Gardens aren’t all that different from pets. We love them, and when we go away on vacation, they need to be cared for, container gardens in particular. Are you planning a summer getaway? Here are some tips for maintaining your flowers and veggies while you’re gone.
Fertilize Your Pots
Feeding your plants is essential, especially in container gardens, which leach nutrients quicker than raised beds or in-ground gardens. When planting, enrich the soil with plenty of good-quality compost. An organic granular fertilizer as a top dressing is slow-release and will keep your garden fed with every watering. Follow manufacturer directions for application amounts and rates, but make sure you do this a couple of weeks before you leave on vacation, so the garden doesn’t lack nutrients while you’re gone.
It won’t take the deer, groundhogs, squirrels, and rabbits long to figure out you’re away and decide to ravage the garden. If your garden is unfenced and easily accessible to unwanted visitors, automatic sprinklers will do the trick. Mixing peppermint oil, cayenne pepper, or vinegar into the soil may help keep pesky squirrels out of your containers. Netting the plants can help keep birds and smaller animals off the plants as well.
Top-dressing your containers with mulch or another organic material not only keeps things looking tidy but also helps conserve moisture and protect the plants from weeds and some pests. Cover the soil with chopped leaves, straw, grass clippings, or bark. Hazelnut shells, decorative rocks, beach glass, or terra cotta pieces from broken pots will add visual interest while also reducing water evaporation. Be sure to leave a small perimeter around the plant’s stem when top-dressing or mulching containers.
Place Trays Under Containers
Placing garden pots and containers on saucers or trays is a great way to reduce the need for constant watering while you’re away. Give the garden a good soaking right before you leave; any moisture the plant doesn’t take up will run out of the drainage holes and into the saucer below. This way, when the roots are thirsty again, they have a source of water to drink from.
If you have a lot of containers, Kevin Espiritu of Epic Gardening recommends placing them in a kiddie pool or creating a lined reservoir for them to sit in together. Fill the ‘tub’ with a couple of inches of water and let the plants drink; if the plants are extra thirsty, fill with another two inches of water and enjoy a few stress-free days away.
Choose Drought-Tolerant Plants
Choosing flowers and crops that don’t need a lot of moisture is a fantastic way to keep a garden while also conserving water use. It also means you can take off for a week or so and not give your garden a second thought!
If you have a large container garden, installing a drip irrigation system that hooks into a hose line is an excellent idea. You can purchase kits with everything you need in it, including emitters, line spikes, and pressure regulators. Buy an automated timer, and you can go away for weeks without worrying about your precious plants!
Select Self-Watering Containers
Selecting self-watering containers is an excellent idea if you like to travel a lot over the summer. All you do is fill a large reservoir at the bottom of the container with water, and the soil will drink from the bottom. If the tank is big enough, you can easily get away with some serious time apart from the garden.
Find a Plant Sitter
Feeding, watering, and pest control can all be handled by asking someone to come over and maintain the garden while you’re gone. This option takes all of the worries out of leaving your plant buddies while away on vacation. Plus, your plant sitter gets to enjoy the peace of your garden and maybe even some of the harvest!