Leave Your Garden and Still Maintain a Vacation State of Mind

  • Difficulty Rating: Beginner
Leave Your Garden and Still Maintain a Vacation State of Mind

Ah, summer vacation! For most people, these words evoke visions of lying on the beach, a trip to a theme park, or simply sitting in a chair next to the pool umbrella drink in hand.

For gardeners, however, they can lodge a pit of fear in our stomachs which just won’t let go. In addition to all the normal leaving-town worries, we fret about weeds and water, and not specifically in that order. Add to this, three dogs, two cats and a flock of laying chickens, and you can see why I’m a bit concerned when my home is in my rearview mirror.


If I had my druthers, I would only travel in late winter when I’ve had all the snow I can stand for one year, but we have school-age children, so we often vacation during peak garden times. I’m also a writer, and I must visit other gardens for inspiration, so again, I’m on the road right when my garden is growing and at its best.

Still, just like others who vacation, having a checklist is one way to alleviate worry about flora and fauna so we can enjoy ourselves while we’re away. Here are just a few tips I try to follow:

  • Ask or hire someone to gather eggs and/or pick any vegetables or fruit while you’re away. Rotting vegetables attract disease and wild animals; plus, many plants quit producing if you don’t continue to pick. If you can, hire a relative to stay in your house while you’re away, or you can barter with a neighbor to water your containers while you’re gone, and then you water theirs when they leave for vacation.
  • Have a watering system in place. Make sure the person in charge understands it before you leave. Put all instructions in writing with your cell phone at the top.
  • Mulch, mulch, and mulch some more. The depth of mulch is determined by what type you use. Whether it’s shredded bark or leaves, salt hay, cottonseed hulls, or some other type of material, the garden needs mulch to maintain even cooling and moisture and help prohibit weeds.
  • Two weeks prior to leaving, plant anything still waiting to be placed in the gardens. Plants will then have time to get settled into their new home.
  • Grow plants native to your area and adapted to your climate. Often natives don’t require as much water as other plants.
  • If you garden in containers especially in warmer parts of the country, use larger pots which don’t dry out so quickly. Terra cotta pots, although beautiful, must sometimes be watered twice a day, and this is too much to ask of anyone. You may want to try fiberglass, resin or plastic containers instead.

Or, seek out some of the newer self-watering containers which have reservoirs you can fill before leaving.

Group containers together in partial shade and near a water source. Not only is it a great design concept, it also makes watering easier for your helpers.

Fix any broken or leaky hoses. If you use soaker hoses, replace older ones filled with sediment. Replace any y-connectors which are worn out and make sure you have a good hand sprayer.

After twenty plus years of gardening at my present home, my husband treated me to a drip irrigation system for my birthday. It was money well spent and the best present a gardening girl ever had. However, if you aren’t ready to purchase a larger system, use sprinklers or soaker hoses set to an automatic timer. Try to water your garden via zones to relieve pressure on your well and/or save city water expense. Of course, if you leave during a drought while your town is under water rationing, you will need to adjust your system to work only on designated days. Also, consider irrigating some or all of the garden with water collected in rain barrels. With the flip of a switch, your helper can turn these on for you while you’re gone.

These tips should take some of the worry out of summer vacation. Remember, we all need to rest and recharge. The garden will be waiting when you return.