Going on holiday can be the most relaxing time of the year, but not for the unprepared gardener. Anxious about how their beloved plants are faring during scorching heatwaves and summer gales, gardeners can feel totally powerless during summer vacations. Painstakingly, they have raised vegetables and flowers from seed, potting on and watering diligently. It can be annoying and disappointing to seemingly abandon your garden at the crucial moment that is high summer. There are, however, a few precautions that can be made to ensure you peace of mind while away, and to ensure your plants have the best chance of survival (while patiently awaiting your return.)
A few are blessed with willing neighbours, who will complacently water during their absence (not to mention feeding pets and collecting post.) Others have the luxury of house sitters, who can be the temporary guardians of your precious garden. Although, lots of us don’t have green-fingered neighbours across the fence, and many don’t trust them even if they are. Phrases such as ‘but no one will know if this dahlia needs water except for me’ have been heard in the past, and Seedling Welfare Anxiety remains a prevailing issue. And I haven’t even mentioned houseplant yet…
Perhaps the most important consideration before departure is plants in pots, as these will ail the most while you are away. Where possible, ensure containers are in the shade, especially those containing plants which need water: such as vegetables and dahlias. This will prevent evaporation, and will prevent the plant becoming stressed along with depleting water supplies. Saucers beneath pots and drip waterers (either an upturned plastic bottle or a fancy irrigation system) will aid pot plants greatly, and allow them to make the most of all available moisture during an unprecedented heatwave. Grouping pots together will also help, as this will stop water soaking out of the sides of pots via osmosis. Terracotta posts suffer most with this, so pots made from plastic of galvanised metal are another alternative, and don’t force you to re-shuffle your display! If wind or rain is your main concern, then move your plants somewhere sheltered; under a pergola or up against a wall will stop them from toppling or becoming waterlogged.
Houseplants are similar to those in containers outdoors, although many such as cacti will survive a period of you being away. Drip feeders and waterers can also be installed, and by grouping houseplants together in spots away from direct sunlight water loss is minimised. The most effective way of providing plants, both inside and out, with enough water while away is to water just before you leave and immediately once you return. Most will forgive you for a short period of drought, and some houseplants even thrive on neglect.
It is also imperative to deadhead any spent or dying blooms before your holidays. If a plant is left to form seed heads, this uses precious energy which should be conserved for preserving diminishing water supplies. It is also not too much to give a liquid seaweed feed to any hungry plants in the ground, or to any in containers. This will give them a boost in growth, making them stronger and able to persevere more easily. Another idea to provide strength is to stake plants before they need it, in case of any accidents or high winds and to prevent any plants being left to grow at a strange angle!
Whether you go away for four days or a fortnight, when you return there will always be something exciting that has happened in your garden, whether it is a courgette that has ripened, or a sunflower that has opened. An optimistic gardener should look forward to this excitement and even enjoy their time away from their garden, knowing that when they return it will only be sweeter.
Although despite all this, there’s not much you can do to prevent missing your entire tomato crop despite only being away for two weeks in August. It’s practically inevitable, isn’t it?