How to: save your garden when off on holidays
We’re all going on a summer holiday - and the garden is staying behind! But with a little forward planning your garden can be just as lovely when you return as it was before you left.
Do you come home from summer holidays to find the garden out of control: weeds in the strawberry patch; the vegie garden a jungle of tomatoes needing to be picked; peaches overripe and falling from the tree, and newly planted seedlings gasping for dear life?
The summer holiday is a really difficult time to garden: it’s too hot, and there are many other demands on our time! How do we put the garden on holiday, when it’s gearing up for maximum production. And how can we holiday- proof the garden so it’s looking chipper when we get home? Here are our proven tips.
Allocate some time to setting the garden up to breeze through your holiday and welcome you home in good shape. Photo - Linda Ross
Before you leave
Before you leave allocate a day or two in the garden to tidy things up. Stake tomatoes and dahlias, weed beds, trim the hedges lightly, remove finished flowers from annuals and water the garden with a wetting agent to ensure any rain that falls while you are away actually soaks in.
Ensure the entire garden is mulched. If you need to renew the mulch, ideally choose a spare half hour after a good soak of rain or a really deep water. We like to soak sugarcane mulch in water before using it to boost its moisture-retentive qualities. Spread it out 5-10cm thick, keeping it away from the stems and trunks of every plant to so it doesn’t encourage collar rot. This mulch layer will keep the roots cool and moist and reduce evaporation from the soil. It will also help deter weeds from seeding through the garden.
Don’t plant anything before you head off. If you missed spring planting, any new plants can wait in their pots for autumn.
Leafy greens for those summer salads will need more shade than other veggies so rig up an umbrella for maximum protection. Photo - photolibrary.com
An unkempt, overgrown lawn announces to everyone that you are away, so mow before you go. If you plan to be away for an extended period, book a mid-holiday trim from a lawn mowing professional. Set the mower on the highest possible setting: setting the blades too low in an attempt to keep the grass short only risks scalping the lawn and will result in quick, uneven growth.
Hanging baskets and pots
Hanging baskets are the first things to dry out. Pierce one or two holes in a plastic drink bottle, fill it with water, then upend it in the hanging basket. It will drip water slowly into the root system of your plant and should keep it going for a week or two.
Saucers really help pots survive a holiday. Give the pots a big water before you leave and ensure the saucer is full. Don’t forget to remove the saucers when you return as most plants dislike a continually moist root zone.
All potted plants in your garden should be moved to the cool, south side of your house, or into a shady corner or under a tree. This will make it easier for a friend or neighbour to water them will help prevent them drying out in the wind and sun. Take care though, not to plunge a sun-loving potted plant into deep shade – find a dappled area instead.
Hanging baskets dry out first. An upturned, pierced soft drink bottle will leak water slowly. Photo - Linda Ross
In the vegie patch
Leafy greens for summer salads are prone to bolting to seed quickly summer, so they like a bit more shade than they do in winter. We grow mesculn salad mixes in summer that don’t go to seed as quickly as hearting lettuce types. Rig up a shade structure, shade cloth or old beach umbrella to offer some protection on the hottest days of summer.
There are products available now that act like a kind of sunscreen plants vulnerable to being burnt by hot sun, and wind. Look for Drought-shield or Envy, both of which can be sprayed on plants, such as maples and other fine-foliaged plants easily burned. This will reduce moisture loss from foliage for approximately two weeks.
Hot summer days and a shut-up home increase the interior humidity of your house, which most houseplants like, though they are still at risk of drying out. To guarantee their happy survival, place them in the bath on some old towels (don’t substitute newspapers for the towels unless you want to be reading them for years to come: newsprint will transfer on to the enameled surface.) Plug the tub and add enough water just to wet the towels. This treatment is great for ferns, palms, orchids and lilies. It’s not so good for succulents, which like to be dry, and African violets, which dislike humidity, so place them in a saucer of water instead.
Make an arrangement with a neighbour to do garden-sitting over your holidays and switch responsibilities when they go away. Write a list of what needs doing to avoid confusion. Encourage them to harvest any vegetables, fruit or herbs that need picking. This isn’t just good manners - allowing ripe fruit to drop and lay on the ground encourages fruit fly and disease.
Have a lovely holiday and safe traveling! (By now you really need to get those feet up!)