5 Tips to Maintain Your Garden While You’re on Vacation
We’ve all been there. From the green care professionals to the gardening enthusiasts to the average black-thumber desperately trying to hold onto the potted plant your kids gave you for Mother’s Day, we’ve all had the disheartening experience of coming home from a great vacation to find wilted, stressed, or even dead plants!
With the vacation season upon us, here are a few tips to help protect your plants while you are away.
Whether you are going on a weekend getaway, a business conference or an extended vacation, water management is often the biggest challenge for maintaining plants while you are gone. Fortunately, there are several things that you can do to keep your plants from drying up.
Moisture Management Applications
Moisture management products are used to maximize water use efficiency within the soil. One class of water management products called hygroscopic humectants, work like tiny water magnets that draw water molecules together to convert unavailable moisture in the soil into plant-usable water droplets. These products are not a complete replacement for watering, but they will help your plants thrive for longer periods between watering cycles. For best results, you should apply moisture managers a few watering cycles prior to departure so that the products have time to become fully active in the soil. You should also water your plants thoroughly right before you leave. Since travel can sometimes be unexpected, using moisture managers as part of your regular maintenance program will ensure that your plants are protected if you must leave at a moments notice.
Using friends, neighbors or hiring professional plant sitters can be a great way to help keep your plants healthy during extended absences. If you don’t have a resource that you can trust, local garden clubs or your extension office may be able to supply you with a list of qualified plant sitters.
Plant Watering Spikes and Plastic Bottles
There are several products and at-home methods for turning old water bottles and 2 liters in to plant watering tools. Poke 1 or 2 holes in the cap (or using the spikes), fill the bottle with water and turn it upside into the soil. Water will slowly drip through the holes to help keep plants hydrated. Be sure to bury the bottle deep enough so that it won’t tip over.
Bathtubs and Kiddie Pools
Potted plants and hanging baskets with holes in the bottom can be placed into a shallow reservoir of water. Reservoirs can be created using bathtubs, kitchen sinks, foil pans or even kiddie pools. Be cautious in using kiddie pools or other similar reservoirs outside. Heavy rains may cause them to fill up and drown small container plants.
Automatic Sprinklers & Timers
Technology can do wonders for keeping your plants healthy during your vacation. Even if you don’t have an installed irrigation system, there are several product options for automatic sprinklers and timers that you can attached to your outdoor faucets. There are even WiFi enabled devices that you can control remotely. When setting your timers be sure to check the weather. Remember that over-watering can be just as damaging as under-watering.
Combining plant watering methods with a moisture management application may be the best choice to ensure that you come home to healthy plants. Moisture managers can reduce the needed frequency of visits for paid plant sitters and can protect your plants when your neighbor’s son forgets to water as often as you’ve instructed. They will also improve the efficiency of water applied through plant watering spikes, reservoir trays and sprinklers.
In addition to watering challenges, it’s also important to consider pests and disease that may arise during your absence. Before leaving, thoroughly scout your garden for potential pest and disease issues and treat as necessary. Preventative applications will protect your plant investments from being destroyed while you’re gone, even if you don’t see any current issues.