When it’s time to travel away from home, a lot of people worry about what they are leaving behind. While some things may need simple solutions, others can be a real challenge. For gardeners, going on a vacation is never an easy task. Abandoning their plants even for a weekend can cause some damage to their year-round efforts to cultivate a healthy garden.
However, there may be some ways to prevent that from happening and return to the lush gardens you remember. Here are some tips on garden care for travelers every gardener could use before going on a trip.
- Make a list of things to do
Lists are great ways to keep track of your chores in the garden. If you don’t use them already, maybe it’s time to make one that will help you organize everything before leaving. Include all the chores in the garden, even the smallest ones, and don’t leave out anything. A detailed list will also be helpful for the plant-sitter although it’s best to give them a new one with more precise instructions.
- Ask someone to be your plant-sitter
A plant-sitter is a person who is kind enough to stop by your home and tend to your plants while you are away. Usually, this is a family member, a friend, or a neighbor but it can be anyone you trust to do this job meticulously. Think through carefully who you can task with such obligation since some plants may require daily care.
Even though a plant-sitter is doing you a favor, show them you appreciate their efforts. Leave them funny notes here and there they will discover while going through your garden. Alternatively, you can come up with a treasure hunt to make everything more interesting. Making fresh lemonade that will wait for them in the fridge the first they are a nice way to say ‘thank you’.
- Hire a professional gardener
Hiring a professional gardener may dent your budget, but it’s an affordable way to prevent any damage to your garden when you are on vacation. Ask your friends for recommendations or go to the community garden for references. You are looking for a person with years of experience and considerable knowledge of plants and gardening.
This can even be a fellow gardener enthusiast as long as they know what they are doing. However, avoid hiring people from Craig’s list or any other impersonal method. You are entrusting them with your property, so you have to make sure they are trustworthy.
- Account for the weather
Knowing what to expect from the weather will give you an advantage over garden care. Install hail protection, set up weather-based irrigation controllers, and build good drainage. These three things should cover both hot and stormy days.
Weather forecast is not entirely reliable so preparing your garden for any possibility may be a good strategy. However, planting your garden with the weather in mind is also a good way to prevent a potential catastrophe. Certain plants are more resistant to unfavorable weather conditions and some locations in your yard may provide a great shelter. So bear this in mind when starting your garden.
- Tidy up your garden before you leave
Leaving the mess in your garden is not a good idea. While tidying up may take some time away from packing, it will keep your garden safe from pests and destruction. Exposure to the sun can damage gardening tools and furniture, so putting it away should be the first thing to do.
Prepare some supplies for the person who will care for your garden. Collect rainwater in a barrel to serve for irrigation during the hot season and use the foliage for compost. This way, you will prepare your garden for any circumstance, like draught or need for fertilizer, when traveling.
- Run a pest check
Pest check is a must on your to-do list before heading to your travels. Pay close attention to signs of rodents, critters, slugs, and aphides since they can do considerable damage to your crops. Opt for humane pest control you can build all by yourself, like wire cloches and a fence.
Providing an alternative food source is a sneaky solution, so install bird feeders away as possible from your garden. This will not only attract birds, but also other animals like squirrels. A full fence and scent repellants also work well, although with the latter one — make sure it’s not toxic in any way. Garlic, castor oil, and cayenne peppers are some of the organic and natural ingredients for eco-friendly repellant.
- Weed out unwanted plants
Never leave weeds for later! These unwanted plants feed off your crops and take away their nutrients. Even if you will be away for the weekend, it’s still best to pull out weeds right away and not when you get back. Additionally, remove dead leaves and dried out blooms since they steal the water which can impair the growth of your plants during the high temperatures. Weeding is something you should do every few days, so doing it just before your trip may help your garden thrive.
- Set up regular harvesting
Those who have vegetable and fruit gardens know how important it is to harvest the plants so they would stay productive. Since you can’t do it, arrange for someone else to come and pick fresh produce from your garden. This is hardly something anyone would refuse and you will probably have people waiting in line to be your pickers.
Regular harvesting is vital to have more yields and preserve your garden. The same applies to herbs. The more you cut them the bushier they will get. It’s even better if you can find a person interested to turn your produce into tasty salsas, pickled food, and jams. That way, you can all enjoy a wonderful meal when reminiscing about your vacation.
- Try timing your vacation
Timing your vacation may be good for your wallet and your garden at the same time. Early bookings are much cheaper and you can secure days off work if arranged months ahead. This will allow you to control when your plants will bear fruit or bloom.
If you live in an area with expressive seasons, like winter and rainy weather, you may have to plan your vacation based on what you grow in your garden. In the end, why not wait to harvest your efforts and then have a peaceful vacation after such hard work. Maybe even take some produce with you to nibble on your trip.
- Equip the plant-sitter with right tools
There are two types of people you can leave in charge of your plants: an experienced gardener and a person clueless about gardening. The latter may need some detailed instructions on how to care for the plants, as well as which tools to use. Start with equipping your garden with easy-to-use gardening tools, like Hoselink hose reel, that will help them do the job without a hitch.
All gardening tools and equipment should be neatly put away in one place so your plant-sitter can find them straight away. Before you go on your trip, have them come over and explain where they can find supplies, tools, and what to pay attention to when tending to your garden. Some plants may require special care, so leave them specific notes about that in a visible spot. Turning instructions into labels and sticking them by the plants is a good start.
- Install an automatic watering system
It will cost you a little extra, but installing an automatic watering system is always the right thing to do. It will ensure your garden is well-hydrated and you won’t have to depend on anyone to water your plants. A drip irrigation system is easy to use and inexpensive with a timer that you place on your spigot.
In the end, if you don’t feel comfortable with an automatic watering system, you can hire professionals. There are probably a few watering services in your area that will make sure your garden is not thirsty in their care.
- Make and use self-watering jugs
If you get travel jitters, here is a relaxing DIY project for you: making of self-watering jugs. Don’t throw away soda, water, and milk jugs since they are the main part of crafting a watering system. Make a few holes in their bottoms and fill them with water to the top. Place them a few feet from each other in your garden with bottoms down so that the water can slowly drip into the soil.
Another way requires little more work but is equally efficient. Use plastic bottles, scissors, a screwdriver, and nylon parachute or any other absorbent cord. Fill the bottle with water and place it by the plant with the top up. Insert one side of the cord of appropriate length into the bottle to the bottom. Then burry the other side of the cord several inches in the soil with a screwdriver. This will keep your plants hydrated enough until your return.
- Do some mulching
Applying mulch is one of the easiest ways to leave your plants well taken care of. Use mulch made from organic materials, like leaves, kitchen scraps, bark, sawdust, shredded newspaper, and wool. Spread it all over the soil to keep the moisture in, reduce weed, and fertilize your garden.
Mulching is best done after watering so all the water stays in the ground so this is another task to do before leaving. This will also protect your plants from the high and low temperatures, so you can use it in the colder weather as well.
- Don’t mow the grass
It’s best to wait with mowing your grass until you come home. Short grass requires frequent watering and you will do your garden a disservice by trimming it before your travels. Instead, soak your lawn as much as possible and leave it like that. This is especially recommended during summer since long grass thrives better during dry conditions than shorter ones.
If you will be traveling for a while, it’s a good idea to try some of these tips on garden care to keep your plants alive while away. It’s a big help to have someone come over and tend to your plants, but that’s not always an option. This guide covers such a situation as well with some useful gardening tricks you can have in place even when you are not going anywhere. After all, nature thrives best when you give it a little independence.