How to Prepare Your Container Garden For Vacation

water container garden while away

Vacation Garden Watering Ideas 1 loofah smallIf you’ll be away for a few days or more, your garden will know it. If you don’t have an automatic drip system for your container plants, the obvious solution is to call a friend and ask for help – ask them to visit every other day and give the plants a sprinkle – make sure nothing’s dying. But what if the trip simply has bad timing and your friends are unavailable?

I recently took a last minute, cross country flight to visit family.  Apparently all of my friends and neighbors were traveling too. I had one day to come up with a solution and set a budget of $40.

Ideas that were thrown out:

  1. Rig up some 2-liter bottles to hold water and drip slowly into my containers? These won’t work for situation because I grow lots of plants in grow bags – over 40 bags dispersed throughout my narrow backyard. We don’t drink soda or have bottles at home that big. If I’m away for 3 weeks the water will run out too soon.
  2. A lady from my local home improvement center suggested I use soaker hoses and leave the water on just barely –  “on a trickle”. I tested that technique and there was no way the moisture would reach to the end of the soaker hose with such low pressure. I also knew it was a bad idea because if the handle was moved somehow or the water pressure changed I would flood the backyard. Back to the drawing board. I now had a soaker hose as a result of the test and my plane was leaving the next day.

Vacation Garden Watering Ideas 2The solution: I purchased another soaker hose for a  total of two. Then added a timer with two hose connections. It was easy to program the timer. The first hose was set to drip for 25 minutes and the second hose was set to water for 15 minutes – one after the other. I arranged my containers so that the plants that needed lots of water were under the hose set for 25 minutes and the plants that needed less under the hose set for 15 minutes. I went over my budget by $10.

Result: Most of my plants survived. The sun was scorching and the weather was extra warm at home while I was away. The plants I screened by positioning them at the edge of the trampoline did better – avocado seedlings and seed starts.

Lessons Learned:

~ Shade more than usual. I would screen more plants the next time I take off again for more than a week.

~ More mulch. I had some leftover straw and that seemed to help prevent the containers from drying out.

~ Add time to each zone. The water from a soaker hose is not the same as a drip system. I put my rosemary under the hose that was set for 15 minutes and it was dried out.

~ Human involvement. I would ask a friend to check up on my plants at least once.  I have a big problem with asking for help but need to realize that someday my friends will need me too!

~ Position the taller containers at the beginning of the soaker hose so that the hose is not positioned like a roller coaster. When it goes up and down the water is not consistently dripping from the hose.

What’s great about being gone that long is your less likely to fiddle with your plants and they can be left alone to do their thing. Like these hydrangea and basil cuttings. I didn’t change the water once. They were left in the shade and I was excited to see all those roots when I returned. I may ignore my garden more now – in certain areas.

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