Mulch can be a life (and plant) saver.
We take a trip up to our place in the mountains at least twice a year. On good years, we get up there more; but we never go without our tried-and-true spring and summer weeks away.
In spring, that's no problem. Even in Southern California, we can occasionally expect spring rain (especially this year!), and besides, it's comparatively cool - almost never above 75F until after we're back home (we usually go up in March). Our plants can generally hang in there for that week with our cat sitter watering once in there.
But in July or August, we can easily exceed 100F on any given day. Yes, it's a dry heat - but try telling that to my plants. Mine had very little to say to me the year I decided to roll the dice and give them a good watering ahead of time, with a planned soak for the day I got back. While my family was having fun, back home there was a surprise heat wave - 108 on the highest day. Very few of my veggies had survived by our return, and my hanging decorative basket was straw (I'm talking about the flowers, not just the basket itself).
So for my next vacation, I was ready. Today I'm sharing the tips I learned (the hard way) with you. Here are seven saves for your garden while you're away.
1. Get a Plant Sitter
Enlist in the help of a friend, family member or, yes, hire someone (generally, this will be very inexpensive) to come a few times while you're away and water, or if there have been very heavy rains or strong sun, to put up a tarp to protect your more delicate growers.
We have cats, so we ask our cat sitter to water (or cover) our plants. But if we didn't have any pets, we'd ask my husband's mother to do a quick sprinkling. Even if inexpertly accomplished, any help is help for your garden while you're away.
2. Check the Forecast
You can't always rely on a weather forecast, but if, for example, a freak early-spring storm is predicted, you will want to have a tarp or other protective system in place; if no rain at all is expected, you'll want to boost your various watering-while-away methods (see below); or if torrential rain is in the cards, bank some mulch in case of flooding and make sure drainage is adequate.
3. Get a Continuous Waterer System - AND TEST IT
Yes, I've made this mistake too. I purchased a continuous watering system (tubes leading to vials of fresh water) but I didn't bother to test it ahead of time, largely because I ordered it online right down to the wire of when we were leaving and I simply didn't have the time. When I got home, there was a clog in one of the lines and no water had gotten to two of my plants (and yep, they were very, very dead).
However, a working watering system is a lifesaver, so do invest in one or make one yourself, give it a test run the week before you leave, then fill 'er up and go have fun on your vacation without worry.
4. Put Down Some Mulch
Putting a layer of mulch down will help control weeds while you're gone (they're not getting sunshine through the mulch, so they're less able to grow), and will also help retain water in the soil. Mulch can make a huge difference and cut watering time and the number of visits your friend (or paid service) is required to do.
5. May All Be Fed
Time your fertilizing for just before you leave for your time away. This way, your plants will be fed while you're gone, helping to boost their resilience, growing power and maximizing their water and nutrient usage.
6. Set Your Sprinklers
If you have an installed sprinkler system, test it just before you leave to make sure it's running correctly. If you already have it turned on to automatically water, you probably already know that it's working, but if you only use it irregularly, now is the time to set it to certain days and times and to make sure all systems are go.
7. Get Home Early in the Day
If at all possible, time your return to take place early enough that you can give your garden a good, thorough check and a solid watering before it's too dark to see what's what.
We also water the morning we leave so that if, for example, we're gone Monday through the following Sunday, the only days I haven't personally watered and checked my plants are Tuesday through Friday.
Enlist in these 7 simple steps and enjoy your vacation worry-free!
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