Saturday, 22 July 2017

Is your garden holiday proof?

Holiday proof garden Green Fingered Blog
Are you going away on holiday this summer? Have you thought about how your garden will cope without you? 

Of course your plants can keep on growing by themselves but what if there is a really hot dry spell and there's nobody at home to water anything?
It's quite normal even if you're not a gardener to hope it's raining back home all the time you are building sandcastles on a sunny beach somewhere far away, but if summer returns home before you do, then you may come back to loads of shrivelled up shrubs and floppy, faded flowers. 

Not to mention a lawn full of dandelions. And will you have the energy to get the garden back to it's best after taking it easy for a week or two? 

Here are some simple ways to help your garden cope with being ignored, and leave you less to do when you get back...

Holiday proof your garden

I've put a couple of affiliate links to useful items in this post. The Green Fingered Blog is a participant in the Amazon EU Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to My promise to you is that there are only links to products I'd be willing to buy myself. If you do click through from this site and buy anything, I may receive a fee - just so you know.

Prepare your pots

Plants in pots are the most vulnerable to extremes of weather. 

Pots can heat up and dry out quickly meaning that plants in containers are more likely to wither in hot conditions than those in the ground. 

Their roots are more constrained so they have less access to moisture, and being above ground they have less opportunity to stay cool too.

Before you go away, water all pots thoroughly. Give them a good soaking so that the soil is well saturated. Include liquid feed to add nutrition. An upturned plastic bottle full of water with the open top pushed into the ground is a good way of supplying a bit of extra water while you are away.
holiday proof garden upturned water bottle in pots Green Fingered Blog
Slow release water from an upside down bottle 

Plenty of pots enjoy life against a sunny South facing wall, but most will nonetheless perish in hot weather without regular watering. 

If you haven't got anyone to do that for you, put them in a saucer to retain more of any rain that does fall. 

If you can, move containers to shady spots to slow the dehydration period during hot spells. 

holiday proof garden containers moved to cool shady spots Green Fingered Blog
Lettuce in a container moved to the shade of the pergola

Moving as many as you can to against the North facing wall, or under a larger shrub, will help reduce moisture loss, and extend the period plants can survive for unattended. 

GREEN FINGERS TIP: Group several pots together to reduce water evaporation, especially terracotta pots which dry out more quickly. Propagation trays containing water can hold several smaller pots. Plants will gradually draw up the moisture from the tray over a longer period of time if they need it.

Automatic watering systems

Although I don't have one in my garden (yet), I've seen several examples of automatic irrigation systems which work pretty well. If you want to forever solve the problem of watering your garden while you're not there, these are what you need.

The examples I've seen working well distribute water either via perforated hoses along the ground, or spray nozzles on the end of hoses close to ground level. They are fed either from an outside tap or a water butt containing a battery powered pump.

These systems involve a clever combination of valves and/or taps attached to the water outlet, which once in place simply requires someone to turn them on. This makes life pretty easy for anyone you ask to water the garden for you while you're on holiday. The can be set up to water your borders, greenhouse, or pots.

If there's nobody to do this for you, you can connect your system to a timer which will turn on  the water supply at preset intervals for a preset amount of time.   

If this is what you need then here are (affiliate) links to the sort of systems I've seen working in various gardens:


Flower beds and borders  

Before you leave your garden to its own devices, water it well and if a dry spell is forecast then mulch it by adding compost or bark chippings around the base of the plants. This will keep any moisture from evaporating away too quickly.

Next, deadhead anything that's finished flowering so that it doesn't run to seed while you're away.

Geranium flower holiday proof your garden Green Fingered Blog
Worth picking this now if you're going away

Once they set seed, plants will reduce their efforts to flower, so its also worth picking anything that's just starting to go over, like this geranium. By the time you come back, many flowers blooming when you go might have completely finished or set seed, but if you pick them all then they should produce a load more flowers to welcome you home.

Sweet pea seed pod Holiday proof your garden Green Fingered Blog
Sweet pea pods - not as pretty as the flowers!
If there are any plants you take cut flowers from, like sweet peas for example, then it's worth picking all the flowers you can even if you won't get to enjoy them. It means there will be more fresh ones to enjoy when you come home. 

Much better to come home to a fresh flush of colourful blooms than plants full of seed pods. Plenty of time for seeds later in the year!


If you have a lawn then the more often you cut it, the easier it is and the better it looks. 

Cut grass holiday proof your garden Green Fingered Blog
The Green Green Grass of Home
If you're going away for a while it could be hard work when you come back, especially if the weather has actually been wet while you are away and it's grown. 

It's worth giving the grass a trim before you go, but don't over do it. 

If the weather is dry then short grass will dry up and turn brown more easily. Tidy it up by all means but don't cut it too short.   Then give it a good watering if you can. 

A really good soak once a week is good practice for watering lawns, so do it before you go and it should see it through without problems, even in high summer.


Don't forget your feathered friends. Top up any bird feeders before you go, and make sure there is water in the bird bath if you have one too.

Bird bath holiday proof your garden Green Fingered Blog
Fill up the bird bath before you go

So there are some simple jobs you can do to make sure your garden survives being ignored while you are off enjoying yourself somewhere else. Of course, in the UK you can never be sure whether you are leaving the garden to cope with a drought or a flood. But it's worth doing something just in case. 

Happy holidays everyone, I hope the weather is kind to you and your garden!  



  1. I just filled soda bottles with water and plunged them upside down in 4 planters. Thank you!!!!!!!

    1. Glad to be of some help - hope they do the trick!