QUESTION: How can I keep my vegetable garden watered on vacation without help? None of my neighbors are available and my family lives pretty far away. I don’t want my garden to die! – Ronnie A
ANSWER: This is a common question among gardeners and something I’ve had years of practice with. There are a few things you can do to ensure your plants don’t dry up while you’re on vacation. Here are a few tips:
1. Rain Barrels
When you’re away, set-up rain barrels attached to a soaker hose. This will allow water to constantly drip from the rain barrels to your plants. They shouldn’t become oversaturated or dry out while you’re away. This is a good option for inground garden plots or raised beds.
This next method is great if you’re in a hurry. Set-up your sprinklers to water your entire garden. Place the sprinklers on a timer, turn on your water source, and expect your plants to be watered at the same time each day. This works well for raised beds, containers placed close together, or for inground garden plots.
Watering crystals are a product you work into the soil. These little balls absorb water and slowly release it back into the plants over time. You can add these to the soil of your containers or window boxes to ensure your plants have plenty of water. You may want to use this along with another watering method to ensure your plants remain fully hydrated.
4. Pre-trip Water and Mulch
Whether you have a container garden, raised beds, or inground garden plot, it’s wise to deeply water your garden before you leave. When done, add mulch to the area. This will help retain the moisture and keep your soil cool.
5. Drip Jugs
Drip jugs aren’t the prettiest thing, but they could help keep your plants watered while you’re away. This works best for inground garden plots and raised beds. The idea is to bury a plastic jug in the ground next to your plants. This container should have multiple holes in it. Leave the neck of the container out of the ground, so you can add water to the bottle. Fill the container with water and overtime it will seep from the container and keep your plants hydrated.
6. Watering Bulbs
If you have window boxes or containers that you need to keep watered while you’re away, purchase a few watering bulbs. They can be glass or plastic. Either way, fill the bulbs with water, stick them into the soil, and the plants will draw water from the bulb when they need more.
7. Watering Wicks
This method works well for houseplants or container gardens. Set-up a container of water and run a wick from the water to your potted plants. The wick will absorb the water and transfer it to the plants’ soil.
8. Move Your Containers
If you have a container garden, you know they must be watered almost daily due to the small amount of soil available to the plants. You should use some of the methods provided here to help the soil retain moisture, but you should also consider moving the plants to a shaded location while you’re away. This should dampen the amount of water the plants need since the sun won’t be beating down on them directly.
9. Add Shade
This idea has a similar thought-process as the idea mentioned above. If you have an inground garden plot or raised beds, you can’t easily move them. However, you can add shade cloth or an umbrella over these areas. These items can help filter the sunlight, so the plants won’t need as much water while you’re away. This idea should be used along with other ideas mentioned here, but it could help conserve the moisture you’re providing to your plants while away.
10. Self-Watering Containers
Our last option for keeping your plants watered while you’re away is mainly for window boxes and containers. Try using self-watering containers. These pots have a water reservoir in the bottom which allows the roots of the plants to draw water as needed. This could keep your plants easily watered while you’re away.
You now have ten ideas for watering your plants, without help, while you’re on vacation. There’s no reason that you shouldn’t be able to take a break without coming home to dead plants.
Instead, use a few of these tips to keep your vegetable garden thriving while you’re away and enjoy a great harvest and a restful vacation in the same year.