how to take care of your plants while on vacation. Before you leave, make sure that your garden is free from clutter, too.
Pull out weeds, clip yellowing or dead leaves, and deadhead spent blooms. This ensures that your plants are free from any competition when it comes to water and will give them a better chance of surviving while you’re away.
Check for Pests
When thinking about how to care for plants when on vacation, one of the first things you should do is conduct a pest check before heading out. Look out for signs of aphids, slugs, rodents, and other hungry critters who might be interested in the contents of your garden.
Apply natural pest control methods like physical traps and barriers like mouse traps. You can also spray insecticidal soap and attract natural pest predators like birds and ladybugs.
Get Hip to Drip Irrigation
Head to your local garden center to stock up on drip-irrigation materials, mulch and a timer or two to connect to your outdoor faucet. Vegetable gardens and flower beds are the easiest to drip irrigate. Weave lengths of drip tape or “leaky pipe” through the plants and cover the beds – including the irrigation – with a 3-inch layer of mulch.
Shredded bark is excellent mulch for retaining moisture and keeping weeds at bay. Attach your irrigation system to a timer at the faucet. Set it to turn on in the early morning hours to reduce evaporation.
How Much Water Do Your Plants Need?
Ideally, plants need at least one inch of water per week. You can calculate how much water your sprinkler, soaker hose or drip irrigation system puts out with a rain gauge or a small, straight-sided can. Lay the can under the irrigation system and time how long it takes to fill it one inch.
Take Care of Container Gardens
Container gardens and houseplants require a bit more attention and planning to ensure you come home to the same beautiful plants you left. Your goal is to keep water loss through the leaves to a minimum by keeping the humidity high around the plants and reducing stress caused by intense sunlight and temperature. If you’re going away for a just a few days, simply give plants a thorough soaking. You can group them together to retain humidity and position them in a shady location outdoors or in the bathtub.
Container Gardens During Longer Vacations
A longer-term strategy for your container plants is to gather plants together in an empty kiddie pool placed in a shady spot in the backyard. Add 1 to 2 inches of water to the bottom of the pool. Plants should do well for one to two weeks.
There are several clever vacation watering devices on the market that use recycled 2-liter soda bottles as water reservoirs with attached plastic or clay cones, which gradually send water to the plants’ root zone. You can also simply use a plastic bottle, poking small holes in the bottom with a nail and filling it with water, then placing it on top of the soil in your containers. The water will slowly seep into the soil. Adjust the size of the bottle according to the size and water needs of individual plants.
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