Even in wet summers, late summer vacations can be a death sentence for new plantings. An irrigation system can be your best defense, but if you don’t have an irrigation system, there are a few simple things you can do quickly before you leave with things you probably already have around the house.
1. A Bag of Mulch Start with adequate mulch. Plants should be protected by three inches of shredded bark mulch to conserve moisture. If you are short on time, just adding a little extra mulch to the most recently installed plants will help. A simple drip line on a timer is one of the most efficient ways to water plants. Covering the drip line with a thin layer of mulch will conserve moisture even more and extend the life of the hose.
2. Empty Wine Bottle For potted plants, water well, soaking the pot if it is terra cotta. Then, poke a hole through the cork of a wine bottle. Fill empty bottle with water, re-cork it, and stick it upside down in the soil. It will water the plant slowly while you are gone. For smaller indoor plants, line them up in a tub or utility sink near a window, fill with water to just below the rim of the shortest pot, then let them soak overnight. In the morning, drain the water. If you are using the tub, and close the curtain to retain humidity.
3. Empty Soda Bottle In the vegetable garden, you can give tomatoes and squashes a boost with an empty soda bottle. Cut off the top, and poke a small hole in the bottom with a knife. Bury the bottle 6-10” from the stem of the plant, leaving about 2” above the soil. Fill the bottle after watering well. The bottle will refill if it rains, and slowly drip out to keep the plant moist. The soda bottle is nearly invisible once the plant grows large enough.
4. Water Beads & Disposable Diapers Hanging plants are especially difficult to keep adequately watered, but there are a few tricks for those as well. First, move your baskets off the porch to a partly shaded, semi-protected location where they will get wet when it rains. Add pre-soaked water beads from the dollar store to the top of the soil, or break open a disposable diaper and mix the absorbent diaper fluff in with the soil, then water well. Both the water beads and the diaper fluff contain the same moisture absorbing polymer. It will absorb excess water and then slowly re-release it to the plant. Covering the soil with a 1” layer of bark mulch will also help conserve water in your baskets.
5. Call a Friend As a safe guard, ask a neighbor or friend to check the timers and refill your bottle reservoirs every 2-3 days while you are away. Keeping your new and newish plants well watered is the key to a great and lasting landscape. If you have any questions, as always, feel free to ask us!