Summer is a time when backyard gardeners can enjoy the fruits of their labor, but it’s also a time when many of us enjoy going on vacation and seeing another part of the country or the world.
Unfortunately, gardening and vacationing are not the most compatible of activities. A garden requires care, and being away for a couple of weeks can mean coming back to a garden that is dried up, ravaged by pests or overrun with weeds.
Fortunately, having a healthy vegetable garden and taking some much deserved time off don’t have to be mutually exclusive. It does, however, require some planning ahead.
Plan and Care for Your Crops
If it’s early spring and you already know that you’ll be taking a two-week excursion in July, then you can plan your crops so that you won’t have too many vegetables maturing while you’re away. Although some plants do need to be planted in early spring, certain types of seeds, like carrots and beans, can be planted a little later. You can time them so that they’ll be maturing soon after you arrive back home.
Be sure to care for your crops and water them deeply early in the season. This will help a good, healthy root system get established, and you will have stronger plants that will be able to cope with less watering while you are away.
What About Watering?
Watering can be a challenge, especially if the summer happens to be a hot and dry one. Be sure to give your garden a good, deep watering before you go away, and use a mulch to help prevent evaporation. Consider placing long planks of wood between your vegetables after you water. This will help to ensure that the soil underneath them remains damp for as long as possible.
It is not recommended that you use plastic, as you want your plants to be able to take advantage of any rainfall during your absence.
Watering devices also can help keep your plants hydrated. Local garden centers often sell beautiful glass globes that allow gradual watering, but a wine bottle works just as well if you’d rather save your money for your upcoming vacation! (Watch the video below.)
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A Little Support Goes a Long Way
Before you head off for your vacation, make sure that any plants that will need support are properly caged or staked. That little tomato plant may not look like much now, but you’d be amazed at how much it can shoot up in just a few weeks.
If you have plants starting to bear fruit and vegetables before you go, it is advisable to do some early harvesting. Lighten the load of tomato and strawberry plants by picking early. Even if these are not fully ripe yet, it is better to let them ripen indoors (even in the fridge can work!) or give them to a friend or neighbor rather than leaving them outside to rot.
It is especially important to harvest plants like peas and zucchini – which if allowed to mature, will cause your plant to stop fruiting.
Greens such as lettuce are the most vulnerable when you’re away. You can try protecting these by setting up a shade barrier.
Garden With a Friend
Of course, the most ideal solution to caring for your garden while you are away is having a garden buddy. If you have a trusted friend or neighbor who is willing to help, consider yourself fortunate – but don’t assume their thumb is as green as yours. And don’t expect perfection.
Before you go away, take them on a tour of your garden and make sure they know what needs to be watered, and which plants are vegetables vs. weeds. Consider a bit of extra signage to help with their comfort level and be sure they know where to find things like gloves and hoses.
You should also let them know that they are welcome to any of the harvest that ripens while you are away. This will not only be a bonus for them, but it will help to keep your garden healthier, as well.
Finally, be sure to show your appreciation for their efforts. Consider bringing your garden buddy a small gift on your vacation and be ready to return the favor when the opportunity presents itself.
Now that you have done everything you can to ensure that your garden is cared for, it is time to enjoy your vacation. While your vegetables may not get the same kind of attention that they would if you were home, they are not doomed.
You can go away knowing that your garden will still be there when you return.
What advice would you add for keeping a garden healthy while on vacation? Share it in the section below: