Summer travel plans can often wreak havoc on carefully laid garden plans.
Tending a garden demands a commitment of care; little and often. A little weeding every day, watering as needed and the deadheading of flowers to keep the show of blooms looking their best. Leaving on holiday upsets this delicate balance.
Here are a few tips on how to keep your garden going when you are away.
The short term fixes:
- Move all your garden pots to the most protected side of your house or apartment. Moving plants away from the greatest exposure to the sun will allow them to retain more moisture in between waterings, it will also protect them from gusting winds if storms are in the forecast.
- Take a little time during the days before you leave to cut back the flowers on some of your summer plants like the geraniums and begonias especially if your trip is for less than a couple of weeks. I do this so that the garden is not filled with floral debris when I am away and perhaps I'll come back to lots of fresh open buds.
- Make sure you stake and support plants that have a tendency to fall in bad weather, peonies, delphiniums, dahlias, tomatoes and peppers. It is heartbreaking to return to the garden and find favourite plants in a sad state.
- If you have a garden with a lot of plants to water it is well worth it to consider paying a local teenager to come and water. Walk through the garden in advance identifying exactly what needs to be done, arrange a fee, pay upon your return and make it worth their while, cash is better than chocolate.
- Invite your neighbours to harvest and enjoy your crops when you are away.
The longer term fixes:
- Add mulch to your beds. This can be in any form from home made leaf mould, wood chips and even a few new bags of compost from the garden centre. A well mulched garden bed will help retain moisture and keep your plants looking good.
- Think carefully about what you plant. If you know six months in advance that you will be away for six weeks on the trot in the summer, don't plant water-needy plants for the growing season, don't plant vegetables like courgettes which crop prolifically and should be harvested regularly invariably when you are away.
- With pots the bigger the better - bigger pots hold more soil which in turn will hold more moisture. With a long summer absence planned, wait until you return to fill your smaller pots.
- Consider investing in a water butt which will collect rainwater from the roof and can be used to supplement watering.
- As summers seem to be getting hotter or at least we seem to be experiencing periods of very hot weather, take a long term view of what you want to grow and consider plants that will survive better in hotter climates. Look for inspiration in mediterranean gardens rather than in northern european ones - however don't forget to also think of winter hardiness as well.
- Explore the options for an automatic irrigation system.