Tips for watering the garden on vacation

watering can hanging on a wooden gutter
watering can hanging on a wooden gutter © Manfred Richter / Pixabay

Not sure how to get your garden plants through the hot season without water? With these tips around garden watering, your green paradise will survive the summer vacation.

Garden owners also like to take their annual vacation during the beautiful summer months. But who will take care of the plants during this time? Anyone who has a responsible neighbor with whom they get along well, can consider themselves lucky: There is no need to worry about the issue of watering the garden before the planned vacation. However, many amateur gardeners are not in this fortunate position, and in this case, what am I going to do? Nevertheless, there are a few tricks that will significantly increase the chances of survival of your plants during the hot summer months, in spite of your absence.

How to water your garden on vacation – The best methods

Mulching vegetable beds

To ensure that vegetables do not suffer from a lack of water while you are away, water vegetable beds thoroughly one last time before you leave and then mulch over the entire area. The soil cover keeps moisture in the soil by significantly reducing the rate of evaporation.

Rhubarb leaves, for example, are an ideal mulch material: they cover a lot of soil with their large leafs and can simply be left on the bed as organic material until they rot. You can use them for conventional strawberry beds as well as raised beds. Alternatively, if you don’t have rhubarb in your garden, you can use straw or regular autumn leaves from last year.

Improvised accumulation watering

Find a shady spot for all potted plants and then place them close together there: The plants may not grow optimally in the shade and in crowded conditions, but they also use much less water that way. Ideally, you should place several plants together in shallow pots and fill them with water to no more than the bottom quarter of the pots. Alternatively, you can cut an old plastic bucket in half for each individual pot and use the bottom end as a trivet.

If you have a garden pond with a shallow sump area, simply place the potted plants in it. However, make sure they stand securely, so the pots don’t topple over at the first gust of wind.

Improvised accumulation watering is recommended for an absence of no more than a week. If the plants remain longer damp, the roots begin to rot and can suffer permanent damage. This method is not suitable for species that are particularly sensitive to waterlogging, such as lavender.

Cut back your plants

By pruning your plants back, you reduce leaf mass and thus water loss. This measure is only recommended for plants that are appropriately tolerant of pruning and would be due for pruning anyway, roses that bloom more often, for example, can be pruned at any time in the summer, even if the first flush of flowers has not yet completely faded. In their absence, you would have nothing of the beautiful flowers anyway. But by the time you return, the roses may have already sprouted and opened their second flush of flowers. The same applies to many potted plants that bloom throughout the summer.

Use flower boxes with water reservoir

Special flower boxes that have a water reservoir at the bottom are available in specialized stores. The water is then transported by capillary forces with the help of several wicks into the potting soil above.

Such flower boxes with water reservoirs are not suitable to bridge a long absence. However, if you fill the water reservoir completely, your plants will survive a week-long vacation, assuming they are not in the blazing sun.

To further increase the water supply, you can also add a couple of large plastic bottles to store water: Drill a small hole in the lids with a metal spike and push the filled bottles sealed with it upside down into the potting soil, bottle neck first.

Automatic garden irrigation

A thoroughly practical solution is automatic garden irrigation. These systems usually communicate via radio with the valves that open and close existing water pipes according to individually specified criteria – sunlight, temperature and soil moisture play a role here, which in turn are measured by special sensors and transmitted to the automatic garden watering system via radio. In this way, you can have a wide variety of garden areas supplied with water according to your individual needs. Most manufacturers also offer apps for smartphones that can be used to adjust the settings at any time, even from your vacation destination. Many automatic garden watering systems cover their energy needs exclusively via the integrated solar cells. Excess power is automatically stored in a battery and then retrieved when the sun’s rays are no longer strong enough.

Using Ollas

Ollas are clay vessels used as irrigation aids. In Asia and Africa, potted water reservoirs have a tradition dating back thousands of years. The name olla comes from Spanish and means something like “pots”. Due to a special burning technique at low temperature, the clay of the vessels remains porous and permeable to water. When the unglazed vessels are dug into the earth and filled with water, they slowly and steadily release moisture through their walls to the surrounding substrate.

Prepare your garden optimally for the vacation

Of course, this means that you do not simply go away without any preparation. Instead, there are a few steps you can take to prepare the plants in your garden for an absence, creating a few days buffer in advance. This absolutely includes the following activities:

  • Dig and hoe the soil between plants thoroughly once again.
  • Water all plants thoroughly and abundantly.
  • Mulch the root zone so that less moisture simply evaporates.
  • Cut back what can be cut back.
  • Don’t be afraid to remove flowers and large leaves, too.
  • For crops, harvest what can be harvested – many vegetables and fruits are still ripening.

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