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12 ways to leave your garden

Image: Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Going away? Here’s your pre-holiday to do list.

  1. Give your perennials a good cut back. Tired hardy geraniums can be sheared right back – they’ll produce new growth and may flower again for you on your return. The same goes for plants like nepeta and Alchemilla mollis.
  2. Deadhead roses before you go away so they’ll put energy into new growth and more flowers, rather than seeds. Don’t be afraid to cut back hard to thick stems and strong buds – it’ll encourage stronger new shoots. Cut off the spent flowering spikes of salvia or penstemon – these may come again.
  3. Lightly trim lavender removing old flower spikes with a pair of hand shears. Take a few cm off the tips of leafy growth to encourage side shoots and keep the plants bushy.
  4. Trim back taller perennials that have flopped onto the grass or are smothering other plants – or stake them securely so they’ll cope with any windy days while you’re away.
  5. Water. This is particularly important given the hot weather we’ve had. Drench your garden before you go – a really good soak to the roots is better for developing deep rooting. Focus on plants that need moisture – ferns, hydrangea (the clue is in the name), newly planted shrubs, trees or climbers and anything that’s showing signs of drying up. Don’t worry so much about drought plants like iris and lavender (See June’s article for plants that don’t need much watering once established). Then mulch around the roots with bulky organic matter such as compost to lock the moisture in and prevent too much evaporation.
  6. If you can, get someone to pop round and water your pots – and the rest of the garden while they’re at it! It’s best in the early morning or at night. Group containers together in a shady spot to make it easier for the person watering. This increases humidity around the plants – but it may encourage disease if left like this for too long.
  7. Ideally put containers on saucers, or even something bigger to collect possible rainwater – as long as it’s not going to rain a lot, as they don’t want to drown! Putting plants on soaked capillary matting can also prevent them drying out too much. You could also consider investing in a self-watering system for the garden and pots, which is attached to timer if you’re away for a while.
  8. Any favourite plants can be planted into beds in the shade, to keep them cooler and stop them drying out.
  9. if you have time, remove weeds before you go away – so much easier when they’re small.
  10. If the forecast is for rain, remember to protect plants like hostas from slugs.
  11. Mow the lawn a few days before you leave but don’t cut it too short if the weather is hot and dry – long grass copes much better with drought than short grass. Neaten up the edges to help it keep its shape for your return.
  12. if you’ve been cultivating some vegetables, its Sod’s law they’ll all be ready just as you go away! Pick as many veg like runner beans and courgettes as you can and freeze them. Water fruit and veg thoroughly before you go and ideally persuade a friend to come and pick in return for watering.

This article first appeared in the August 2018 issue of SE22 magazine

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