How to prepare your garden before you go on your summer holiday

You’ll need to water, deadhead, and charm your neighbours.

Your summer garden may now be at its peak, awash with beautiful blooms and emerging edibles – but what are you going to do with it when you go on your two-week summer holiday?

There are measures you can take to minimise the risk of returning to a mass of bedraggled plants and weed-filled beds and borders.

Approach friends, family and neighbours

(Alamy Stock Photo)

Sometimes, you just have to rely on loved ones and neighbours who may be willing to water your pots in your absence, especially if there’s a heatwave. Invite them in for a pre-holiday drink and show them what needs doing, how to work the hosepipe, or locate the outside tap if they are doing the job with a watering can.

If you have a vegetable plot which needs watering, offer the added incentive of inviting them to harvest any crops which mature while you are away, such as cut-and-come-again salad leaves, radishes, courgettes, French and broad beans, peas and potatoes.

The courgettes and beans will continue to produce for longer if they are picked regularly, radishes won’t have the chance to go woody, and the salad leaves may be coming again once you return.

Place pots in shady spots

If you have a collection of pots, move them close together, in a shady spot where the moisture won’t evaporate as quickly as it would in the sun. Placing the plants closer together also increases humidity, creating a micro-climate which helps to keep moisture in.

Don’t place containers too close to the house, where they might miss the rain. Make sure your containers are in an open space where they can enjoy a good soaking in a downpour.

Deadhead everything

You have to be ruthless with this, even though it might seem like a crime to deadhead your beautiful blooms. Cut the flowers off your container bedding plants, even if they haven’t gone over, as this will ensure that they channel their energy into producing further flowers on your return.

If flowers including petunias, sweet peas, marigolds and geraniums are not deadheaded and run to seed, it sends a message to the plant that the flowering period is over, so they will fizzle out quickly, channelling their energy into producing seed.

Take down hanging baskets

Before you go away, take down hanging baskets and give them a good soak by dunking them into a washing-up bowl or bucket of water, so the compost is completely soaked through.

Deadhead the flowers and dig a hole in a border, so that you can place the basket into the soil before you leave (again, preferably in the shade). It should keep the base cooler and reduce evaporation, and will leave the basket open to the elements should it rain.

Water well

Give all your plants a really good soak before you go. You may want to dunk pots containing thirsty specimens in a washing-up bowl or bucket, leaving until they’re completely soaked before you go. If you have room, pots could also be placed in trenches in the soil in your border.

Place pots on saucers, so that surplus water is retained in the saucer, which may give valuable moisture to plant roots.

Install an automatic irrigation system

(Alamy/PA (Alamy Stock Photo)

There are plenty out there on the market, whether you want a system which just waters your pots, or can give your beds and borders a good soaking too. But do it well in advance, so you can test everything before you go.

Prioritise container plants

If you only have limited time to water everything before you go, give priority to containers, which will dry out much quicker than the soil in your borders. It’s likely that established plants in the ground will have root systems which will go much deeper to seek out moisture, so will cope with a little neglect.

Leave your grass

Avoid mowing your grass before you go if the weather’s warm because longer grass won’t dry out as quickly. If you have to mow, leave the clippings on the lawn to act as a mulch while you are away.

Forget new planting

Don’t plant anything new before you go away. Newly-planted specimens need more TLC and regular watering to establish a healthy root system, so going on holiday will not give them the care they need.

Help houseplants

Always give houseplants a good soaking before you go away and place them in a shady spot so they don’t get scorched in your absence.

Absorbent capillary matting can help, as it acts as a wick to give plants a moisture boost. Soak it well first and then place greenhouse plants on trays of the matting, watering pots thoroughly from above so that the water comes through the drainage holes and starts the capillary action.

For houseplants, place a layer of wet capillary matting on your draining board placing one end into the sink, which should be half full of water and will act as the reservoir. Place your houseplants on the draining board and the matting will wick up the water to the plants.

Alternatively, water your plants in the bath with the shower nozzle and sit the pots on a wet towel, which will help keep the roots moist while you’re away.