Summer is a popular time for family vacations.

Summer is a popular time for family vacations.  And itís easy to forget about your landscape, garden, and house plants when preparing for that vacation.  Time away from home may be pleasant for you, but it can be hazardous, even deadly, to your plants without careful preparation.  A little extra time spent preparing your landscape and house plants for your absence may save you needless worry and hours of extra work when you get back.  In this article I will give you a few tips on things you can do to keep your plants healthy while youíre away from home.

One of the first things you might do to prepare for vacation is ask a neighbor to check on your plants while youíre gone.  A vacation of more than one week requires special attention for container grown plants.  Make sure you give the person proper instructions on the care of each plant.  Different plants require different care, and a friend may not know how to care for a particular plant unless you tell them.

In case you canít find someone to personally look after your plants, thereís plenty you can do to make sure you donít come home to a limp, frazzled landscape.  Outdoor, container grown plants should be place in a shady tree or on the north side of a building are usually good locations for your plants to take advantage of reduced sunlight.  

A thick layer of mulch will also help conserve moisture and thus reduce the number of watering the plants need while you are away.

Be sure and mow your lawn before leaving for vacation, and mow it a little closer than usually.  An unwept lawn can encourage diseases, and itís also a tell-tale sign that no oneís at home.

Give garden beds a thorough soaking before leaving.  This is especially true of recently planted beds where roots are not firmly established and will need added moisture.  It will also help it if you mulch around plants with leaves, pine needles, compost or bark.  This would also be a good time to give plants a good spraying or dusting to protect against insects and diseases while youíre away.  If you have flowering annuals, cut them just before you leave.  If you donít cut them, theyíll soon stop blooming.

You should also do a thorough job of weeding before you leave on vacation.  If weeds are allowed to go to seed while youíre away, you can expect a much more difficult weed problem later in the season.  Those weeds may also give you problems next year when the seeds sprout.  The elimination of weeds will get rid of just one more competitor for your ornamental plants food and water. 

Harvest all ripe or nearly ripe fruits and vegetables before you go.  Vegetables, like flowers, will continue to produce if theyíre harvested often otherwise, theyíll go to seed.  Hereís where you should definitely make arrangements with a neighbor to harvest and water your garden.

For those plants kept in the house, place them in a room receiving indirect sunlight.  Direct sunlight will dry the soil out too quickly.  But you donítí want to leave plants in a darkened room either, as this almost always results in leaf drop.  The last thing you should do before you leave the house is thoroughly soak the plants.

To help make your vacation more enjoyable prepare your plants, landscape, and garden before leaving.  If a neighbor canít care for your plants, try the following:  First place outdoor plants in a shaded area; second, apply a thick layer of mulch to conserve moisture; third, cut or harvest fruits, vegetables, and flowers to encourage production.  Fourth weed your garden; and last, give everything a thorough watering just before leaving.

For more information on caring for your plants contact the Gulf County Extension Service @ 639-3200 or visit our website:  or www.