How to holiday-proof your garden

empty garden hammock when owners are on holiday
It’s ok to leave your garden alone while you go on holiday – just prepare!
Image source: pixabay

It can be hard to leave your garden to go on a summer holiday when watering, deadheading and veg harvesting are daily jobs. There’s the worry that hanging basket plants will die, courgettes will turn into marrows and you’ll return to flower borders full of seed heads.

Finding a friend or neighbour – preferably another gardener – to take care of your plot is the ideal answer, but it’s not always possible. Here are some practical ideas for holiday-proofing your garden to make sure you both survive the separation!

Tidy up

lawnmower ready for use
Fire up ‘old faithful’ and get your lawn in shape before you go.
Image source: David Schwimbeck

Leaving a neat and tidy garden means you’re less likely to come back to an overgrown wilderness to add to your post-holiday blues.

Cut the grass and trim the edges – there’s little to make a garden look tidier than a neatly mown lawn. Thoroughly weed all the borders and ensure anything that might flop or be wind-damaged is staked.

Deadhead flowers to stop them going to seed. I’m always ruthless about this and take off even half-opened flowers, leaving only tight buds. It’s harsh, but far better that plants put their energy into new buds than flowers that will bloom while you’re away.

Water hard just before you leave – unless heavy rain is forecast.

Make things easier

plants in containers stored together to preserve moisture
Keep pots together in a group to make them easier to water.
Image source: pxhere

Grouping your containers in one place makes it easier if a friend is watering for you, and it’s less likely any will be missed. Pots also conserve moisture more easily when they’re clustered together.

If your pots need to survive on their own (without a plant-sitter), move them to a shady spot out of direct sun. But make sure they’re not protected from the rain by the house eaves. Standing them in saucers of water will help. Invest in some self-watering plant pots if you go away often.

Take down hanging baskets and put them in a cooler spot – a bucket makes a useful stand.

An irrigation system is ideal for a long break, particularly in a greenhouse. I also put plants on the bench onto a long tray, and fill that with water.

Harvest hard

pruning roses
Be ruthless with your pruning and cutting.
Image source: The Chatty Gardener

If you grow flowers for cutting, such as sweet peas, pick everything that’s ready, and give them away. This encourages the plants to produce more flowers ready for your return.

Harvest any soft fruit that is ripe and either eat or freeze it.

Pick tomatoes, beans, courgettes and any other vegetables that are unlikely to survive until your return. As with the deadheading, be ruthless. What looks like a finger-sized courgette now will soon be a marrow.

Again, eat, freeze or give away your harvest, although some crops, such as tomatoes, will keep really well in a fridge.

Encourage anyone who is watering your garden to help themselves – particularly to sweet peas and beans – as this will keep the crops going.

Think ahead

young lettuce leaves planted in a row
Time your planting so you have crops to come home to.
Image source: Dmytro Surkov

Summer holidays are often planned months in advance so it’s possible to work around them in the garden. I often delay sowing things such as annuals or runner beans to make sure they’re in full flower or cropping hard after my holiday.

Sow radish, spinach or lettuce a few weeks before you go away and as long as your friendly neighbour has been watering, you’ll have something to harvest after the break.

And, if you often go away at the same time every year, make sure your garden peaks before or after then. Choose plants – and even crops – that will be at their best at other times and the holiday separation won’t seem as bad.

The Chatty Gardener

Author: The Chatty Gardener

Cotswold-based, Garden Media Guild member, Mandy Bradshaw is also known as the Chatty Gardener. Passionate about gardening and writing, her beginnings are in football reporting for her primary school, and Mesembryanthemum planting with her mother. Winner of the 'Garden Journalist of the Year' in the 2018 Property Press Awards, she writes for not only her own blog but also newspapers, magazines and other sites.

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