If it’s the middle of summer and you’re traveling with family, upstate, out of state, or wherever – for days or weeks at a time – the neighbor is picking up the mail, the trash doesn’t pile up…but these plants will it do need to be watered and otherwise cared for if necessary, e.g. B. when harvesting vegetables.
From indoor to outdoor plants, there is a wide variety with a plethora of needs. Local gardening experts Eugene Reelick, owner of Hollandia Nurseries and Farm in Bethel, and Dan Holmes, owner of Holmes Fine Gardens in Newtown share some tips specific to the holiday season and plant care in general.
Watering plants can’t be easy even at home. “The hardest job I have in gardening is watering,” Reelick said, noting that different types of plants and soil bring a variety of watering tasks.
So, of course, when you walk away, watering and caring for the plants becomes all the more difficult. A good option, Reelick said, is to have a family member or neighbor tend to the plants while you’re away. If that’s not an option, there are some things that can be done to give the plants the best chance of survival.
Reelick points out that there are low, medium, and high light houseplants that all need to be in the right spot indoors, and Reelick advises people not to be afraid of putting houseplants outside in appropriate non-direct lighting. In general, houseplants do best when they’re soaked thoroughly and allowed to dry before the next soak, Reelick said.
When it’s time for a trip, give these plants a good drink. They can also be left in a bowl of water and absorb the water they need through capillary action, Reelick said. There are also a variety of products that allow for manual watering, including the Plant Nanny, a stake with an adapter for recycled bottles that slowly releases water into the soil.
The type of soil can make a big difference. Reelick suggests a potting soil that contains a compost mix that is better at retaining water for potted plants.
Occasionally, perhaps before and after your trip, Reelick recommends putting them in the shower to rinse them thoroughly when caring for houseplants. “Any plants that are outside love a rain,” Reelick said.
There are some exceptions to soaking, letting dry, and repeating the process. The moist or peat soil plants like Venus flytraps and mosses need consistently moist soil, while dry or dry soil plants like cacti and succulents need less water, Reelick said.
According to the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station article “General Care of Houseplants” by Dr. Sharon M. Douglas, Department of Plant Pathology and Ecology: “Drainage is important for almost every plant. There are very few plants that tolerate saturated soil and lack of oxygen in the soil for a long time. For this reason, all pots, regardless of their composition, should have openings in the bottom for water drainage. A layer of rocks or potsherds can be placed at the bottom of the pot before adding soil. This allows for rapid drainage and good soil aeration. The type of soil used for potting plants should be well-draining. A mixture of equal parts loam (or garden soil), humus (e.g. leaf soil, peat moss) and either coarse sand or perlite is usually sufficient. Vermiculite and bone meal can also be added.”
In the garden
Plants, whether in pots or in the garden, should be watered near the center of the base to keep the main root from drying out. This is especially important when transplanting plants from one pot to another or from one pot to an outdoor garden, Reelick and Holmes note.
“Usually a week is fine for things that have been in the ground for a few months,” Holmes said, noting that consistent temperatures of around 90 degrees and dry conditions for a week are the reason plants are watered during that week .
The roots need to be watered, not the leaves. So what to do when vacation is coming up for a long time or dry and hot conditions are forecast and the neighbor or family cannot be there?
There are a variety of drip hoses, drip hoses, and spray heads. “It’s endless,” Reelick said of what’s out there for home gardeners to help their plants thrive.
“They work really well as long as you have a timer and can keep your water running while you’re away,” said Reelick, who suggests experimenting with the irrigation system for a few weeks before the holiday season to feel comfortable and confident with its effectiveness.
Longer soak times are key. Holmes notes that a good soak encourages the roots to go deep, resulting in stronger plants. Shorter, more frequent soaks encourage roots that stay closer to the surface.
According to another Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station article by Dr. Douglas, “First Steps To Healthy Gardening,” Mulch is a great way to help outdoor plants throughout the summer. “Properly applied summer mulch has several benefits: it helps control weeds, moderates soil temperature, and maintains soil moisture,” the article states.
The article also states, “To keep foliage dry and minimize potential disease problems, it’s important to avoid overhead watering or water early in the day.”
weeds and grass
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Holmes notes that now is a good time to tackle this weed before it takes over, and the right approach to grass mowing can pay dividends over the course of the summer months. Multiflora rose, said Holmes, has a beautiful fragrance but is a “beater of a weed.” Bittersweet, mugwort, and crabgrass are among the other aggressive weeds. They can be sprayed with a variety of organic or inorganic weed killers, pulled or cut short and covered with a thick layer of mulch to keep them in check, Holmes said. If ignored, vacationers could be greeted by more opportunistic weeds and larger versions of the leafy garden lesions, many of which have stubborn (and strong) root systems. Removing these weeds allows gardeners to reclaim their space.
Lawns can be trimmed every two weeks at this time of year now that we’re past the peak growing season, Holmes said. And set the mower blade a little higher to only remove about a third of the grass, suggests Holmes. “Everyone cuts grass too short,” Holmes said, adding that this common practice opens up spaces between the blades of grass for more sunlight, which encourages weed growth and a less healthy lawn.
“If you’re mowing all the time and it’s a bright, full sun, you definitely need to take care of that lawn,” Holmes said. “Aggressive weeds will emerge and start taking over.”
Grass that gets some shade and is cut less often may not need watering, Holmes said.
vegetables and rain
For those who grow vegetables and herbs, there are other things to consider when going out of town for an extended period of time. Vegetables should be picked and taken along for the trip or gifted to friends or the local community so they don’t go to waste, Reelick suggests. Herbs and leafy greens, like lettuce, can be pruned or removed to avoid overgrowing and going to seed, which would destroy the plant, said Reelick, who suggests new plants can be planted just before leaving.
Planting veggies or flower beds is best if done before a rain fall when they can take a good drench as they become established so it’s a bit of a gamble to put a new plant in the ground and then to disappear.
“Mother Nature irrigates in a way I can never irrigate. She’s very good at it,” Reelick said.
When he’s at home and able to water plants, Reelick “suggests the old-fashioned way of doing it with a hose and a nozzle and enjoying the great outdoors.”
Reelick’s final piece of gardening advice: “Love gardening because it gives so much back. It’s amazing how much gardening gives back.” Reelick said that, for example, planting flowers that bloom in June, July and August can be enjoyed by people outside, and some flowers are ideal for cutting and bringing in indoors.
Or maybe to tie a bouquet for a neighbor to look after your plants while you’re away.
Andy Hutchison can be reached at email@example.com.
Grass shouldn’t be cut too deep or it opens up opportunities for stubborn weeds, suggests Dan Holmes, owner of Holmes Fine Gardens in Newtown.
Vegetables such as tomatoes should be picked before longer trips. Herbs and lettuce, for example, need to be picked or pruned to keep them from going to seed, advises Eugene Reelick, owner of Hollandia Nurseries and Farm.
The Plant Nanny is an option to ensure plants are watered while you are away.