How to Keep Outdoor Plants Watered When You’re on Vacation

A much-needed vacation is right around the corner. You're excited about getting away, but your garden may not fare too well while you're gone. There are clever strategies to keep your plants watered while away. Follow these guidelines so that established flowers, bushes, vegetables and trees remain healthy during your time away.

1. Spread Out the Mulch

Without mulch, a garden can only go a few days without water. The soil will naturally succumb to moisture loss with full sun. Established plants may be able to find moist patches deep within the ground, but shallow roots will go unfulfilled. Gardeners may lose several plants without proper watering during a long time away.

A clever way to trap any moisture in the soil is to spread mulch. Add between 2 to 3 inches of mulch on top of the garden bed. Watering the mulch and garden at this point allows the moisture to permeate the ground. The sun cannot impact the soil with its heat and radiation. Your garden ends up with moisture that remains in the ground for a longer time period than without the mulch. This strategy alone can save almost any group of perennials or annuals.

2. Soak the Plants Before Leaving

If you're going to be away on vacation for only a day or two, soaking the garden with plenty of water can be your solution. Plants can handle a wide variety of temperatures as long as their roots are moist and covered with nutrient-rich soil. Ideally, water the plants to a 6-inch depth. You may be able to water to just 1 or 2 inches deep if you have enough mulch covering the area. In essence, you're offering enough moisture so that the roots can drink without stress across a day or two. If your region experiences deep cloud cover during those days, the water might even stretch to three or four days.

3. Set Timers on Garden Sprinklers

Watering the garden can be simplified even further by using your standard garden sprinkler. Add a timer to the sprinkler so that it activates at least once a day. When you're planning on being away on vacation for more than three days or even an entire week, the garden sprinkler can act like an automatic waterer.

Set it up beforehand so that you can see if the water strikes every part of the garden bed. Test it on your preferred setting before the big vacation. You'll know what to adjust, which will reduce any worries about your plants when you take off. Be aware of any rain in the weather forecast, however. You don't want the timer to water during a downpour.

4. Install Soaker Hoses

To water plants while away on vacation, try soaker hoses. These products are quite ingenious because they offer a consistent amount of water across your garden without much effort. Made of porous materials, soaker hoses connect to the average faucet head or garden hose. As they fill up with water, the moisture slowly seeps into the ground. There's very little time for evaporation to occur since the water is so close to the ground. It's possible to leave your plants for a week or more with a soaker hose taking charge of the watering process.

They install with ease too. Simply weave the hose into your garden bed. The water will spread a few inches from the hose.

5. Test the Soaker Hoses Beforehand

Always test your soaker hoses before leaving. You're looking to strike a balance between moist and saturated conditions. About a week before you leave, lay out the hose so that it can unfurl. After about 10 minutes, connect it to a faucet or water hose. Adjust the water output so that the hose fills up at a slow pace.

You should see some moisture coming from the hose. It essentially seeps water in all directions. If you're satisfied with the amount of moisture, go ahead and place the hose in your planted area. Over the next week, you can watch the hose in action to ensure it functions well.

6. Try the Rain-Barrel Trick

You may want a different strategy for watering outdoor potted plants while on vacation. This suggestion works for plants in the ground as well. Use your soaker hose on the plants, but attach it to a rain barrel. Many people have these barrels so that they can trap falling water throughout the year. It's a great way to conserve water.

Barrels usually have an opening that's conducive to soaker-hose attachment. Make sure the barrel is full, attach the soaker hose and wind it around your thirsty plants across the soil. The water will keep everything moist for many days. Depending on the barrel's size, this setup might keep your plants thriving for a week or longer.

7. Rearrange the Potted Plants

Keep your houseplants and outdoor plants alive while out of town by rearranging them. Group the pots together in a shaded area. As the moist soil naturally evaporates, the humidity remains concentrated around the potted plants. In essence, some of the moisture will fall back into the soil so that it's not lost to the surrounding air.

Place this grouping indoors if the outside temperatures become too hot. Although they may not appreciate the indoor location, they can thrive for a few days until you can relocate them. Simply water them in their group setting before you leave. You might use the soaker hose on potted groups that remain outside too.

8. Consider Shade Cloth

Another strategy to protect your plants is by installing shade cloth. You might have a group of plants in the yard that share the same bed. Adding a shade cloth above the plants will filter any sunlight striking them. Although the cloth isn't exactly like building a greenhouse around the plants, it does reduce the stress on the garden when it comes to moisture loss. Water your plants deeply and install the shade cloth; plants can thrive for several days to a full week in these conditions. If the clouds roll in, the shade cloth works even better as the sunlight dims naturally.

9. Ask a Trusted Friend To Water

If you'll be gone for many weeks or even months on vacation, watering outdoor plants when away should fall to a trusted loved one. During the warmer months with no measurable rainfall, your garden should be watered each day with a watering can or garden hose.

Go over your instructions with the person before leaving. They should water the plants every morning before the sun's rays get too hot. Discuss watering depth. Watering deeply forces plants to stretch their roots deep into the soil. Remind the caretaker that watering hanging baskets when away should be a priority too. Any container plants will lose moisture very quickly in warm conditions. The person can also alter the watering schedule if rain does fall. They can keep your plants alive for months with this attention to detail.

The best watering strategy may have a few flaws, which leads to wilted garden plants. Learn from any mistakes so that you can successfully keep outdoor plants watered while on vacation in the future. The strongest plants will thrive, and you'll have a glorious garden as you return to your normal routine.

For more general watering information, read the following articles:

How to Choose a Garden Irrigation System

Garden Watering Made Easy with These Top Tips

Everything You Should Know About Deep Watering

How Deep to Water Your Plants

A Guide to Water-Efficient Gardening

Plants and Water—A Brief Look at How Water Affects Plant Growth 

Waterlogging—What It Is and How to Prevent It

Does Watering Plants with Soft Water Help or Hurt?

A Guide to Watering Your Plants in Hot Weather 

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