Saturday, June 4, 2016

Abandoning Your Garden

It seems to happen at least once a year.  Your garden plans are running along smoothly and then you have to leave town.  Whether its for work, or a family emergency or (gasp) a vacation  (Do gardeners take summer vacations?) you have to be away for a few days and leave your garden to survive on its own or entrust its care to a virtual stranger.  Heaven forbid it happen the week your first tomatoes are expected to ripen.  Here are some tips for abandoning your garden and not losing everything:

Make it simple: Most gardeners tend to scatter their plants around.  Besides the established garden you may have planters or hanging baskets out and about.  Don't make your caretaker wander around and find them because something may be missed.  And you don't want to make things so complicated that your helper won't want to help you out next time.  Move as many as you can to a centralized location where they will be protected from wildlife and within reach of a hose.  Place more difficult planters in partial shade so they are not stressed by the heat and irregular watering.  If you are looking for one more reason to put in a drip irrigation system, here it is.  But even those need to be checked on now and then.

Get everything into a central location and put
shade loving plants in a sheltered spot.
Putting everything safely in a fenced area will prevent your helper having
to deal with a big mess.  When the cats away, the mice will play!
Do it Now: Get as many plants into the ground or larger containers where they will not dry out as quickly.  If you are waiting to see if something will survive or not - just go ahead and kill it.  I always do plant euthanasia when I'm abandoning my garden or seed bed so my helper does not feel responsible for the death of a struggling plant.  Plus you don't want to waste their valuable time on a bunch of plants you are going to throw out next week.  If something is scraggly and you're thinking of pinching it back, now is a good time so it won't be accidentally broken off either while being moved to your central location, or accidentally while watering..

Sometimes seedlings will survive better in the ground but if you suspect
they may go into transplant shock, or if very hot dry weather is forecast, it may be best
to wait and keep them in a shady place where they will not need water rescue several times a day.

Wait for It:  Some things are better left until later.  For instance your war on bugs and slugs.  Don't expect your helper to come in the evening and set out a dozen trays of beer or first thing in the morning and flick beetles into soapy water for half an hour.  Sometimes there are transplants that need some coddling for the first few days.  Make sure you know the forecast, and wait to put those in the ground because it is unlikely someone will be around to water 3 times a day.  They may be better off set in the shade under a bench.  On the other hand, if the forecast is rain and over cast for the next few days, it may be your best opportunity to get them in while the weather is mild,

Putting out trays of beer is a very efficient way of trapping and killing slugs.
But if left unattended, they also attract raccoons.  You don't need a bunch of drunken raccoons
rampaging through your garden while you are away.
Leave a List:  Verbal instructions only get you so far.  As with everything else in life - get it in writing.  Make a list of any outlying plantings that need attention and can't be moved,  Write down the location of any crops that may need harvesting.  Don't just say "help yourself to zucchini" when what you really mean is "keep an eye on those buggers and don't let them grow to the size of caveman clubs"  On the other hand, some people have no self-control and cannot be given free rein.  Be specific about the harvest unless you are OK with the chance of coming home to every carrot being pulled or every basil plant shorn to the ground.

Label Things:  Leaving a detailed list will not be enough if your helper doesn't know the difference between a bean plant and a beet.  If your helper is not a gardener themselves, don't be surprised if they are not experts at plant identification.  Remember, there are people left in the world who do not know that potatoes grow underground or that asparagus turns into a fern.  I rarely take the time to label my garden anymore so all my nifty markers end up sitting in the shed.

Photo Source:  Gardener's Edge 
With a little planning and experience, you can prep your garden for some away.  Each time it happens you will figure out more clever tricks so your plants and your garden-sitter will be none the worse for the experience.  Be sure to send them home with a little something from the garden.

1 comment:

  1. All great tips!
    Last year hubby wanted to go the day after I planted out the vegetable garden. We were gone for a month with no one to water. Mother Nature was kind to us with well spaced rains. Mulch (and LOTS of it) is another way to contend with keeping plants moist.
    I put pots/hanging baskets under the eaves to catch some of the rain as well. But really-it's so much better to just stay home in the summer!!