Summer is a great time for vacations: whether you are off to camp for a long weekend, or taking a trip to visit family or friends you don’t want to come back to a disaster in the garden. With a bit of preparation your garden will continue to flourish and you can relax knowing the hard work you’ve put into the garden, landscape, and containers will continue to pay off.
To come home to a healthy garden you have to first make sure it is healthy before you leave. Check your plants carefully for any problems such as pests or disease and deal with it immediately. What can be a few aphids on a plant now; can become an infestation by the time you come back. The same thing goes for disease: remove any yellowing leaves, broken or damaged stems, and finished flowers to prevent mold and rot.
If you are growing fruits or vegetables harvest as much as you can before you go. Some produce, such as tomatoes, will continue to ripen even after being picked so it is ok to pick those that are almost ripe. If not harvested, fruit such as strawberries, will continue to ripen and eventually rot which can lead to other problems. If you will be away for awhile ask a friend or neighbor if they would like to pick from your garden: I would be surprised if anyone said no to fresh veggies and they might also be willing to give everything a good watering.
Mow the lawn before you leave, this will ensure it isn’t too high when you get back. I would also hold back on fertilizing until after you come back from your holiday.
Water everything well before you leave. It is a good practice to always water deeply and less often so that the plants roots grow down, creating more drought tolerant plants. Shallow rooted plants will dry out more quickly. Add mulch around plants to keep weeds down and retain moisture in the soil, resulting in less watering.
To reduce evaporation and prevent disease, always water early in the morning rather than in the afternoon during the heat of the day, or at night which can lead to wet foliage in cooler temperatures resulting in mildew.
Container gardens and planters can be a challenge while you are away as they dry out much more quickly. Always use a good quality soil when planting as it will help retain moisture. The size of the container will also make a difference as larger containers will dry out less quickly.
To help keep container grown plants moist, bunch up your containers, before you leave and place them in a shaded area where they will need less water and retain humidity, or place them in an area where they will be reached by a sprinkler. Don’t forget to soak them thoroughly before you go.
If you will be away for an extended period of time consider setting up an irrigation system with a timer. There are some easy to install drip systems and timers available at garden centres that will keep plants watered while you are gone. Drip systems are great for watering individual plants, or if you have a bigger area, you may want to add a timer to a sprinkler or soaker hose. Test it out ahead of time to ensure it works, and waters correctly. Ideally, plants need a minimum of 2.5-3 cm of water weekly. To check how much water the sprinkler or irrigation system is putting out, place a straight-sided can under the irrigation system and see how long it takes to fill to the desired amount.
When you return home, go through your garden thoroughly and check for any problems, so that they can be dealt with quickly.
A little bit of preparation now will make for a stress-free and relaxing get away, and when you return you can get right back to enjoying your garden!