Prepare plants for your summer vacation
by Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp
Getting ready for vacation can be hectic for any family. To make certain your greenery survives, be sure to prepare the gardens and plant life for your absence.
In general, remove weeds from the gardens and mow the lawn. Harvest as much as you can from the vegetable garden and share with neighbors or friends.
If you need to hire someone to look after your plants and garden, consult Angie's List by entering "plant sitting" in the keyword box. Many dog sitters also offer house sitting and plant care services.
To inhibit growth, don't fertilize and make sure to mulch the beds. Give the lawn a good soaking and make sure annuals, perennials and newly planted trees are thoroughly watered the day before you go. Inspect plants for insects or disease and treat if necessary.
If you'll be away less than 10 days, move containers to a shady spot where they'll stay cool. But wait until you've moved the plants to water them - otherwise, they'll be heavy.
To ensure your foilage receives the proper amount of water while you're away, enlist a friend or neighbor to help. If you use a drip irrigation system or soaker hose that isn't on a timer, show your friend how to turn it on and advise how frequently and how long it should run.
Or, establish a simple watering schedule. Group your potted plants and containers together so they're within easy reach of the garden hose. As a thank you, tell your friend to harvest produce as it ripens.
If your trip keeps you away for more than 10 days, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Move container plants to a shady spot. Trim back annuals - this slows growth, and smaller plants require less water. Consider a reservoir of water and a wick system.
- Cut back perennials and roses by about half. This reduces the top growth and, consequently, the plant's need for water. These plants will begin flowering again in a couple of weeks.
- If your trees and shrubs were planted in the last two years, make sure to water them before you leave. Most newly planted stock needs about an inch of water every 10 days until they're established, which usually takes three years.
Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp, freelance writer, author, speaker and photographer, is an Advanced Master Gardener and a national director of the Garden Writers Association. A self-proclaimed trial-and-error gardener, she also enjoys spending time with her dog, Penn, and cat, Cowgirl.