Karen Murphy explains how, with a little preparation, your garden can keep blooming while you’re away on a summer break
Invest in a self-watering system
Usually found in the tool section at garden centres, these ceramic cones can be attached to a plastic bottle filled with water. The cone is then planted face down in the compost to allow the water to seep out slowly and evenly. They come in various sizes depending on how much water your plant needs and can be a godsend to container gardeners who also like to travel!
Try: Hozelock Aquasolo Watering Cone £4.99 (0121 313 1122, hozelock.com)
Love your lawn
If temperatures keep soaring, to stop your lawn drying out while you’re away, water and mow if necessary, leaving the clippings where they fall – this will provide a moist, shady mulch and keep water from evaporating.
You can move your pots to real shade, of course, but what if they’re too heavy? Save your back and create shade for them with a parasol or an awning, so they don’t bear the brunt of the heat and glaring sunlight. Windbreak and shade netting, which you can drape over a cluster of pots or other vulnerable plants, is available in garden centres.
Perfect your plant choice
If you still have to plant up summer pots before you pop off on holiday, choose your plants carefully. If you love bedding displays, plants such as Hardy geraniums, osteospermums and gazanias will tolerate a dry spell better and will likely still be intact when you get back!
Set up a seep hose or sprinkler
Automatic watering systems are for precision watering. They’re used in commercial settings, but are easily available to the home gardener. Rubber-soaker hoses release water from their pores, seep hoses have little holes in their sides, and can be made easily with an old hose and a pair of secateurs for snipping. Sprinkler hoses give the effect of a sprinkler at low cost. Turn on lightly from an outdoor tap to slowly release water while you’re away.
Try water retaining gel
A marvel of modern gardening, water-retaining gel crystals should be added to pots at planting stage, but you can also make small holes in the compost and place them in just before you go away. Scoop little measures into the holes and water in twice so they can absorb as much moisture as possible, before releasing slowly over time.
Try: SwellGel, 1kg/£15.99 (01449 723330, www.swellgel.co.uk)
Cunning container care!
If you can group all your pots together they’ll create shade among themselves to help retain water. The moisture among the group will be spread about too. Bring hanging baskets into the shade and try a little trick for all your moisture-loving pot plants to save them from sizzling. Put a bucket of water beside them and an absorbent piece of cloth into each container, with the other end in the water bucket. This should stop the compost becoming too dry.
Phone a friend
Call on reliable friends and neighbours to pop over for a watering session of your most-prized plants, or those in containers. Offer a punnet of tomatoes, leave out tea and biscuits or a gin and tonic in the fridge to sweeten the deal.
Get right up to date!
Before you go away, do as much as you can to get ahead – this will lessen the load when you get back. Weed beds and water everything – it may even suffice until you get back, depending on how long you’re going for! Pick edible produce and freeze it or give it away – plants will be encouraged to continue cropping. Deadhead as many blooms as possible – even just-blooming ones – so that when you come back, a fresh supply will await you.
Don’t forget your indoor treasures. Water them well, of course, but stand any ferns or other particularly thirsty plants in the sink with an inch or so of water to keep them happy.
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