Gardening » Keeping Your Plants Alive While You’re Vacation

Keeping Your Plants Alive While You’re Vacation

GardenDrip jpgIt’s the time that many of us take our vacation and it is the peak of summer heat, but being left alone for a week or two is extremely hard on your garden and plants. Hopefully you’ve planted mostly drought tolerant plants and you’ve mulched but our searing temperatures and unforeseen problems can set you up for disappointment, when you return  home. Here are some practical ideas for watering your plants while you’re on vacation.


Drip Irrigation

Drip irrigation may sound like an impossible task, but the process is quite simple and you can purchase inexpensive kits that basically pop together. Unfortunately, this is better done at the start of the growing season. It is more difficult to lay the hoses once plants are large and growing - but it’s not impossible. With drip irrigation, you can put a timer on your spigot and never have to think about when to water your garden.


Put a Timer on Your Sprinkler

I mentioned using a timer to turn a drip irrigation system on and off, but you don’t have to get that high tech. The timer option works just as well with a regular garden sprinkler. You may need a couple of sprinklers and connector hoses, depending on  your garden size.

If you tend to change the layout of your garden from year to year, sprinklers and soaker hoses can be a better because they are easier to move around than a drip irrigation system would be. 


GardenBottle jpgMake Self-Watering Jugs

I’ve never had much luck with this technique, but others swear by it, so I’ll pass it along for you to try. If you know what I’m doing wrong, please let me know. You can create your own self-watering system with old plastic beverage jugs and bottles. Poke the tiniest pin hole in the lower side of the jug. Place the jug in the soil next to your plant, a couple of inches below the soil surface. Water the garden well, then fill the jug with water, just before you leave, and it will slowly drip additional water to the roots.

Obviously you will need several jugs, to water an entire garden. But you can put one jug in between four plants and concentrate on the plants that need constant moisture. You can also use this method for containers.


Bring Your Containers to the Water

Most of us have several plants in containers, usually scattered about the balcony or garden. Move your containers into a shaded area and cluster them together. Near to the sprinklers in the garden. The will lose less moisture to evaporation in shade and grouping them together will allow them to create their own humidity. 


Water Bulbs and Moisture Retaining Materials

Sometimes you can’t move your containers or perhaps you have a container that needs a lot of supplemental water. Water globes and other self-watering gadgets (even Ziplock bags) are a good supplement. Be sure to water the container thoroughly shortly before you leave and then fill and insert the bulb. The water will slowly drip into the pot and can usually buy you about a week’s time, before the plant needs more water.

Another option for containers is to add some water holding material to the soil or even next to garden plants. Buried sponges, newspaper strips, even pieces of (clean) diapers will soak up excess water and slowly release it back into the soil. Bury or place the material and water everything well.


Time Share with Friends

Form a vacation watering co-op with one or more friends. Make arrangements to take care of each others garden while away on vacation. You’ll care for their plants while they’re away and they’ll care for yours, while you take off. 


Hire a Garden Sitter

If you are going to be away 2 weeks or longer and your garden will be unattended, your best option would be to hire someone to come in once or twice a week and either use the hose or turn the sprinkler on and off. Check with a neighbour’s gardener if they would do it.


Make Your Garden Drought Tolerant

Hopefully you have already chosen plants that can withstand a short period of drought. Drought tolerant, or xeric plants, can pretty much take care of themselves, once they are established. Of course, we all grow a prima dona or two, but it’s much easier to care for a handful of plants than a whole garden. It is well worth looking into. You’ll be surprised how many plants are considered somewhat self-sufficient, when facing drought.


Shade Cloth

Protect large portions of your garden by hanging shade cloth to diffuse the light. Shade cloth can protect gardens in the heat of summer. For temporary use during a vacation, you can always use old sheets, sheer curtains or old screens stretched across from a fence or hang it from a couple of poles, where needed. 


Keeping Houseplants Watered

Keep the blinds partially closed,while you’re away. This will keep the room cooler and the plants will lose less moisture. You should also cluster your plants together, away from direct sunlight. The evaporation from their leaves will keep the air humid. Soak the soil in each pot completely before leaving, so they stay hydrated.


Watering Bulbs

The same watering bulbs I recommended for outdoor containers will be really useful indoors. The commercially available bulbs are the perfect size for houseplants. Water the soil thoroughly and place the bulb just before you leave and they can keep your plants watered for up to 2 weeks


Make Your Own Self-Waterer

Use capillary motion. Make a wick with a cotton string, shoestring, yarn...  Thoroughly water your plant. Shove one end of the string into the soil, about 1--inch deep. Firm the soil around the string. Put the other end in a bottle or jar of water, slightly higher than the plant container. The water will wick from the container of water, into the soil. A soda bottle, 16 or 32 oz. size, should keep the soil moist for at least a week, maybe longer, depending on the size of the pot and the thickness of the string.

Keep in mind that the string can drip, on its way into the container. Don’t set this up on a good piece of furniture or near and appliance cord.


And Be Realistic...

Be prepared to lose a few plants. It’s very hot and dry and if you are going to be gone a week or longer, it’s inevitable. But it’s not the end of the world. When you get back and start watering and tending your garden regularly, many plants will perk back up. 


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