How to keep house and garden plants happy when you go away
You’ve worked hard over the last few months to get your plants growing nicely, so don’t let a few days of drought disrupt their progress when you go away on holiday.
With these five ideas, your plants won’t even notice you’re gone…
1) Make your own simple drip irrigation system
If you’re heading out on a long trip when a heatwave is forecast, this clever reuse trick could be an actual plant life-saver.
Round up a few clean, used plastic bottles, complete with caps. The essential idea is to punch or drill a few holes into your bottle, bury it in the soil next to a plant or clump of plants that will need an extra drink, firming in around the bottle so that the holes are well-covered. The water will gradually drip, drip, drip from the bottle while you’re away, keeping your plants comfortably watered at the roots.
Different making techniques can be used depending on whether you need faster or slower irrigation from your plastic bottle.
Tip: If you’re short on plastic bottles, ask at your local pub for their used ones
2) Do a watering ‘swap’ with a neighbour or friend
Fellow gardeners are often keen to share watering duties during the summer months, so why not ask around to see if anyone would be kind enough to take care of watering your patch in exchange for your tender garden ministrations when they go on holiday? Don’t forget to bring them back a treat!
Tip: Ask your garden watering buddy to come once or twice a week and do a really deep watering – this is less hassle for them, more economical in terms of water usage, plus most plants prefer it
3) Leave the lawn to fend for itself
Grass is much smarter than we credit. Take a look at the picture above. The brown patches are dead, right? Wrong!
After a couple of weeks of water-less-ness, grass enters a dormant mode where the blades above ground turn brown as the plant ‘shuts down’ and conserves its energy below the surface of the soil. Most lawns can tolerate drought for four to six weeks by maintaining this state. Post-heatwave, a little regular British rain brings the grass back fresh and green in no time.
Tip: Save water by letting grass do its own thing when you go on holiday
4) Move pots and hanging baskets into the shade
The smaller the container, the faster the planting mix will dry out in the summer sun, leaving your plants gasping.
If you know there’s a heatwave due when you’ll be away from home for a few days, you can help container plants get through it by moving them into a shady place, such as a side return or the gap behind a shed. Water well and think about covering the plants with a sheet of shade netting material, a plastic dust sheet or similar to further reduce evaporation.
If this isn’t possible, you can either:
>> Sink containers into borders or raised beds, so the lips of the containers are flush with the soil surface. When the potting soil dries out the plants will take up moisture from the surrounding soil, or
>> Group individual pots together to reduce the ‘baking’ effect of sunlight hitting the sides of your pots
Tip: When planting up containers, reduce evaporation by grouping several plants in bigger pots rather than planting individually in smaller ones
5) Put your houseplants in the bath
To stop houseplants potentially baking dry on a fiercely hot windowsill while you’re out of town, store them in the bath or shower!
Saturate an old towel or blanket in water and lay it into the bottom of the bath or base of the shower. Stand your houseplants on top and they’ll be able to take up water from the towel as and when needed.
Tip: Reuse ‘grey water’ collected from the bath or shower to water houseplants before you go