The People's Friend

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.


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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