Trying to plan a summer getaway might feel stressful at the moment but, should you manage to take off, you’ll want to make sure you don’t return home to a garden full of dead or dying plants.
Here are a few simple tricks to keep plants alive and thriving while you’re away.
Many indoor plants will survive for a prolonged period without water, as you may already have discovered if you are a forgetful waterer. However, in summer, plants use more water, and excess moisture also evaporates more quickly, meaning pots dry out faster.
Before you set off, give all your plants a good watering making sure none of them are swimming in their pots afterwards (decorative “cache” pots are particularly notorious for this). Larger plants can be placed in a shallow tray of water if you are away for a week or two. This works best for those that need to remain moist, such as Boston ferns and large peace lily.
When you are away, move plants closer together in a sink, bath or shower that receives indirect light. This creates a mini microclimate and will slow evaporation.
In full sun, plants can dry out very quickly. Using an old T-shirt you can create a water wick for plants. Cut the material into strips 2-3cm wide, tuck one side into the side of the pot, and drop the other end into a container of water. As the compost dries out, water will move along the fabric and into the pot through capillary action.
Resist the temptation to overwater when you return from your holidays.
Established garden plants tend to be a little more resistant to neglect. Many can fend for themselves, meaning you can travel without fretting. But if you’ve got new plants, or plants in containers, you may want to take a little more care.
For plants in containers, it’s a similar approach to indoor plants. Gather pots together, position them in the coolest, most shady part of the garden and water them well before you go away.
You can leave larger pots standing in a couple of centimetres of water for a week or two without causing damage to the roots, smaller pots and containers may become waterlogged so be careful with this approach.
A secret tool in any gardener’s watering inventory involves no water at all. A thick mulch can help reduce evaporation and lock moisture in the ground around plants. This can be made of woodchip, gravel, decorative stones or even a few good handfuls of compost around the base of plants in a doughnut shape.
If you want complete control of watering when you are away, devices such as the Eve Aqua (evehome.com/en/eve-aqua) allow you to control via an app the time a tap turns on. You will, however, also need to invest in sprinklers or drippers that direct water to plants and pots. Easy Garden Irrigation has sets that start from £37.99 and will water up to 25 pots (easygardenirrigation.co.uk).
If you don’t have T-shirts to spare, ask a garden centre or search online for “capillary matting”, which works in the same way. If that sounds like too much hassle, you could ask a friend or neighbour.