Keep your garden alive while you're away

Matt Leacy, Creative Director and co-founder of the award winning Landart Landscapes shares his top tips for keeping your garden alive while you’re away on holiday this summer

Matt Leacy - Landart Landscapes 

Watering is key - it may sound like cheating, but if you’re going to be away for a few weeks the best thing you can do to keep your garden alive while you’re away is to hire a maintenance service or get your neighbours to water for you.  

In terms of your lawn, making sure it's cut will help give your home a lived-in look while you’re away which is important from a security perspective. You should mow your lawns right before you leave for your holiday, but avoid the urge to go too short.  A ‘scalped’ lawn won’t do well in the heat of summer, especially if it’s getting less water than it’s used to.

If there are teenagers in your street, consider speaking with their parents about whether they might like the job of watering your garden, lawns and pots while you’re away. Maybe offer an additional tip to get them to check on your pool water levels in case they also need a top up. If you have a vege patch you can also offer neighbours access to whatever is growing in that space while you’re away in return for helping keep things alive.

If you prefer to be self-sufficient, a good drip water system, and/or a sprinkler system on a timer or Wi-Fi controlled system is another way you to keep your garden thriving. The Wi-Fi controlled option is best as it allows you to control when your garden gets watered and allows you to adjust for any rainfall that may occur. And of course before you go away ensure that your garden and pots are well hydrated.

If you’re really organised, and can plan far enough in advance, you could start watering your plants less often but more deeply.  Over time, they will need less frequent watering and it will encourage roots to grow deeper. It will also make the plants more drought tolerant. 

If you also need to keep indoor plants alive, you could place them in a bathtub or sinks with a few inches of water in the bottom. Or, consider moving them outside to a well sheltered and shaded space that will enable anyone who may be watering your garden to also hose down your indoor plants.

Any plants that you have in pots outside should also be moved to shaded spots while you’re away to reduce the amount of water they will need to survive.  If you can, group them all together which will help create localised humidity as the leaves of each plant will emit and trap the water vapour off each other. It's a good idea to also place pot saucers or trays under potted plants if they don’t already have them. This will help trap water that they can then draw up over time.

Mulching is key - mulch is a must to help retain soil moister while you’re away, and to keep weeds – that not only look awful but also suck water from your soil - at bay. Matt recommends organic compost and a slow release fertiliser.  Lay it over the soil by hand where possible, but be wary of applying too close to plant trunks and stems. Excess moisture can cause stems to rot, so it’s generally best to mulch at least 50-70mm thick and to keep the mulch well away from stems and trunks. Check your mulch levels and top them up before you head off on holidays if you need to. 

Plant water wise plants – if you’re looking at updating your outdoors space for summer, and you know you’re going to be away a lot, you should choose water wise options now.

Some great water-wise plants to consider include agaves, dragon trees, tree aloes, Nolina’s and cactuses. They’re not only low-maintenance, but also bring a lot of form and structure into the garden, as well as being very diverse in terms of texture and colour, which means they can be suited to many different styles of outdoor spaces. Succulents are also a great choice. Good options include Crassula, Carpobrotus, Aloes, Senecio, Sempervivums and Sedums.

Species such as Lomandra, Westringias and Casuarinas are also awesome if you’re looking to plant on mass for large spaces. Mixing these with some exotic succulents and native ornamental grasses can create some really interesting planting palettes with varying textures and colours. And you won’t have to worry too much about them while you’re away.

Prepare your soil – use compost, organic matter and worm castings to build up the health of your soil. A healthy soil will retain water better.  Try not to use too much artificial fertiliser as this can affect the PH and available nutrients of the soil overtime. You could also use a wetting agent in pots and garden beds.

Check for disease and pests – before you go away you should also ensure that you’ve checked the health of all your plants. If you notice any pests taking hold you should deal with this before going away. In humid, warm conditions a matter of weeks can easily be the difference between coming home to plants that have been eaten and stripped right back, or plants that have continued to thrive in the summer sun.

Story by: Jackie Gray-Parker

Photography by: Jason Busch, Landart Landscapes

10 Jan, 2021

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