Your bags are packed, the playlist is ready and your out of office reply is happily switched on – it’s time for a summer holiday. The last thing you need on holiday is to worry about your garden at home, so here are our top tips for keeping your garden in top shape while you are away.
As gardeners, we become very attached to our plants, and that’s why the thought of leaving them untended over summer may give you a sense of dread. Thankfully, there are a number of things you can do to ensure you come home to a happy and healthy garden after a holiday.
By tending to these simple caretaking jobs before you leave, you’ll enjoy a blissful escape free from any anxiety about the welfare of your beloved plants.
1. Install a watering system
In spaces such as small gardens or courtyards where there’s a garden bed and grass, a watering system is the easiest way to ensure your plants don’t go thirsty while you’re off sipping cocktails. Set the timer on the system before you leave and it will take care of the rest. When using an automatic watering system, remember to check that the back-up battery is on and that you’ve installed a new battery.
2. Give indoor plants a bath
To keep your indoor plants watered, sit them in a bath or large sink. Give them a thorough watering and then fill the bath or sink with a few inches of water. This will allow your plants to look after themselves, though be mindful this only works for indoor plants that don’t require a lot of sunlight.
3. Put away loose items
Summer is storm season, so make sure you put away any loose objects such as cushions. Pull in any awnings and umbrellas so they don’t get damaged, and cover outdoor furnishings with drop sheets to protect them from the elements. It’s also a good idea to disconnect the gas bottle from your barbecue and leave it in a shaded spot until you return.
4. Mulch the garden
In summer, mulch is a garden’s best friend. It not only helps your plants to retain moisture, it also keeps the roots of your plants cool and adds nutrients to the soil as it breaks down. Give your garden a good long soaking before you leave and then spread a thick layer of mulch over the surface.
5. Place container plants out of direct sunlight
If you have planters, container plants or potted succulents, put them in a shaded outdoor area and give them a good watering before you leave. Your succulents should look after themselves and to keep all other container plants watered, make your own DIY drip watering system. To do this, fill an empty soft drink bottle with water and punch a couple of pin holes at the top of the bottle. Turn the bottle upside down, sit it in your pot and it’ll slowly water the roots – this may not look stylish, but it works! If you go away regularly, it’s a good idea to put heavy pots and planters on wheels so they can be moved easily.
6. Take down your hanging plants
Hanging plants can suffer without regular attention. Before you go away, take down your hanging plants and give them a good watering with a wetting agent such as Wettasoil. This will wick the water to the roots, helping your plants to retain moisture. Then sit them in a saucer of water and they’ll stay happy and healthy.
7. Weed gardens and cut back your plants
To allow your plants to conserve energy, cut back any dead or overgrown foliage before you leave and remove any weeds from your garden bed to ensure water goes where it’s needed. This will allow your plants to grow new, stronger foliage while you’re away.
8. Ask a neighbour
If you have a neighbour, friend or family member who is willing to look after your plants, try to make their life as easy as possible. Make a list of detailed watering instructions (remembering not everyone is a natural green thumb), group any potted plants together so they are in one convenient place and leave your watering can in a spot that’s easy to find. To say thanks to your helper, bring them back a present from your holiday or gift them a plant of their own.
9. Consider installing astroturf
In summer, grass requires a lot of upkeep and if you’ve only got a small space, it can be a lot of effort for little reward. There are a lot of quality astroturf products now available that require no maintenance and look great year round. Astroturf is becoming increasingly popular among people who travel regularly and need low-maintenance gardens and also with those who have shaded outdoor areas where grass simply won’t grow.