Make Sure Your Garden Crops Survive When You Go Away in Summer

Enjoy a worry-free vacation by planning for your plants' needs in advance.

small watering head near plant

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Good gardeners know that a hands-on approach is key, and that the more time you spend in your garden observing, interacting and tending, the more successful your efforts are likely to be. Prevention is better than care, and when you are checking in on your garden regularly, there is less chance of major problems arising within your space.

But even when you have a garden, you can still take a break from time to time! Here are some tips to help make sure your garden crops survive when you go away in summer for a little while—even if you don't have anyone to help you in the garden while you are away.

Build Resilience Into Your Garden

The first and most important step for a garden that can cope on its own for a week or so is to take holistic steps to make sure that it is as healthy and resilient as possible. Some key ideas to embrace include:

  • Introducing as much biodiversity in plants and varietals as possible
  • Adding plenty of lower-maintenance perennials, as well as annual crops
  • Choosing the right plants for the right places (adapted and suited to the growing conditions where you live)
  • Welcoming in as much wildlife as possible and taking steps to draw beneficial wildlife into your space
  • Combining plants and adding companion plants for beneficial interactions
  • Considering plant spacing and ensuring that there is not too much competition or overcrowding in your garden beds and borders
  • Watering deeply rather than little and often to encourage deeper root formation and healthier, hardier plants

Think About Water For When You Are Away

If you are planning on going away over the summer, one key thing to think about, especially with an annual vegetable garden, is whether plants will get enough water while you are away.

You might consider automated watering systems such as a drip irrigation system that comes on at timed intervals if the weather will be dry while you are away. But in smaller spaces you might consider solutions like adding watering globes and water bottles placed upside down in beds or planters. You might also add clay pots for irrigation, placed in the soil.

self watering plant setup

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These can be filled with water which will slowly be released to provide water for your plants while you are away. You can add rags or fabric strips to wick water from a container into the soil at the base of plants. As long as you calculate rough water needs for specific plants, and add enough of these small-scale watering solutions, they should keep plants happy while you are away. 

Take Steps to Reduce Water Needs

In areas where it will be dry while you are away, it can be beneficial to consider possible steps to reduce the amount of water your crops will require while you are away.

One key thing to think about is shade. Adding shade for specific parts of your garden to reduce moisture loss will reduce watering needs while you are away and could potentially buy you a little more time. Think about how you can still ensure enough daylight for crops while also providing some shade for them during the hottest part of the day.

Another key thing to consider is covering areas of bare soil, either with ground-cover plants or with organic mulch.

mulching around a flowering plant

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Adopt an Integrated Pest Management Approach

Water will often be the biggest concern if you want your garden to survive and thrive in your absence over the summer months. But pests could also be an issue if you are not there to nip problems in the bud. 

Taking an integrated pest management approach is the best policy. Working with nature, rather than fighting it, is important in organic gardening. Remember, biodiversity is key, and you need some pests to be present in order to attract the things that eat them and keep their numbers down.

Sometimes, however, barriers may be required to keep crops safe from pests. Covering crops with netting or row covers could prevent a major crop catastrophe while you are away, so adding additional protection while you are away could be a good idea.

garden row covers

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Undertake Key Tasks Before You Go

Finally, before you head away in the summer, make sure you have checked over the garden thoroughly. Do a spot of weeding here and there where required so you don't come back to a jungle. Make sure plants are supported, mulch is replenished, and you have done any pruning or other work that may be required.

Harvest whatever needs to be harvested to prevent waste, and make sure your harvest has been used, preserved, or stored for later use.