Preview: This post shares tips and tricks to maintain a garden while on vacation.
Your garden is looking great. The squash is coming in, tomatoes are blooming, you even have a few green beans ready to pick. But it’s time for your yearly vacation. How can you keep your garden growing while you’re away? Keep reading for ways to maintain a garden on vacation.
The two biggest problems with going on vacation when you garden are keeping a garden watered and picking the produce. The obvious solution is to have someone come check your garden and water it once or twice a week and pick the produce. Depending on where you live, this can be easy or difficult. Many times, someone who doesn’t garden, would be more than happy to come and collect your veggies while you are away. However if you don’t have neighbors nearby or someone you feel comfortable asking to help, what do you do?
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Picking the Produce
A neighbor or friend that can pick the produce (and use it) is always my first choice for maintaining my garden while on vacation. This might even be a great temporary summer job for a local teenager. You could pay them a small amount to pick and water the garden. In turn, they collect the produce and use it, sell it, or give it away. Perfect for an aspiring cook or entreprenuer.
Another option is to barter time with a fellow gardener. You pick their garden while they are on vacation and they tend your garden while you are away. This is also an excellent way to get enough produce to put up (freeze, can, or dehydrate) for the winter. Another benefit to bartering is that you may be able to try some new varieties of vegetables that you might want to grow next year.
If you don’t have anyone who will come pick the produce, you might just have to let your garden be. Pick all the produce before you leave, even vegetables that are slightly small. Either give the produce away or take it with you if you will be cooking on vacation. Just be prepared for a bit of extra work upon your return. Most plants will continue producing as long as the vegetables don’t get too big and start to go to seed.
Watering the Garden
The best tactic to keeping your garden from drying out while you are on vacation is to put down mulch. Whether you use wood chips, newspapers, grass clippings, or even black plastic, using mulch will keep water from evaporating as fast.
Watering Systems to Maintain Your Garden
There are several watering systems on the market that can help keep your plants in great condition while you are gone.
If you have plants in containers, consider watering them well and moving them into the shade. This may slow production of your vegetables and your plants may even get a bit leggy, but it will help conserve moisture. Topping the containers off with a layer of mulch will help reduce moisture loss too. You can even purchase self watering kits that can be used in existing containers if you are going to be gone on an extended vacation.
If you have an automatic sprinkler system in your garden, watering while you are away shouldn’t be an issue. It would still be a good idea to have someone check on it occasionally. Hoses do break, and you don’t want your garden flooded and water wasted (plus a huge water bill or a dry well) while you are gone.
If you don’t have an automatic sprinkler system, but wish you did, you can purchase a timer and a soaker hose. This is probably the quickest and least expensive way to keep your garden watered if you can’t get someone to water it for you.
If possible, place the hose under the mulch. It will keep all the moisture at plant level instead of losing some of it to evaporation. However, if all you have time to do is lay out the hose and set up the timer, it is still better than nothing. (I get it. It’s always a busy time getting ready for vacation.)
Before You Leave For Vacation
Whether or not you have someone to maintain your garden while on vacation, before you leave, water everything deeply. If you are only going to be gone 3 or 4 days, your garden should be fine. Most well established plants will easily make it a week if they are heavily mulched. We were gone on vacation for two weeks one year with no rainfall. I had someone picking the produce, but no one watered at all. My garden that was planted in black plastic was just fine when we returned.
A Tip About New Seedlings
One thing worth mentioning: I definitely don’t recommend putting out new seedlings before leaving on vacation. Older more established plants will fare much better in your garden than brand new transplants. If you have new plants, see if you can take them to a neighbor’s house to water them while you are away.
When You Return Home After Vacation
When you return home after vacation, you’ll have laundry to do, groceries to buy, and mail to catch up on. But you also should plan an hour or so to check on your garden. There are four main things you will need to do:
- Immediately, pick and remove any overgrown produce and compost it or feed it to the chickens. Pick any produce that is ripe so that you can use it in your meals. We’ve often been able to delay going to the grocery store for a day or two after our return if we have a good bit of garden produce to eat.
- Water your garden if you haven’t had much rain or someone else hasn’t been watering it. And give it a good soaking.
- Do a walk through and check for pests and bugs. Try to remove any harmful insects and squish them or drop them in a bucket of soapy water.
- Weed the garden. While the first two are the most important, you can wait a few days to weed if necessary. But don’t put it off too long. The longer you wait, the harder it gets.
So while it can seem difficult to take a vacation when you have a garden, these tips and tricks should help you get your garden back on track soon after your return.
And you may even get to enjoy a meal of your fresh produce the day you return home. Have you come up with a solution to maintaining your garden while on vacation? If so, I would love for you to leave a comment telling me about it.