Vacation care for plants

Published: Thursday, June 5, 2014 at 08:57 AM.

Summertime is vacation time for people, not plants!  While getting ready for that long awaited trip, it’s easy to forget about your lawn, landscape, vegetable garden and house plants.  A little time spent preparing your leafy friends for your absence could save you needless worry and hours of extra work when you get back.

A vacation may be relaxing and rejuvenating for you and your family, but it can be hazardous even deadly for your plants.  Unless you make adequate preparations before leaving, you could return to vegetable disaster.

One of the first things you might do before leaving home is ask a neighbor to check your plants periodically while you’re gone.  All plants need some care.  But, during and extended vacation, container grown plants require special attention and different species have different needs.  Be sure you give your friend specific instructions for the care of each type.

Even if you can’t find someone to personally look after your plants while you’re away, there’s plenty you can do prior to departure to make sure you don’t come home to a limp landscape and sickly house plants.  Outdoor, container grown plants should be placed in a shady area to conserve moisture.  Under a tree or on the north side of a building are good locations.  A thick layer of mulch will help conserve moisture for landscape plantings.  Mow your lawn just before leaving, cutting the grass a little closer than usual.  And unkept lawn can encourage disease, and it’s a tell-tale sign that no one’s home.

Give lawn and landscape plants a heavy watering – especially recently planted beds, which will need extra moisture.  Also, thoroughly spray or dust your plants to protect them from insects and diseases while you’re away.  If you have flowering annuals, cut the blossoms before departing.  If you don’t, they’ll soon stop blooming.  And, harvest all ripe or nearly ripe fruits and vegetables.  Like flowers, they will continue to produce only if they’re picked frequently.  Otherwise, they’ll go to seed.

Do a thorough job of weeding.  If weeds are allowed to go to seed while you’re away, you can expect to encounter much more difficult problems later in the season – even next year – when the seeds sprout.  And, remember that weeing eliminates a major source of competition for your landscape plants’ food and water, which may be in short supply during your absence.

Plants kept indoors require special consideration.  Before leaving home, place your house plants in a room which receives indirect sunlight.  Direct exposure to the sun will dry the soil too quickly.  Of course, you don’t want to put your plants in a room that’s too dark, either.  Too little light will almost always result in leaf drop.  And, just before you depart, be sure to water your house plants thoroughly.  This is especially vital, because – unlike lawn grass and landscape ornamentals – house plants cannot benefit from any rain that may fall while you’re gone.

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