Winter has come and gone and now that sunny holiday destination beckons. What about your plants, though? They won’t appreciate it when you’re off somewhere enjoying yourself instead of taking care of them. However, there’s no reason to cancel that trip or to make peace with the fact that you might be coming home to dead plants. You can have your getaway and have your plants thriving at the same time. Here’s how to keep your plants alive while you’re on vacation.
Get a House-Sitter and Leave Clear Instructions
If you’re going to have a house-sitter while you’re away, remember to give them clear instructions: not only about how much to feed the dog, but also how to take care of your plants. Show them where all your plants are and how much water and sunlight each one needs. Of course, also make sure that you have a responsible, reputable house-sitter in the first place.
Hire a Gardening Service
If you’re going to be away for quite a bit of time, it’s well worth getting a gardening service for that time period. They can take care of the plants in your garden, mow the lawn and do whatever else it takes to keep your plants in tip-top shape. A good gardening service will be able to identify problems and troubleshoot them.
Choose Hardy Plants
Some plants are more forgiving of neglect than others. Hardy plants can survive going without regular watering for a few weeks, so if you’re thinking of getting new plants before your vacation, consider easy-to-care-for indoor plants. They don’t even need to be succulents. For your garden, choose plants that are water-wise and suited to the local climate.
Put a Timer on Your Irrigation System
Whether you have a drip irrigation system in your garden or use sprinklers, you can have timers attached to them. You can then set the timers so that the garden gets watered automatically at certain times. Early in the morning or after sunset are best, since this will reduce evaporation.
Attach a Soaker Hose to Your Rain Barrel
With a rain barrel, you’ll have plenty of stored water. If it hasn’t been raining, simply fill it up with regular water. Then attach a soaker hose to it and run this hose through your garden so that the water slowly seeps out into the soil. Be sure to use some form of mosquito control, though, since open containers of water are one of the things that attract bad bugs into your house and yard.
Before you go away, give your plants a good pruning. Remove any dead or dying leaves. You may also want to remove buds and flowers, since these need more maintenance. Pruning your plants lightens the load so they’ll need less water and will be less susceptible to pests and diseases.
Hold Off on the Feeding
Giving your plants fertilizer will help them grow. However, while you’re away, you want to slow down their growth so that they can conserve water and energy. Stop applying fertilizer in the weeks before you leave, then start feeding your plants again once you’re back from vacation.
Nip Pests in the Bud
If you’re going to leave your plants unattended for a while, it will be easy for a small pest problem to get out of hand. So, check all your plants for signs of pests and take action to resolve the issue before you go away.
Applying mulch is a great way to conserve water, since it locks in moisture and reduces evaporation. The right mulch can even help deter certain pests and prevent weeds from growing. Give the soil around your plants a good soaking and then apply mulch to keep the soil moist. This should keep your plants going for a week or so.
Move Your Tropical Plants Together
Most tropical plants need sufficient humidity to thrive. If you move them closer together, this will help retain moisture and warmth. It’s even more efficient if you move them into a small room: for a change, having an extra-small bathroom is a good thing. Check that they don’t have pests or diseases, though, since these can spread more easily when plants are close together.
Move Your Plants to Better Spots
Heat vents, drafty windows and sunny spots can contribute to the soil drying out. Move your plants away from these spots to more protected areas in your home. In the garden, move plants in containers to a spot where they will receive water from the sprinklers.
Put out Trays of Water
Trays of water throughout your home will help raise moisture levels and prevent your plants from drying out. You can even fill them with pebbles, then add water and put potted plants on top, so that the plants can get enough hydration without being overwatered.
Keep the Indoors Warm
Very few indoor plants like low temperatures. Keep things warm enough for them by strategically opening blinds or drapes to let the sunshine in and warm your home. This is one of the ways to make your home more energy efficient, so you might want to get into the habit anyway. If you have to, you can also leave the heat on, although this isn’t the best way to save on your electric bill.
Create a Temporary Greenhouse
If you’re going to be away for an extended period, you can create a temporary greenhouse for each plant. Water the plant; then tie a clear plastic bag over the plant and its container. You may need to use sticks as support to prevent the plastic from touching the leaves. Blow some air into the bag to make it balloon around the plant. Moisture rising from the soil and plant itself will condense against the plastic and drip back onto the plant, watering it all over again.
Keep the Light Low
When plants receive lots of light, they photosynthesize faster and need more water. Slow down this process while you’re away so that your pants use less energy and don’t need as much water. To do this, move them a little further away from light sources like windows. Be sure to move them back when you return from vacation, though, unless you have chosen indoor plants that thrive on low light.
Use the Sink or Bathtub
Fill the sink or bathtub with a few centimetres of water and then place a towel inside. The towel will prevent your beautiful tub from getting damaged by the plant pots and will make it easier to clean the bathtub afterwards. Now place your potted plants on top of the towel. The soil will draw up the water to where the plant roots can absorb it. Be careful of doing this with plants that are prone to root rot, though.
Shade Your Plants
The summer heat can dry out and burn your plants, especially if you’re not there to water them regularly. The solution is to give them some shade. The shade cloth you’ve used to protect your outdoor plants from frost and freeze will do just fine. Otherwise, old bedsheets will do the trick. If you have a shaded deck, move plants in containers to this spot.
Use Watering Globes
Watering globes are gadgets that will do the watering for you. Before you leave, simply water your plants, fill the watering globes with water and put them into your plant containers. The water from the globe will slowly drip into the container. You can get watering globes at most gardening centres.
Make Your Own Self-Watering Gadgets
A cheaper alternative to watering globes – and a use for those plastic water bottles that didn’t make it into the recycling bin – is to make your own self-watering gadgets. Make tiny holes near the bottom of the bottle. Then press the bottle lightly into the soil. Just before you leave, water the soil and fill the bottle with water too. The water will slowly seep out and keep the soil moist. An alternative is to fill an old wine bottle with water and press it upside down into the soil next to the plant.
For water-wicking, you need a bucket of water and a length of cotton rope. Press one end of the rope into the soil next to the plant and let the other end hang down into the bucket, touching the bottom. The rope will soak the wick with water from the bucket and into your plant container.