(ARA) - Looking forward to a nice, relaxing vacation? Don't forget about that garden while you're sipping umbrella drinks on a beach or snapping photos of the Grand Canyon. Make sure you have a plan for keeping the garden green and the grass under control while you're gone.
The best solution, of course, is a reliable friend or neighbor who will give your garden the loving attention that you would. Simply offering to trade some fresh produce or a bunch of flowers for watering can often work in your favor and act as a motivator to the reluctant helper. However, not everyone is lucky enough to have a reliable person they can count on for garden care. This doesn't mean all is lost. Whether you have a competent garden-sitter or not, a few quick steps can help to ensure continued health of your garden while you're away.
Make the most of mulch
Mulches that are derived from wood, such as Scotts Nature Scapes Advanced Mulch products, can act as an excellent layer of protection for retaining moisture and can help keep weeds at bay by blocking access to sunlight, especially while you are out of town. Soak soil thoroughly and add a fresh layer of mulch to the garden, around trees and shrubs and even on the tops of containers. To calculate how much mulch is needed in your garden visit www.scotts.com to find a mulch calculator under useful tools at the bottom of the site.
Timing is everything
Invest in a timer or two to connect to the outdoor faucet. Hook these up to sprinklers or drip hoses and set timers to come on in the early morning hours to reduce evaporation. There's no need for a garden-sitter to remember when to water. All your sitter needs to do is over-ride the timer for you in case of rain.
Get a drip
Head to the local home-improvement store to stock up on drip-irrigation materials before leaving for a vacation and make your life easier all growing season. It's so easy to use drip irrigation in vegetable gardens and flower beds that you'll kick yourself for not doing it sooner. Weave lengths of drip tape or "leaky pipe" through the plants and cover the beds - irrigation and all - with a thick layer of mulch.
Another option is to make your own simple drip irrigation system by using 2 liter soda bottles from the recycling bin. Just rinse out bottles and poke a few small holes in the bottom. Then fill 1/3 full with sand. Next, bury the bottle next to the plant and fill with water. Water will slowly filter through the sand and holes and gradually provide moisture to the plants' root zone. With a bit of ingenuity you can enjoy your vacation knowing that the plants are happily taking care of themselves.
Container gardens require a bit more attention and planning to ensure you come home to the same beautiful plants. If you're going away for a just a few days, all you really need is to give the plants a thorough soaking before you leave. For longer trips, first add a layer of mulch, then group pots together to retain humidity and position them in a shady location or in a baby pool filled a few inches deep with water.
The good news is that when you're going away for a week in the summer, your lawn won't miss you. Grass grows more slowly in the heat of summer, so simple preparations will do just fine. Just mow your grass at the regular height the day before you go. If you water your lawn, be sure to water it deeply the day before you leave. If you plan to be away longer, grass may go dormant but, no need to worry. Going dormant is a healthy coping mechanism for grass in periods of dry summer heat. You can water it deeply when you get back. If you'll be gone for more than two weeks, you may want to hire the neighborhood kid or a mowing service to cut your grass while you're away.