Watering Containers While on Vacation


Watering Containers While on Vacation
  • Posted July 1, 2014
suitcase Picture this: you've packed your bags, your mail is being held by the post office, your dog is dropped off at your cousin's house, and now you are finally ready for vacation. But wait, don't forget the beautiful containers you planted near your doorway need daily water, and the lovingly tended vegetables will continue producing fruit while you are out of town. Vacations are refreshing and rejuvenating, but nobody wants to be welcomed home by crispy, dead plants in pots or dozens of fruits which passed their prime. Container plantings should be maintained during prolonged absences from the home, as a person would tend to mail or similar tasks in daily life that don't pause.

Here are options to keep your container plantings watered and alive over a vacation:

woman watering petunias

Enlist the help of a friend or neighbor

Chances are you have a friend with which you can swap plant sitting duties. Set up an agreement between neighbors to water and harvest fruit from each other's plants when one of you is out of town. To make the job easy for a plant sitter, you can group all your potted plants together in one location, so they can be watered in one go. Grouping containers in a single location also reduces the chances of forgetting a plant pot. In addition, placing your potted plants in a shaded area could reduce the frequency of watering.

self watering container

Implement water reducing measures

When a trip out of town will be brief, you may be able to thwart nature by using watering reducing measures in all your hanging baskets and pots to stretch the amount of time between watering long enough that containers will survive on their own. One method to reduce the frequency of watering is to pot your plants in self-watering planters, which use reservoirs filled with water to provide water continuously until the reservoir is emptied. There are also moisture retentive soils available, which enlist the power of gel to keep moisture within the soil for a longer time.

Sprinkler System

Set up an automatic watering system

If you had foresight enough to already install a timed sprinkler system for your lawn, then all you need do is relocate your containers where the sprinklers will water your containers. If you do not have a lawn sprinkler system, then consider installing an automatic watering system that is specifically designed for plants in containers. A drip irrigation system works by a battery-powered timer, which prompts water to pump through small, flexible tubing to each potted plant on a pre-determined schedule. Installing a watering system does not require digging trenches, nor does it require expert plumbing skills, so do not be deterred by the potential of getting in over your head. In fact, once you've spent the time and money on installing an automatic drip irrigation system, if watering your potted plants is not one of your favorite aspects of gardening, then you might decide to use the system all the time, even when you are not on vacation.

rain barrel

For the tinkering-types, design your own system

If your state allows rainwater collection, then you can catch water from your air conditioner or rain runoff in a barrel. The barrel can contain a submersible pump with flexible tubing to carry the captured water to your plant pots and hanging baskets.

For gadget-lovers, let your plants communicate their needs

Purchase and install a gadget in each of your plant containers that senses the amount of moisture in the soil. When the soil is too dry, an automatic electronic notification is sent to you, or your “on-call" plant sitter, to alert you it is time to water the plant.

Check out the GARDENA smart system or the Parrot Pot to get you started.

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About the Author

Tamara Horne is an ecologist, a knitter, Garden Communicator (GWA) member, and horticulturist at MasterTag – a horticultural printing company.


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