Ever been on holidays just when your crop is nearing harvest, or worse, arrived back to find your garden withered and lacking? To keep your garden going while you're away takes a little planning. Here's our top tips for preparing your garden for your absence.
- Weed your beds before you leave, weeds compete for water so rid your garden of weeds before you go.
- Mow the lawns, mowing just before you leave means your lawns will be in less disarray when you return home, and secondly, you will have lovely grass clipings which make for great mulch to help keep your soil cool and moist.
- Stake and re-tie any plants that require support. You want to ensure any fruit that matures while you're away is held off the ground and not putting strain on your plants.
- Harvest anything that is nearly ripe, and if you're away for a longer period of time consider removing immature fruit which if left to mature on the vine may prevent future fruiting.
- This is single handedly the most important thing while you're away. If you have the time to forward plan, start watering more deeply and less frequently from the start of the season. This encourages plants to send roots deeper and means they'll cope better for periods without water than those whose roots are near the surface because they've always been lightly watered.
- The last thing before you leave, water your plants deeply and spread a thick layer of grass clippings or other mulch material over the soil.
- Watering plants while you're actually away can be done in a variety of ways:
* The most convenient way would be to install a water timer and drip irriagtion system, these can be programmed to turn on and off at select times, some can even be controlled remotely from your mobile.
* If you don't have a hose to plug into then you can easily make self waterers out of recycled bottles. A glass wine bottle filled with water, quickly inverted and firmly pushed into the soil will slowly water your plant. You can also use plastic softdrink bottles with a few small holes drilled in the lid and pushed into the soil to achive the same affect. Just make sure the soil is deeply watered before adding the bottle, and test a few weeks before you leave to ensure the water lasts for long enough.
* Indoor plants can be placed in the bathtub with about 1cm of water, the plants will absorb water from the base of their pots as needed. Pots need to have holes in the bases for this to occur.
* Water wicking - These work by placing absorbent cotton rope or twine into a large source of water such as a bucket and then placing the other end of the rope about 5cm into the soil near each plant. This will slowly absorb water and transfer the water to your plant keeping the soil moist. Make sure the rope is touching the base of your water source and is secured to stay there otherwise the wicking process won't work.
For water efficient tips on keeping your garden going during drought, check out our Drought Gardening article.