They should stock up on drip-irrigation materials, mulch, and a timer or two to connect to their outdoor faucet. Vegetable gardens and flower beds are the easiest to drip irrigate. They can weave lengths of drip tape or “leaky pipe” through the plants and cover the beds – including the irrigation – with a 3″ layer of mulch. Shredded bark, such as Scotts® Nature Scapes® Triple Shred Mulch, is excellent mulch for retaining moisture and keeping weeds at bay. Attach the irrigation system to a timer at the faucet. Set it to turn on in the early morning hours to reduce evaporation.
Ideally, plants need at least one inch of water per week. They can calculate how much water their sprinkler, soaker hose, or drip irrigation system puts out with a rain gauge or a small, straight-sided can. Lay the can under the irrigation system and time how long it takes to fill it one inch.
Container gardens and houseplants require a bit more attention and planning to ensure they survive a vacation. The goal is to keep water loss through the leaves to a minimum by keeping the humidity high around the plants and reducing stress caused by intense sunlight and temperature. If they’re going away for a just a few days, they can simply give plants a thorough soaking. They can group them together to retain humidity and position them in a shady location outdoors or in the bathtub. Or, they can add Miracle-Gro® Water Storing Crystals to the plants’ potting mix. These crystals store many times their weight in moisture and can help reduce the amount of watering plants will need.
Container Gardens During Longer Vacations
A longer-term strategy for container plants is to gather plants together in an empty kiddie pool placed in a shady spot in the backyard. By adding 1 to 2 inches of water to the bottom of the pool, plants should do well for one to two weeks.
There are several clever vacation watering devices on the market that use recycled 2-liter soda bottles as water reservoirs with attached plastic or clay cones, which gradually send water to the plants’ root zone. They can also simply use a plastic bottle, poking small holes in the bottom with a nail and filling it with water, then placing it on top of the soil in their containers. The water will slowly seep into the soil. Adjust the size of the bottle according to the size and water needs of individual plants. These are free or inexpensive methods and work well for individual plants. With a bit of planning and ingenuity, they can enjoy their vacation knowing that the plants are happily taking care of themselves.
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