Follow these easy steps to make sure your plot stays in good condition while you are away
It can be hard to go away when your garden’s full of flowers, fruit and vegetables. Make a garden maintenance plan before you go to save you stressing out about your ripening tomatoes or delicate dahlias when you should be chilling out. With prepartion, you can come home to a lush green oasis rather than a parched patch of brown leaves.
1. Get a garden sitter
The simplest way to ensure your garden is well cared for is to get a neighbour, friend or family member to look after it. Take time to go round your garden with them before you leave and point out trouble spots, such as plants near walls that will need watering even if it rains. Also explain that it’s better to give plants a good deep drench every few days rather than a sprinkling of water every day.
2. Water while you’re away
If you have plants in small pots, place them on a damp towel in the bath. Put a bucket of water on a small table by the bath and use a hand towel as a wick, leading from the bucket to the bottom of the bath. Standing on a damp towel, the plants’ roots will be moist but not wet, and they can suck up water as they need it. Plants in containers need water every day and plant food through the summer.
3. Sort out the weeds
By their very nature, weeds tend to grow considerably faster than the plants we choose to cultivate. Weeds are also extremely thirsty and will compete with your fledgling flowers for water. If you’re going away for a week or two, it’s important to make sure that you’ve removed all the weeds beforehand to give your plants the advantage.
4. Prevent potted plants from drying out
Pots will dry out at a slower pace if you dig holes and place them in the ground, rather than leaving them standing on paving or decking. Similarly, pushing earth around the base of pots as a temporary measure or even taking some plants out of their pots and putting them in the ground for the time you area away will prevent drying.
5. Add a layer of mulch
Although the best time of year to put down a layer of organic matter is spring, it’s worth putting down an extra layer just before you leave. Water is constantly being lost from the ground through evaporation. On beds and borders you can slow that process by spreading a thick layer of mulch over any exposed soil. Natural mulches such as chipped bark or cocoa shells will add nutrients to the soil as they break down. Or you could use your own garden compost made from plant cuttings and uncooked vegetable waste.
6. Move containers into the shade
Plants that are situated in the shade can last up to two or three times longer before drying out than plants that are standing in full sun. While this may seem obvious, you’d be surprised how often people forget to move plants into shady areas. Cluster all of your potted plants together in a shady spot, as this will help them to create a microclimate that is more moist.
7. Deadhead plants
Deadheading is an important task to keep up with in the garden throughout the growing season. Do this before you go and in a week or two they’ll put out new shoots, giving you bushier plants. Snapping or cutting dead flower heads can enhance the flowering performance of many perennials.
8. Reap the rewards
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If you want annuals to keep producing, pick as many of your flowers and crops as you can before you go away to stop the flowers running to seed. This means that new crops will be developing while you’re away and they will get more chance of ripening properly.
9. Set up automatic watering systems
This could prove to be a worthy investment if you go away a lot. Set it up well in advance of your holiday, so you have time to iron out any problems. Concentrate your system on window boxes, baskets and containers.
10. Give your garden a final soak
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The last thing you do before you leave should be to give everything in your garden a thorough drenching. Make sure that the water has soaked well below the surface of the soil by digging down with a hand trowel to check. This should give your plants enough moisture to keep them happy for a good few days.