As we head into the festive season and the traditional time for most Australian households to take a break, I thought I would share with you some of the things I do to ensure my garden, and in particular my pot plants, survive when I am away on holidays.
I use soil wetting agents as a regular thing during summer for outdoor potted plants to increase water penetration and water retention. I use an off -the- shelf product purchased from either the nursery or hardware store and I have never experienced any detrimental effects. However, wetting agents have received some bad press over the last few years so if you have any concerns and would like an organic alternative check out this article from the organic gardener team.
So here are some of the things I do before leaving on holidays to ensure my garden and pot plants survive without me.
Going away for less than a week.
Indoor potted plants- water well the day before going away and move away from strong light.
Outdoor potted plants- water with soil wetting agent a few days before going away and then thoroughly water the day you are leaving. This has always driven my significant other and children to distraction as they would be packed and waiting in the car whilst I finished water the pot plants- but a girl must do what a girl has to do.
Vegetable garden- give a good soaking the day before going away. Build a frame over tender plants and cover with shade cloth, this is especially important for young seedlings.
Ornamental garden -water thoroughly a day or so before going away.
Going away for a week to a fortnight.
Indoor potted plants- Place all plants into your bath tub with plug in, fill the bath so all pots are covered to ensure potting mix is thoroughly soaked. Leave covered for 30mins to eliminate all air pockets, drain bath but leave about 3cm to 4cm water in the bottom. Re-soak when you come home before returning plants to normal spots.
Outdoor potted plants- move them into a shaded spot, water with soil wetting agent a few days before going away and then water the day you are leaving. I find placing a saucer underneath them and filling this with water can also help.
Vegetable garden- several days before leaving remove any weeds (they compete with plants for moisture), apply seasol and a soil wetting agent and apply 10cm of mulch. Then the day before leaving water thoroughly. Build a frame over tender plants and cover with shade cloth, this is especially important for young seedlings.
Ornamental garden. Several days before leaving remove weeds, apply seasol and a soil wetting agent and apply 10cm of mulch. Then the day before leaving water thoroughly.
Going away for more than 2 weeks.
All of the above before leaving but get someone to come in once a week(or on extremely hot days) to give everything a thorough watering.
For all out-door areas, it helps greatly if you have an irrigation system set up and even more if you have it automated and on a timer.
To make your garden more resilient to hot weather and dry conditions try to:
• Increase your humus content of the soil as it acts as a reservoir of moisture.
• Get into the habit of watering your garden thoroughly till the soil is soaked to a good depth to encourage deeper root growth. This is extremely important for lawn which will suffer during hot weather. Obviously, the depth of soaking will depend on the plant, for annual plantings and lawn soak to at least 20cm whereas for large established shrubs and trees you want a long deep soaking of about ½ meter.
• Mulch heavily, at least 10cm think -only ever mulch soil that is moist, so a good soaking before you apply.
• Apply wetting agents to soil that has become difficult to wet (Hyrophobic) and as a matter of cause apply to potted plants once a month during the warmer months.
• Apply seaweed extract (like Seasol) before an extremely hot day as it will help protect the plant.
• Grow your softer foliage plants like lettuce and silver beet in the shade during the hottest months.
I know this can be a lot to do when trying to get organised to go away but it does give you peace of mind when you are away and hopefully have you returning to a garden that not only has survived but thrived in your absence.
Happy Holidaying Kathy