How to Keep Your Garden Happy While You Are on Vacation
Your garden is flourishing—and then you're off to Florida for a week. Here are some easy ways to make sure your plants survive while you’re away on vacation.
There are few things as satisfying as watching your garden change through the growing season and enjoying the literal fruits of your labor. Gardens take a lot of work and require consistent care and attention. This effort must continue, even if you’re out of town.
You can still get away for a vacation without worrying about your garden, though, provided you put the right measures in place before you depart. Instead of letting your garden wither from neglect, implement plans to keep your garden happy while you’re on vacation.
1. Clean Your Garden
Before leaving on a trip, spend some time tidying up your garden. Pull any weeds, deadhead blooms that are past their prime, pick anything that’s ripe, and tend to plants that show signs of damage from aphids or other pests. If your garden plants are healthy when you leave, they are better equipped to deal with a few days of stress or an altered care schedule.
2. Mulch Around Plants
In general, the biggest issue gardeners face when going on vacation is helping the soil in the garden stay moist. Adding about a 3-inch layer of mulch protects your soil from the sun, regulates its temperature, and helps prevent excess evaporation.
There is such a thing as too much mulch, however—it’s a material that slugs and snails seem to prefer due to its moisture. Also, keep mulch from piling up against the trunks of trees or main stems of shrubs.
3. Water Deeply
The last thing you should do before going on vacation is to give all of your plants a deep watering, which helps their roots grow deeper and stronger. Giving your garden about 2 inches of water should be all they need if you’re just going away for a long weekend. If you’re away for longer (or during a heat wave), find additional watering methods to keep your plants happy.
4. Set Up Sprinkler Timers and Drip Hoses
One sure way to get peace of mind when you’re on vacation is to install a sprinkler timer. With devices like the Gilmour Electronic Water Timer, the top electronic option in our guide to the best hose timers, you schedule your hose or sprinkler to turn on and off automatically before you leave on your trip. With two hose connections, the timer makes it easy to water multiple zones.
Pair the sprinkler timer with a drip hose, such as the H2O Works Heavy Duty Flat Soaker Hose, which was found to be the most durable in our guide to the best soaker hoses. Together, the timer plus the hose should give every inch of your garden gets the water it needs while you’re away.
5. Implement Pest Control Methods
If you’ve been living at the same home for a while, you’re likely aware of which pests to look out for in your garden. From insects to rodents and deer, there are always plenty of creatures about who’d like to get into your garden beds. If you don’t take measures against them, your garden might be ransacked by the time you come home from vacation.
One thing you can try to do to guard against a decimated garden is set up motion-sensor lights or ultrasonic repellents. The Mostatto mole repellent was the top pick in our guide to the best ultrasonic pest repellents, and it runs on solar power. You might also choose to release beneficial insects like ladybugs, surround your garden with mesh fencing, hang fragrant soap among your plants, or take other pest control measures based on the bugs and critters you see most often.
6. Call in Neighbor Favors
Partner up with other gardeners in your neighborhood and offer to tend to each other’s plants during vacations or business trips. Give them a tour of your garden beds, and provide written instructions for watering and plant care, including any deadheading or pest control that might be required.
Depending on how long you will be away, offer to give them any produce that ripens in your absence, and they’re likely to do the same when they go on vacation. Also, it’s always a nice gesture to bring them back a small thank-you gift so they’ll be happy to tend to your gardens again in the future.
7. Group Container Plants in a Shady Area
One great thing about container gardens is that they’re portable. A drawback to container gardening is the speed at which the containers dry out and need more watering. If you have crops in pots, relocate them to a shadier area of your property and group them together. Grouping pots near each other makes it easier for plant-sitters to water them—plus, it creates a damper microclimate and reduces water loss (it helps if you mulch them too!).
8. Install a Temporary Greenhouse
Greenhouses help plants stay moist by slowing evaporation. These plastic covers collect condensation, which drips back into the soil. Some greenhouses can even deter pests.
If you have large plastic bags and stakes laying around, you can create a temporary DIY greenhouse. Cover a plant with a large plastic bag, making sure the plastic reaches the soil on all surrounding sides, and use the stakes to keep the plant leaves from touching the plastic. Otherwise, the leaves can rot as condensation forms. If this is too much work, consider purchasing a mini pop-up greenhouse, like this budget pick in our guide to the best compact greenhouses.
9. Stake and Tie Veggie Plants
It seems like gardens explode with growth in the blink of an eye. Squash plants take over entire garden beds, while peas and tomato plants grow incredibly fast. Many other edible plants need a little support for the fruit and vegetables to mature.
Preemptively stake and tie these types of plants before you go on vacation, even if they’re not big enough to climb the trellises you provide. It’s best to have these structures in place early than to come home to a garden bed of produce lying on the ground.
10. DIY, Buy, or Upcycle a Water Globe
Water globes are containers filled with water that have long, thin necks. They’re easy to use: Invert them so the neck of the device goes into the soil and plunges deep enough for the globe to stay in place. The design uses physics, limiting the rate in which water leaves the globe while preventing air from entering. Depending on the size of the globe, type of soil, and type of plant, a water globe can provide water to plants for up to 2 weeks.
An easy DIY version of a water globe is to use an empty wine bottle. Water your garden, then plant an upside-down glass wine bottle full of water for every 4 to 6 square feet of your garden. No wine bottles? You can try using this Wyndham House water globe set from Amazon instead.
11. Hire a Company or Individual
Some gardeners spend a lot of time and money growing the perfect plot every year. Gardens that have specialized needs or particular watering schedules will likely get the best care from a landscaping professional.
Hiring a local landscaper or mom-and-pop gardening business can ensure your lawn and garden are cared for while you are away on vacation. Though this option costs more money than others on this list, it’s one way to give your plants the full attention they need, even when you’re miles away.