Alexan­dra Campbell’s tips on what to do with the gar­den when you’re away on hol­i­day

Do you need a gar­den-sit­ter when you’re on hol­i­day? Alexan­dra Campbell con­sid­ers the op­tions.

The People's Friend - - News -

IF you’re ask­ing neigh­bours or friends (or your adult chil­dren!) to look af­ter your gar­den while you’re on hol­i­day, brief them prop­erly.

It can take a long time to wa­ter pots, bor­ders and lawns, so it’s im­por­tant that you tell them what re­ally needs do­ing, but don’t ask them to do too much.

It will help if you can do a proper gar­den­ing ses­sion just be­fore you go. Weed and wa­ter ev­ery­thing thor­oughly, feed pots and veg­eta­bles, dead­head or har­vest ev­ery­thing that needs it and mow the lawn. If the weather has been very hot, don’t mow it too short.

Pots and veg­eta­bles will need reg­u­lar wa­ter­ing if you’re away for longer than a few days.

Pots even need wa­ter­ing when it rains! Pots have very little sur­face soil avail­able at this time of year – the plants are usu­ally big and rain sim­ply runs off the leaves.

Large pots hold more wa­ter, so they don’t dry out so quickly. If you have lots of little pots, gather them all to­gether in one fairly shady spot to make it eas­ier for your friend to wa­ter them all to­gether. They will dry out less quickly, too.

Make sure that friends know to wa­ter the soil in the pots thor­oughly, not to sprin­kle the wa­ter over the plant.

New lawns must never dry out. If your lawn is es­tab­lished, it can be al­lowed to go brown and it will bounce back when the rain comes.

But if you’ve laid a lawn this year, reg­u­lar wa­ter­ing is ab­so­lutely es­sen­tial – daily or every other day, es­pe­cially in hot weather.

> Plants in bor­ders

Most plants in bor­ders will sur­vive a fort­night or so with­out wa­ter­ing. If they’re well es­tab­lished, you should rarely need to wa­ter them at

all. How­ever, new shrubs, trees and peren­ni­als don’t have an ex­ten­sive root sys­tem yet.

Give them all a re­ally good soak­ing be­fore you go, and they should be fine, un­less you’re away for three weeks or more. If you have a new plant in your bor­der that needs wa­ter­ing, put a stake in to show where it is. > Veg­eta­bles

Veg­eta­bles need reg­u­lar wa­ter­ing. Many – such as to­ma­toes – don’t like dry­ing out and then get­ting soaked. They need to stay reg­u­larly moist.

What about au­to­mated ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tems? I haven’t tried any suc­cess­fully my­self, but I know peo­ple who find them very use­ful.

The best ad­vice is to make sure you get it all work­ing sev­eral weeks be­fore you go away. You don’t want to be faffing about won­der­ing if you’ve set it up right just as you’re about to pack.

There’s a say­ing that the “gen­er­ous gar­dener has the most flow­ers”. It ap­plies to veg­eta­bles, too.

If you’re away, you don’t want your peas, beans and cour­gettes to come to ma­tu­rity and stop pro­duc­ing, or your salad, chard and spinach to run up to seed.

So urge friends to help them­selves to th­ese veg. Make sure you tell them that they’re ac­tu­ally help­ing you by har­vest­ing. The same goes for cut-and-comea­gain flow­ers, such as cos­mos, sweet peas, an­tir­rhinum and zin­nias.

And it’s prob­a­bly a nice idea to bring a present back for your friend or neigh­bour, too – or at least make sure that you re­turn the gar­den­ing favour when they go away.

Some peo­ple set up a loose gar­den-sit­ting col­lec­tive, so there’s al­ways some­one around to help. n

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