As well as planning your holiday wardrobe, a few hours work in the garden before you go away will go a long way to ensure you come back to a thriving garden.
- 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.
- Edge with long handled shears to neaten it up and clear edges of weeds and areas for slugs to lurk in.
- If the grass is long when you get back keep your blades raised for the first few cuts. And don’t despair if it’s yellow. Grass is pretty tough and will soon green up again after a good downpour.
- Put your potted plants on saucers, or even something bigger like a paddling pool, to collect possible rainwater. (But check the forecast, as plants don’t like to be in standing water.) Soaked capillary matting can also get them through a week without being watered.
- Moving pots to semi shade can protect them against drying out and grouping them together will help them shade each other and share humidity.
- If there’s room, sink favourite plants into soil to keep them cool and drench the surrounding earth. A mulch of mini bark or grit will help keep the moisture in too, but water well first.
- Cut repeat flowering plants like cosmos and roses before you go away and give a lovely bouquet to a friend to ensure you come home to lovely blooms instead of a sea of fallen petals. If you’re away for three weeks remove all the flowers as well as the dead heads. Tatty looking hardy geraniums can be cut right back, as can nepeta and geum. With flowering spikes like delphiniums or penstemon, just cut off the spent flower stem.
- Weeds are easier to pull up when they’re small, so removing them before you go away is really worth it. Take care to dig out the whole root of perennial weeds such as thistle, bindweed and dandelion.
- Mulching your borders with bulky organic matter such as compost, well-rotted manure or bark will keep weeds down and moisture in – make sure you drench the soil first. Or just concentrate on newly planted or thirsty shrubs and perennials and don’t worry so much about drought tolerant ones like iris, lavender and rosemary.
- If you go away at lot, think about growing more drought tolerant plants. As a rule grey/silver, small or fleshy leaved plants such as stachys, verbena and sedum will survive without much water once they’re established.
- If the forecast is for lots of rain, remember to protect plants like hostas from slugs – try organic wool slug pellets.
- Check stakes on tall perennials – a windy summer gale plus rain can quickly flatten your garden.
Fruit and veg
- Weeding should be a priority, go over with a hoe to remove weed seedlings and finish off by hand, weeding anything close to plants.
- Pick as much as you can from repeat flowering crop like peas and beans, removing all the pods and pick all the developing courgettes – otherwise you’ll come home to marrows galore.
- Water thoroughly before you go but ideally persuade a friend to come and pick in return for watering.
- Net brassicas to keep off cabbage white butterflies.
- Tie in anything that needs it such as tomatoes, beans and sweet peas.
Barbara Samitier is a garden designer who lives in Peckham Rye.
This article first appeared in the August 2016 issue of SE22 magazine.