How to Prepare Your Garden Before Going on HolidayColin Campbell-Preston
Summer holidays are often the highlight of the year, but jetting off to sunnier climes loses some of its sparkle when you have to leave your beloved veg plot to wilt at home. If there’s no one to take care of jobs like watering and pest control while you’re away, failing to prepare your garden can see you returning to find your prize marrows have become a slug’s dinner.
This doesn’t have to be the case, however, and with the right precautions you can make sure that your holiday relaxation isn’t interrupted by worrying about what’s happening in your garden back home. Follow our guide to preparing your garden before you go on holiday and rest assured that your plants are thriving as you sun yourself by the pool.
Get on Top of Routine Jobs
The most important thing to do in your garden before jetting off on your summer hols is to get on top of the routine jobs. Things like weeding can quickly become unmanageable if you decide to leave it until you get back, so it’s best to take the time to do a thorough job before you go. No one wants to come home from a relaxing few weeks away to discover that the Amazon rainforest seems to have taken root in their back yard.
To stop this from happening, weed the flowerbed and borders, clip any edgings neatly, and be sure to mow the lawn a day or two before you set off. If the weather is likely to be dry, set your mower blades to ‘high’ to stop the grass yellowing. Make sure that you’ve put any garden equipment out of sight and locked the shed to avoid tempting any light-fingered locals.
Preparing Your Pots
Ideally, a friendly neighbour or well set up irrigation system will water your pots while you’re away, but if you aren’t lucky enough to have either there is no need to despair. Try sinking your containers partway into the soil in a part of the garden that gets some shade. You can then water them thoroughly and drench the surrounding ground, preferably mulching with plastic or bark to conserve water afterwards.
This should keep your pots sufficiently watered for around a week. If you are planning to be away for longer than that, drape a damp dishcloth between them and a bucket of water to act as a wick. Make sure that you also pull any beginnings of weeds out of your pots as well, you don’t want to come home to find you’ve been cleverly watering the dandelions.
Neaten Your Beds
Deadheading your bedding plants before you depart helps to keep your beds tidy while you’re away. As well as deadheading your flowering plants, also remove any flowers that are fully open, as this will prevent them from running to seed and ensure that any buds are flowering when you get back. You’ll be glad you did when you return to the glorious colour of a second flush of blooms.
Pick Your Kitchen Garden
Summer is a terrible time to be away if you’ve spent the season working hard on your edibles, because this is when you’ll finally be reaping the rewards. If you aren’t planning to be away for very long, it’s a good idea to pick and freeze anything that is suitable to enjoy later. Things like runner beans and courgettes will quickly become tough if left to grow over your holiday, so popping them in the freezer is a better option.
Fruits, berries and even herbs can also be easily frozen, or preserved in any manner of delicious ways. If you’re going to be away for a number of weeks, it might be a good idea to ask a friend, neighbour, or family member to come and help themselves to avoid things being wasted. It helps you out in the garden and they’ll be forever grateful for the fresh produce.
Ready the Greenhouse
If you have a greenhouse, it’s important to leave all the ventilators open if they are not automatic, or you’ll come home to a lot of crispy plants. If you can’t get anyone to come and water them for you, you’ll need to soak the border soil so your crops have plenty of moisture. Plants that are in pots will fare better if you move them off the staging and sink them into a moist stand outside during your absence.
Slugs, snails and caterpillars don’t go on holiday when you do, unfortunately, so some pest prevention is usually a good idea. If you don’t like using slug pellets, try making beer traps out of yoghurt pots sunk into the soil and filled with beer. They’re amazingly effective and totally organic. Raking up any dead foliage or flowers will also help make your garden less attractive to pests, as well as neat and tidy.
Large pots can usually manage okay while you’re on holiday, as long as you move them to a shady place and water them thoroughly before you leave. Smaller pots will do best stood on damp towelling in the sink or bath, although just watering them well and moving them out of the sun will help their survival chances. If you’re leaving plants in the bathroom, don’t deep clean the toilet at the same time, as bleach fumes will harm and even kill some plants.
On Your return
Once you get back, set aside a bit of time to water your house plants, tubs, and hanging baskets and return them to their usual positions. Give the grass a good mowing and cut any edges around the lawn. Harvest anything that’s popped up in your kitchen garden and water it thoroughly. Any urgent weeding should also be done straight away, to avoid it getting out of hand.
Come and visit one of our garden centres near Alexandra Palace, Wandsworth Common, or Berkhamsted to stock up for your garden and get some helpful advice from our Plant People. Alternatively, head over to our homepage for more inspiring garden ideas.