2009-07-10 / Columnists

The Diary Of A Green Thumb

How To Care For Your Lawn While On Vacation
Commentary by Danielle, Danielle's Rockaway Florist

It's finally here!! After spending everyday in the office dreaming about the one week we get to escape, it's time for us to go away on vacation! We have the dog sitter, someone to take in the mail… but wait. What about our garden and house plants?? It's tough leaving when everything is in full bloom because a lot can happen in just one week.

It is best, of course, to have a friend or neighbor come by the house to check on your plants and give them the occasional watering—but when you take a long trip, or have a big yard full of flowers and grass that needs to be maintained daily—it is a lot to ask.

Check the weather forecast before you leave. If it is going to be cool and rain throughout the week, you really don't need to worry much. A family member or neighbor may not mind stopping by once or twice between rainshowers. If it is going to be real warm and dry, your lawn and outdoor plants need water daily. This is a harder task for someone to commit to while you are away. When you have a sprinkler system, you can set it on a timer and be sure that the flower beds and grass will look just as beautiful when you return. Unfortunately, we don't all have that luxury. Besides, sprinklers don't always reach inside planters or hanging baskets so they will need more attention. Any terracotta or ceramics that are not glazed will allow the soil to dry out even quicker than plastic or sealed pots because the moisture escapes through the pores of the container. Same goes for hanging baskets with moss or cocoa liners. You may be able to cut down on the frequency of watering by moving them into a shady area and clustering them close together to help retain the moisture and protect them from winds. Before leaving, give them a slow but heavy watering, and cover the exposed soil with a thick layer of mulch. Be sure to drain out any excess water from the saucer beneath the pots, or over time, the roots will rot.

Now that brings us to the flip side. There is not much that can be done to change a very nasty, rainy forecast. In this case, keep your hangers and potted plants under an awning or sheltered area. This will prevent overwatering, and protect them from high winds. Make sure your downspouts and drains are clear, and the sensor on your irrigation system is working properly so your lawn and plants don't drown.

Any flowers or bushes that have been newly planted this spring, especially flowering plants such as azalea or rhododendron need extra care. Soak their roots really well, and cover the soil with at least 2" of mulch. More than likely, their roots are not well established and they can't thrive under the same conditions.

They become more hardy over time when their roots are thicker, stronger and deeper into the soil.

If it has been pretty dry, and you are not expecting a lot of rain within the next day or so, it is best to give your lawn a good soaking. Keep the grass about 3" high. This helps to hide the soil and retain moisture. Any shorter, and it will dry out fast in the hot summer sun.

Regardless of the weather, pick as many of the fruits and vegetables as you can. It is better to have the tomatoes ripening on your table for you to enjoy when you get home, rather than maturing in the garden. If you're not back before they're ready to be picked, you'll have a bed full of rotted, moldy fruit and vegetables—along with the bugs and animals feasting on the leftovers. String beans, cucumbers and zucchini all taste good to eat—no matter the size. Better to enjoy them now, than to lose them all together.

Most houseplants are satisfied with weekly watering, so if you are going on a mini vacation, they should be fine. For extra precaution, you can move those plants that usually sit in direct sun into a bright, cool room. Keeping them away from the sun will minimize their growth and satisfy them with less water. There are also self watering containers, or glass globes that you can fill with water, and insert the long spike into the soil. They release later into the soil as it begins to dry, so this will help hold you over for a bit. If you are going away for a long get-away, you may ask a friend to keep the plants at their house so it isn't a hassle to go back and forth.

With just a little extra thought and preparation, you can continue to protect your lawn and garden, defend it from hungry beasts, and keep them well watered so you can enjoy them for the rest of the season.

Feel free to visit us on the web at www.DaniellesRockawayFlorist.com, or write to us at 436 Beach 129 Street with your gardening questions or tips for our readers. Happy summer!

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