Deckchair on tropical beach
Angela Slater
Daughter of a farmer and market gardener so have always had a connection with the outdoors, whether it was keeping animals or producing fruit, vegetables and cut flowers. Along with my work at Hayes Garden World I also have a smallholding, mainly breeding rare breed pigs. I gained an HND and BSc in Conservation and Environmental Land Management, as a result I am an ardent environmentalist and have a keen interest in environmentally friendly gardening. In my time at Hayes I worked for several years in the Outdoor Plant and Houseplant areas

How To Water Your Plants When You Go On Holiday

Don't let your plants suffer from lack of water when you are on holiday

Plants need not suffer from lack of water when you go away on holiday; getting the neighbours to look after them is always the best method but failing that there are several measures you can take to ensure they are still alive on your return. Some of the methods cost nothing but a little bit of preparation time, but an investment in a watering system will be cost effective over the lifetime of the system, and it gives you one less thing to worry about while you are away.

Indoor plants

Water well and place in a cool shady spot if only going away for a few days.

Place in a saucer of water if only going away for a few days.

Use watering spikes if the plant and pot are large; they attach to a 2ltr soft drinks bottle and deliver a steady drip of water.

Install a drip watering system if going away for any length of time; such as the Hozelock Aquapod.

Place the plants on a towel in the bottom of the bath or sink and leave the tap dripping.

Pink bougainvillia

Make a wick by cutting a strip of capillary matting 1.5 - 3cm (1/2 – 1”) wide; push one end well into the pot and the other into a container of water.

Stand the plants on capillary matting or a towel, with the end in the sink, on the draining board, fill the sink with water. Thoroughly soak any clay pots first so they can soak up the water. This method is not suitable for pots with a raised bottom or any which have crocks in the bottom. This is also not suitable if the plants will be in full sun.

There are small decorative watering spikes available but only deliver water over 4 days.

Small plants can be well watered then placed in a sealed plastic bag. Put canes around the edge of the pot to keep the plastic from touching the foliage. Keep out of the sun. Only suitable for a few days; any longer and the plant is liable to rot.

Outdoor plants

Lawns can usually withstand a period without water; otherwise set up a sprinkler system on a timer; to come on in the evening when it is cooler and there is less evaporation.

Herbaceous plants usually have put down roots deep enough to withstand a dry period.

Fruit and vegetables need a continuous supply of water otherwise they become tough and woody. The best solution is to bribe a neighbour with fresh produce in exchange for watering. Otherwise, give them a really good soak before you go and then immediately after mulch all areas of bare soil with wet newspaper covered in chipped bark, 8 – 10cm (3 – 4”) thick.

Summer bedding plants in terracotta pot

Containers can be moved into the shade and grouped together to improve the humidity levels, water really well just before you go. Small containers can be plunged in large containers filled with damp compost. Install a drip watering system if going away for any length of time; such as the Hozelock Aquapod. Buy a cheap children’s paddling pool, fill with water and stand pots on bricks out of the water, make wicks as for indoor plants, pushing one end into the pot and leaving the other in the water.

Hanging baskets can be taken down and treated as for containers; or if only going for a few days water retention gel crystals incorporated into the compost should suffice if watered really well before leaving. If there are no gel crystals in the compost put a layer of soaked crystals on the top of the basket. Install a drip watering system.

Have a lovely stress free holiday.