Whether you enjoy heading to a sunny beach, a lakeside cabin, or a theme park with the kids, summer is the prime time to enjoy some well-needed vacation time. But for gardeners, leaving home during the height of growing season can be a challenge. Going away for even a week could mean the difference between prize petunias and tempting tomatoes or a pile of shriveled could-have-beens.
Don’t let your flowers or vegetables suffer a horrible fate! Giving your garden the care it needs while you’re away can be easy with a little forethought. Here are some suggestions for ways to keep your plants perky while you’re away:
1. Get a Sitter
The simplest solution for vacation garden care is to find someone to handle the weeding and watering for you while you’re away. Just ask a friend, neighbor, or family member to pop over every few days and take care of things. You can pay them back in tasty produce from your vegetable patch, a souvenir from your travels, or simply by returning the favor during their next vacation.
If you can’t find a pinch hitter to manage your garden among your social circle, you might want to hire someone. Look up local landscaping businesses and find out what they would charge to drop by and water you garden a couple of times. You could always have them mow the lawn, too, while they’re at it, giving you one less thing to worry about once you return.
2. Irrigation Prevents Irritation
Don’t want to involve anyone else? There are plenty of ways to make sure your garden gets watered without calling in reinforcements. One of the simplest is just to install a sprinkler system and put it on a timer. Set the timer to water at a certain time every day (evenings are the most efficient time to water because it takes longer for the moisture to evaporate), and head off on your vacation without a care.
There are plenty of lower-tech irrigation options, too. If you keep a rain barrel on your property, attach a soaker hose to the tap and lay it down in your garden. The water will slowly seep out of the walls of the hose and into the ground. It’s important to water your garden well before leaving and to make sure the hose runs through every part of the garden. If your rain barrel isn’t quite full, you can always top it off before you go.
Another even lower-tech strategy is to poke pinholes into the bottoms of several plastic milk jugs. Bury the bottom few inches of the jugs into the soil next to your plants. Water the garden well, then fill the jugs with water. As the soil dries out, the water inside the jugs will slowly drip out, adding more moisture to the soil.
Or check out the Olla – an innovative irrigation system that uses clay pots. Read about it here.
3. Roll the Dice
If you’re only going away for a week, and if your area isn’t prone to droughts, you might decide to just take your chances and leave it up to Mother Nature. Many garden plants are pretty self-sustaining and can stand up to quite a bit of benign neglect. Whether or not you’re willing to take the chance will depend on what, exactly, you’re growing and how dependent you are on a good harvest.
If you do decide to let your garden fend for itself, be sure to water before you leave, and make sure your plants are all well mulched. Plants that are protected with sufficient mulch lose 25% less water than plants that aren’t. Be sure to give your garden a fighting chance!
Jaime McLeod is a longtime journalist who has written for a wide variety of newspapers, magazines, and websites, including MTV.com. She enjoys the outdoors, growing and eating organic food, and is interested in all aspects of natural wellness.