The holidays are always the best time to travel and bond with the family but what about your plants? Who’ll look after your garden while you are on vacation? Going home to a parched garden filled with dead plants is every gardener’s nightmare. And for most growers, going away for too long could be problematic since they have no one to delegate important gardening tasks to, like watering or pruning. And if the crops are starting to bear fruits, it is much harder to leave for a vacation.
Is there a way to keep your garden going even if you are away? Don’t let your garden and yard work keep you from enjoying a well-deserved break. Care for your garden even while you’re away for the holidays with these tips:
Prep Your Garden in Advance
It always pays to prepare your garden well in advance before you leave for a holiday vacation. A day or so before you leave; keep your garden tidy and neat. Start by pulling the weeds in your garden beds. Prune your plants and remove yellow or dead leaves. Deadhead any spent blooms, trim the grass, water your plants deeply and use the grass clippings as mulch. Clear the garden and the yard of garden wastes such as broken branches, dead leaves, dried weeds, etc.
Water all your plants before you leave. Ideally, you want to keep watering your plants as late as possible, about an hour or so before you leave, just to make sure your garden is well hydrated. This goes especially for crops that are starting to bear fruits.
Since you are unable to water the plants regularly while on a holiday break, mulch around plants to protect their root systems from the elements. Again, use the grass clippings as organic mulch or try setting large stones or wooden planks between rows of vegetables. You can also use landscaping fabric to insulate your plants. The goal here is to cover a large expanse of the garden to prevent water evaporation. When applying mulch, limit the layer to 3 inches or less, especially if your garden is infested with slugs and snails.
Install Protective Cover-ups
The cold climate will be hard on some plants, particularly fruit-bearing crops. That’s why it is important to protect your crops from the elements before you head for a vacation. For plants with soft stems, like tomatoes, cucumbers, and peas, these will need additional support so install stakes and ties.
Stake and ties allow soft plants to stay upright even when they are heavy with fruits. The ties and stakes ensure that the plant fruits are never in contact with the soil. If the fruits are in contact with the soil, rot, diseases, and infestation could set in. Stakes and ties give the plants the support they need to withstand strong winds too.
Ideally, you want to harvest all the ripe fruits from the garden before you leave. So go ahead, pick anything that's ripe and store them in a cool, dry place that's away from direct sunlight. Some fresh produce will keep better in the fridge.
Plastic cover-ups will also come in handy when the climate becomes colder. The plastic film will insulate the plants while inhibiting water evaporation. Erecting shade protection is also recommended if the climate is still warm. This nifty gardening tool will protect tender crop leaves from burning.
DIY Self-Watering Globes
Got lots of thirsty plants? Some plants need more water than others and if your garden happens to be filled with thirsty plants, try making your own self-watering globes using recycled plastic or glass bottles. Make self-watering globes just before you leave for a vacation, it's easy! Just fill a bottle with water, dig a hole in the soil, and push the water-filled bottle several inches into the ground. When burying the bottle into the soil, you have to do this as quickly as possible to stabilize the water within the bottle.
Since the opening of the bottle is buried into the soil, the water will drain slowly, hydrating the plants gradually for several days. The water may drain away a few days before you come back but at least the plants are hydrated enough to last until you are home. This tip is best for potted plants but you can also try it with outdoor plants. If you’d like to check how fast the water drains from the bottle, try this out a week before you go. If the water drains faster than expected, try adding more water or using larger bottles to make the water last for several days.
Grow Crops in Pots
Plants that grow in pots are more likely to survive dehydration much better than plants grown in-ground. That’s because pots help the soil retain more water and reduce evaporation. Pots also minimize water loss through plant leaves. If you tend to go on a vacation several times per year, growing your plants in pots is better for your garden as opposed to planting crops in-ground.
Before you leave, set your potted plants in a shady spot, a place that gets some light and/or rain at certain times of the day. Also, it helps if you group the potted plants closer together a few hours before you go. Setting the potted plants closer together helps minimize water loss too. Just make sure the setup is balanced so the plants are getting enough light throughout the day but avoid spots that receive direct sunlight all day.
Use Water Storing Crystals
Water storing crystals will come in handy if you’re set to leave for a holiday vacation! Water storing crystals, called hydro gels, are made up of polymer crystals that hold moisture. These crystals could hold up to 600 times of their weight in water. Water storing crystals work by letting the dry soil absorb the moisture over the course of several days. These crystals must be added to your plants’ potting mix and are generally added during dry spells.
Water storing crystals reduce water stress among plants while preventing the soil from drying up. In addition, water-storing crystals protect plants from hot/dry weather while preventing over and under-watering. This product is often used to hydrate potted plants although it should work for plants that are grown outdoors too!
It also helps if you can find a garden buddy who is willing to look after your garden while you are away. But if this isn’t possible, just prep your garden in advance so you don’t end up with dead plants once you head home! Tune in for more gardening tips and helpful resources by subscribing to our newsletter.