ALL ABOUT SAVING YOUR GARDEN WHEN YOU LOVE TO HOLIDAY
You don’t have to come home from holidays to find the garden out of control, weeds invading garden beds, fruit and veg over-ripe and all of it gasping for water. With a little forward planning, your garden can be in the same pristine condition when you return as it was before you left.
There are quite a few easy tips to help holiday proof your garden.
BEFORE YOU LEAVE
Allocate a couple of days to the garden before you leave to really tidy things up. Stake plants in anticipation of how much they may grow, anything that may appear top-heavy such as large flowering dahlias or tomatoes. Lightly trim hedges and the dead heads of your annual plants. Water the garden with a wetting agent to ensure any rain that falls while you are away actually soaks in below the root zone. Don’t plant anything new before you leave, any new plants can wait in their pots with a saucer for autumn.
Make sure your entire garden is mulched, re-new and top up old mulch. Ideally, the best time to mulch is straight after a good rain or a really deep watering. Besides bark, wood chips, and organic mulch, Sugar Cane soaked in water keeps the roots cool and moist, by reducing evaporation from the soil. Spread it out 5-10 centimetres thick, keeping it away from the stems or trunks to reduce the chance of collar rot. By mulching the garden thickly you also deter the invasion of weeds in your garden beds.
An unkempt overgrown lawn announces to everyone that you are away, so a light mow is recommended before you go. Set your mower on the highest possible setting, if you cut it too low it risks scalping the lawn and encourages the lawn to grow too quickly to repair. A lawn that is left longer can easily go a week without water, but a lawn that is cut short may perish in the same amount of time.
Soak your lawn before you leave for at least 4-5 hours. Make the most out of every drop by using a wetting agent increasing water absorption by 50%. As a result, the product will allow your lawn to hold water for longer periods of time.
INDOORS AND IN POTS
Hanging baskets and pots are the first to dry out, move them to the cool south side, a shady corner or under a tree. Try a water spike on the end of a two litre bottle filled with water. Upend the bottle with the spike attached and reduce the flow to a slow drip, this should keep it going for a week or two.
Saucers really help pots survive a holiday. Give them a big water and ensure the saucer is full, not forgetting to remove them on return so the plant isn’t sitting in water full time.
Spray your sensitive plants outside with products like Yates Droughtshield or Agrobest’s Envy, which acts as sunscreen for plants vulnerable to being burnt by the sun or hot wind. These products also reduce moisture loss from foliage for approximately two weeks.
Hot summer days and a tightly sealed house increases the interior humidity which most houseplants love, but they are still at risk of drying out. Towels and a tub helps guarantee their survival. Plug your bath, place towels in the bottom add enough water to wet the towels and stand your pots in the water on top of the towels. This is great for ferns, palms, orchids and lilies.
THE NEEDY PART OF THE GARDEN
The vegetable patch is definitely the needy part of the garden and quite a bit of work will have to be undertaken to get it through your summer break.
Mulch, mulch, mulch and perhaps rig up a 50% shade structure to offer some protection on the hottest days of summer. Leafy greens are prone to bolting to seed in summers so a shade will help keep them a bit longer.
Before setting off, water your patch copiously so the plants can absorb as much water as possible. This will last a productive vegetable garden at least 3-4 days. However a week or more may require an automatic irrigation system, the drip system being the best for vegetables; sprinklers dampen the foliage and fruit making it ideal for fungal diseases to move in.
Collect any ripe vegetables and maybe half ripe tomatoes to prevent contamination from falling rotten fruit. Stake everything possible to avoid plants in full production buckling under the weight of the fruit.
Water your fruit trees deeply, mulching over the entire root zone, but not too close to the trunk. Thin the fruit early if the tree is becoming too laden, reducing the risk of cracking or broken branches letting fungal diseases gain entry. Net your trees as much as possible so not only the birds get to enjoy the fruit.
Battery operated tap timers are a cheap and easy way of irrigating your garden when you are away long term. You can set a start time, what days, how long they run and the ability to start or turn them off if it’s been an extra hot day or raining, either manually or by Bluetooth from your phone. They have an internal filter, multiple start times and are operated by a 9V battery which lasts about a year.
I would always suggest you fit a 25psi pressure reducer after your timer so you don’t “blow off” your system, so you don’t come home to a complete disaster.
It’s always a good idea to make an arrangement with a neighbour or family member to do garden sitting over your holidays. You can switch responsibilities when they go away. Maybe not to do hours of watering but to pop over to make sure there’s not water everywhere, or just for peace of mind. Encourage them to pick any fruit and vegetables to stop the ripe fruit from falling and attracting fruit fly and disease.
Come and discuss all your holiday garden needs with the friendly Barossa Mitre 10 Garden Centre staff and we can help you enjoy your time off with minimal garden worries.