From the Desk of Ed Hume: Vacation Tips for the Home Gardener

May 16, 2011 at 4:13 AM Leave a comment

Summer is vacation time, so it’s time to give some consideration to what needs to be done around your home before you leave. The things you do before you leave can help eliminate those telltale signs that indicate that no one is at home!

At some time I’m certain you’ve probably noticed glaring examples where the grass is a foot high, newspapers stacked-up on the porch, the porch light is on all day and night and the drapes are all pulled. All obvious signs that no one is at home. One of the best ways to keep this from happening, is to make an arrangement with a neighbor, friend or relative to help take care of the house while you are gone. Then often you can arrange a reciprocal arrangement where you can take care of their house when they are vacation.

CARE OF THE LAWN: Be certain to mow it just before you leave. Then if you are going to be gone for an extended time, arrange to have some one come in and mow it again, as needed. Pick someone you trust. Maybe the same person you choose to pick up the newspapers.

It is also a good idea to trim along the flowerbeds and edge along the sidewalks. When you are getting ready to go on vacation there usually is not a lot of spare time, but a few minutes spent on tiding-up the garden makes it look as though someone is at home.

WATERING THE GARDEN AND HOUSEPLANTS: Turf specialists say the lawn needs about one inch of water per week, during the warmer summer months. So water the lawn thoroughly just before you leave, then have someone come in and water as needed. From experience you should be able to tell them how long to let the sprinklers run, and suggest the places they should place them for best coverage. And, of course advise how frequently they should water.

The houseplants will also need some attention while your gone. Some of the hardier ones could be set outdoors, in a warm spot, protected from the hot mid-day sun. If some of your houseplants are too large to move, or a bit tender you may want to have someone tend to them while you are gone. Again, a friend, neighbor or relative you trust could take care of them. Or if that’s not possible, you can lay a piece of polyethylene down on the bottom of the bathtub, or laundry sink, then moisten a few newspapers and lay them on the top of the polyethylene and then place your houseplants on the damp newspapers. Of course, be certain to thoroughly water the houseplants first. Leave the shower doors open so that the houseplants get good air circulation and sufficient light. Treated in this manner the houseplants should be able to survive on their own for up to 10 days or more.

Extra attention should be given to the houseplants that are too large to move. I think one of the best ways to cut back on the frequency of watering (while your gone) is to take a pencil, punch three to five holes into the soil, then add a few crystals of ‘Polymer’. Applied according to label instructions, this procedure could keep your houseplants watered for up to 2 weeks or more.

HANGING BASKETS AND CONTAINER PLANTS: They will need special attention as well. Again the use of a ‘polymer’ type product will help cut down on watering frequency, while you are gone on vacation. However, these outdoor plants will require more frequent watering, so you will want to have someone over-see the watering needs of each plant. Temperatures and location will be factors in how often hanging baskets and container plants need watering. You probably already have that figured out and can plan a watering schedule for each basket or container.

NEWSPAPERS: I know this has nothing to do with gardening, but a stack of newspapers on the porch is a dead give-away, that no one is at home. So be certain to have someone collect them daily, or temporarily have the paper delivery ‘on hold’ while you are gone. From my own personal experience, I think it is a good idea to have someone check the house daily. We stayed overnight with friends just the other night and while we were gone a religious group decided to visit our home and left their booklets in the door. A telltale sign that we were not home.

LIGHTS: It is really a good practice to have someone turn off and on different night-lights practically every evening. However, if that is not possible there are some electrical timing devices that you can use that will turn on your lights at any set time in the evening and then them off at a set time. I think one of the biggest mistakes one makes when leaving on vacation is to leave a porch light on 24 hours a day.

Take a little time to get the garden ready for vacation and make arrangements for the proper care of your home while you’re away so you can enjoy as worry-free a vacation as possible.


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