Take Steps to Keep Your Garden Going While You're Gone
It's officially vacation season. The kids are enjoying a break from the books, you need a breather from work, and all the containers, flowerbeds, and houseplants you've worked so hard to plant and keep beautiful this spring are staring you in the face. How can you take time away from the garden? Here are some ideas that can help.
Get Hip to the Drip
Before you quiz the pet-sitter on his or her gardening skills, head for the local home-improvement store to stock up on drip-irrigation materials, mulch, and a timer or two to connect to the outdoor faucet. Vegetable gardens and flower beds are the easiest for drip irrigation. Weave lengths of drip tape or "leaky pipe" through the plants and cover the beds - irrigation and all - with a thick layer of mulch. Pine straw, shredded bark, such as Scotts® Nature Scapes® products, or even shredded newspaper and cardboard make excellent mulch for retaining moisture and keeping weeds at bay. Attach your irrigation system to a timer at the faucet. Set it to come on in the early morning hours to reduce evaporation.
How Much Water Do Your Plants Need?
Ideally, plants should have at least one inch of water per week. You can calculate how much water your system puts out with a rain gauge or a small empty tuna or cat food can. Lay the can under the irrigation system and time how long it takes to fill.
Helping Container Gardens Get through Your Vacation
Container gardens and houseplants require a bit more attention and planning to ensure you come home to the same beautiful plants that you left before vacation. Your goal is to keep water loss through the leaves to a minimum by keeping the humidity high around the plants and reducing stress caused by intense sunlight and temperature. If you're going away for a just a few days, all you really need is to give the plants a thorough soaking. You can group them together to retain humidity and position them in a shady location outdoors or in the bathtub. Another idea is to add Miracle-Gro® Water Storing Crystals to your plants' potting mix. They store many times their weight in moisture, and can help reduce the amount of watering your plants will need.
Container Gardens and Longer Vacations
Another good long term plant-sitting strategy is to gather plants together in a kiddie pool placed in a shady spot in the back yard. Add an inch or 2 of water to the bottom of the pool. Finish this off with a wrapper of clear plastic. Plants can live in this makeshift greenhouse for a couple of weeks.
There are several clever vacation watering devices on the market that incorporate recycled 2-liter soda bottles as water reservoirs with attached plastic or clay cones that gradually send water to the plants' root zone. These are inexpensive and work well for individual plants. With a bit of ingenuity you can enjoy your vacation knowing that the plants are happily taking care of themselves.