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Watering your garden while on holiday

Maintain the Garden When You're on Holiday

Summer can be a tricky time in the garden with the hot weather drying out the soil, plants struggling and watering seeming like an endless, daily job. All of these problems are compounded further if you go away on holiday - no one wants to come back from a couple of weeks away to find all their hard work and their beautiful garden ruined by a lack of water!

The simplest way of getting over the problem of watering when on holiday is to enlist the help of a friend to water your garden when you are away. However, friendly goodwill will only go so far and if you don't have someone reliable you can call on there are a few ways to reduce the need for watering when on holiday in the first place.

  • Mulch plants in the spring to help lock water in the soil as well as reduce weed growth, which would compete with your plants for water. Use your own garden compost, bark chippings, well-rotted animal manure, even gravel or pebbles and spread thickly around the base of plants
  • Don't cut your lawn too short - long grass copes much better with drought than short grass. If you still return to a brown, scorched lawn, don't despair! As soon as it rains your lawn will be back, as good as before
  • Water retaining crystals in pots and hanging baskets will stop containers drying out too quickly and reduce the need for watering when on holiday
  • Go for hanging baskets with a built in reservoir to hold additional water for plants whilst you are away
  • If you go away a lot, consider growing some of the more drought tolerant plants, such as those with hairy or silver leaves like stachys, verbena, alchemilla and salvia

There are also other things you can do, just before you go, to reduce the need for watering when on holiday. Before you leave, give your plants a good, thorough water and if you haven't already done so, put all your container plants into saucers. These will collect water, either after watering, or rainwater if there is any, giving plants an extra water source to draw from. Moving all your container plants into the shade will stop them drying out too quickly in the hot sun, and grouping them closely together will help them shade each other as well as produce humidity, which will help to keep the soil moist for longer.

Another good trick for watering when you are holiday is to use capillary action by making a wick with a strip of cloth. Leave one end in a bucket full of water and the other end in the soil in a container and the water will simply wick from the bucket into the soil and water your plants for you.

If you are really stuck wondering how to water your garden when you are on holiday, then it is definitely worth investing in an automatic watering system. If you have lots of prize plants, particularly in pots, or are planning on going away often, one of these will save you both time and energy lugging watering cans and hoses backwards and forwards when you are at home and also take the worry out of how to water your garden when you are away.

A soaker hose is one of the simplest systems and uses a flexible, leaky tube, laid in the soil around plants and connected to a tap. When the tap is turned on the tiny holes in the tube simply allow water to leak out into the soil close to your plants.

Drip irrigation is a little more sophisticated and can be adapted to suit any size of garden. Particularly good for use with container plants, but for use anywhere in the garden too, it involves a series of pipes and mini sprinklers or drippers which are placed directly beneath your plants to ensure water gets right where it's needed at the turn of a tap.

Any irrigation system can be used manually but the real lifesaver for watering when on holiday is to make these systems fully automated. If you need to water your garden while you are away, simply fit a timer between the tap and the pipework of the system and programme it before you go. It will then come on and off regularly, ensuring you came back to a garden as lovely and full of life as it was when you left.

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