Gone But Not Forgotten

By Sharon Naylor

February 23, 2016 5 min read

If you're planning a vacation but are worried about how your garden will fare during your absence -- especially during a summer heatwave or a dry spell -- there are some steps you can take to help your vegetables, herbs and flowers survive while you're away.

--Know your plants' water needs. Some plants require frequent watering and some do just fine if their soil gets a little bit dry. Over-watering can be as much of a hazard to plants as dryness, so you don't want to overdo it.

--Water well before you leave and keep them hydrated. An About.com gardening expert says to give your plants a good soaking and then add a layer of mulch to keep roots cool and to provide the soil with plenty of moisture. "Mulched plants lose 25 percent less water than unmulched plants," so your smartly layered mulch, kept away from the trunk or stems of the plant, can do the trick until you return. She points out that if your plants are already mulched, you likely don't need to add more. Just make sure the soil is wet a few inches below the surface.

--Install a drip irrigation system to help you lay drip irrigation hoses throughout your landscaping or garden. You can purchase an inexpensive drip irrigation system at your local garden center. A timer on your spout allows for planned watering that keeps the water at the bases of your plants without sprinkling water on the leaves and flowers, which can cause mildew.

-- If you have a sprinkler system in your lawn, be sure to set the timer for regular watering that will take care of your lawn and garden plantings.

--Move your potted plants. Even if it doesn't look as good as where they usually sit, moving your potted plants and flowers within range of your sprinklers will keep them watered regularly, which is important since they don't have access to natural ground water. If you can arrange for your sprinklers to hit a shady area on your property, this is an ideal spot to place your potted plants so that the sun doesn't dry them.

--Use a rain barrel. Rain barrels will catch rainwater that falls way before your getaway, making it an excellent source of water for your garden. Attach a soaker hose to it and run the hose through your garden and plantings, including new saplings in your landscaping. The water will slowly come out, saturating the ground and getting to plant roots. A well-watered garden before you leave will be even better for maximizing this extra flow of moisture.

--Use water bulbs. Check your local garden center for water bulbs that you'll fill with water and then stick into the ground by your plants or into your potted plants. These bulbs are specially designed to release water slowly and as the plant or ground needs it, supplying a good supplemental amount of moisture to your plants and flowers.

--Secure all deer and critter netting to help protect your garden from any nibbling. Checking for loose edges around a surrounded garden can help protect your tomatoes and other plantings. Consider adding reflective ribbons or other visual deterrents to your garden, even if you don't use them on a regular basis. While you're away, they can be effective at preventing destruction of your plantings.

--Hire a garden-sitter. If you'll be away for more than a week, you may find it more advantageous to hire someone to check in on your garden once or twice a week, turning on the hose or sprinklers, watering plants and perhaps mowing your lawn. (And if you have a lawncare service, insert flags along the lengths of soaker hoses you've run across your lawn so that your lawn care workers don't run over them with the mower.) About.com suggests forming a garden-care plan with your neighbors so you can take turns caring for each other's gardens whenever your families are away.

--Time the planting of saplings or new plants until after your trip. New plantings need regular watering and care to help them take root and thrive. Exposing them to the trauma of dryness and heat can create a danger of welcoming you home to a garden of those new (and expensive!) dead trees and plants.

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