Updated/Fact-Chacked on April 11, 2023 by John
If you have booked a holiday this summer or any time away, I’m sure the gardener’s anxiety has started “are my plants all going to die when I’m away”?
This post will give you a few ideas to ease your worries and ensure your outdoor plants are thriving when you return.
The first stage is to plan exactly which plants will need the most attention; outdoor pots and young plants are likely to need the most attention. Create an easy to follow list if someone is coming over to water your garden.
Give your plants a good soak prior to departure, we don’t mean a sprinkle, really soak the roots – follow our how to water outdoor plants guide to ensure optimal watering.
Here are a few ways to water your outdoor plants while you are away.
Ask a friend or neighbour
The ideal scenario is having a friendly neighbour that loves gardening, but this is not always the case. Both of my neighbours have no interest in gardening and I would not want to ask them to water my plants, I also would not rely on my teenage son!
The second option is asking family or friends to help out, but again this is not always an option. Ideally, find a friend that is going away at a different time and come to an agreement, you could also trade pet feeding for watering.
Buy slow-release nozzles for plastic bottles
You can create a DIY watering system for your containers if you are on a budget by using plastic controls valves that fit on bottles, like this one below made by Augoog.
These are very simple but highly effective drip systems that can be set to drip for up to 15 days, perfect for containers. Simply attach it to any plastic bottle and insert the spike into your container.
If you are looking for something more aesthetically pleasing, then check out these globes from Kikihome. These globes are filled with water and the end pipe is wrapped with cloth to produce a slow drip system. The makers state the globes can drip for 3 weeks and the product has rave reviews.
Buy a micro drip irrigation system
You can buy dedicated watering systems with timmers, some even run from mobile apps, that attach to your outdoor tap or water butt. You could be watering your plants while sipping a pina colada in Antigua. You can buy cheap drip systems if you are on a budget, but if you are growing for the Chelsea Flower show, you might need something a bit more bespoke.
Most drip irrigation systems consist of a group of pipes attached to a water supply and strategically placed at the plant’s base. Precise water levels can then be dripped to the plant’s roots over time.
Watering wick method
Water wicks are usually used for indoor plants, but the same system could be used with outdoor containers.
Ropes or rags can be used to allow water to travel from your water container into your plant pots. You can place all your plant pots around one water container and have capillary ropes going into each one.
Use an olla
Ollas are often used on plants that require a lot of water like tomatoes. Ollas have been used for centuries, where clay pots are buried next to your plants and the vessel is filled with water; water slowly seeps out of them to the surrounding roots. This system works because plain terracotta pots (not glazed) are porous.
Ollas are very effective as they water the roots directly, it’s a deep watering system that is cheap to create.
Improve containers with water retaining crystals
They will not be enough to keep your plants well-watered for 2-3 weeks but can work well if combined with a DIY drip system.
Water retaining granules are good in hanging baskets as they trap some of the water that would otherwise pass through the entire basket and be lost.
Move containers to areas of partial shade
Plants will generally survive better for a couple of weeks in partial shade if well-watered, this will slow the evaporation process.
Gareth is the owner of Plantsman Media. Gareth lives in the North East of England and is obsessed with flowers. He has just started RHS level 2 certification.