Taking a Trip? Keep Your Garden Alive While You Are Away

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Potted plants can be placed in a larger pot part filled with water to keep your charge moist while you vacation. (Image: James Jordan via Flickr CC BY-ND 2.0)

As COVID-19 restrictions start to loosen in many countries, people are once again busy booking flights and hotels. Aside from arranging caretakers for pets, one of the biggest worries for travelers is managing their garden while they are away. 

It is best to ensure that your plants are in their best condition before leaving for your trip. Make sure to tidy up your garden by pulling out the weeds, clipping off yellow leaves, and deadheading the spent blooms. 

For drought-tolerant plants, you can water them thoroughly before traveling, and plug the drainage holes of any indoor flower pots. Then place potted plants in semi-shade to prevent unnecessary water evaporation. For those plants that need frequent watering, following these several easy tips will help keep your vegetation verdant when you’re on vacation.

Indoor container plants:

1. Water pool

Place your flower pot into a pot that is one size larger, and pour water into the large pot until it reaches no more than half the height of your planted pot, then place in a semi-shade. The water in the large pot will diffuse into the pot through the drainage holes at the bottom, which will keep the roots of the pot from drying out without soaking the upper layer soil. If you have a kiddie pool, fill it with a few inches of water, and you can place several potted plants together..

Please note that this is not suitable for long-term absences, since the roots can easily rot after being soaked for a long time. After returning from your trip, make sure to ventilate the plants in the sunlight to avoid rotten roots.

2. Plastic cover

Water potted plants thoroughly, then cover each with a clear plastic bag and put them in a shady place. Puncture a few air holes at the top and side of the bag, and prop it up with a couple of sticks. The bag will act as a mini-greenhouse and collect moisture, so any touching leaves are likely to rot.

The retained water formed by evaporation will collect on the plastic and drip back to the potting soil, making this an effective way to keep the soil moist for two to three weeks. Longer than that is not recommended, as poor ventilation can cause rot, mold, or fungus.

3. Water bag

Fill a ziploc bag with water and seal it tightly, then use a thin needle to poke a few tiny holes at the bottom of the bag. Place the plastic bag in the flower pot and the water will slowly seep out through the small holes into the soil. If the holes are too large, the water will flow out too quickly and drench the plant. 

For long term care, giving your garden scheduled waterings with a soaker hose on a timer may be the best solution for stress-free time away from home. (Image: Greg Pye via Flickr CC BY 2.0)

Outdoor plants:

1. Mulch

For outdoor plants, one of the best ways to lower the evaporation rate and keep the soil moist for a longer time is to place around 3 inches of mulch around your plants. This can control the growth of moisture-robbing weeds while keeping the roots cool.

2. Leave lawn unmowed

If you have a grass lawn, do not mow your lawn before you leave, as longer grass can withstand the heat better than freshly-mowed lawns. You can also spread old grass clippings over the lawn to create a natural mulch that provides shade to the soil. This not only helps conserve moisture, but also prevents weeds.

3. Watering system

If you are leaving for an extended vacation or are a frequent traveller, consider investing in a watering system or a soaker hose with an automatic timer. This will ensure your plants are watered at a set time and you can enjoy your trip without any worries.

Many people would be happy to do a little garden tending in exchange for fresh produce. Find a friend who is willing, and it’s a win-win situation. (Image: Christopher Paquette via Flickr CC BY 2.0)

4. For the Vegetable Garden: Find a friend to “garden sit”

While many factors make summertime ideal for vacations, it’s always hard to leave a garden that is in full production. Rather than coming home to overgrown zucchinis, bolted basil, and spent flowers, why not share your bounty with a friend? 

Most likely, you know at least one person who would be more than happy to get some fresh produce and a bouquet in exchange for a bit of garden care while you are away. Depending on your friend’s enthusiasm and availability, you may be able to entrust him or her with your main watering concerns. In any case, leave your garden in its best shape to make it easy.

Jot down some basic instructions, and be sure to go over the things you think are most important with your friend before you leave. With many fruiting and flowering plants, regular harvest ensures more continuous produce. By sharing your crop while you are away, you are more likely to have some good produce for yourself when you return. 

In the summer heat and blazing sun, many garden plants can quickly succumb to dehydration. If you follow these several tips, you can relax on your trip and come home to find your plants as fresh as ever.

Ila Bonczek contributed to this report.