Vacation Care for Plants
Photo by Mary Derrick
July 11, 2014
By Roy Carter
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 vegetation 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. Many landscape and container plants need care, especially during the extreme conditions of Florida summers. During an extended vacation, container grown plants require special attention with different species having different needs. Be sure you give your friend specific instructions for the care of each type.
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 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. You may consider mowing your lawn just before leaving. An unkempt lawn can encourage disease, and it’s a telltale sign that no one’s home.
Give lawn and landscape plants an adequate watering – especially recently planted beds, which will need extra moisture. If you have flowering annuals, you can cut the blossoms before departing. This will cause the plant to send much needed water and nutrients to buds that have yet to bloom so that you will have flowers to enjoy when you get back. Harvest all ripe or nearly ripe fruits and vegetables. Like flowers, they will continue to produce if they’re picked frequently. Otherwise, they may 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. Weeding eliminates a major source of competition for your landscape plants’ nutrients and water that may be in short supply during your absence.
Plants kept indoors require special consideration. Before leaving home, place your houseplants in a room that 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. Also, just before you depart, be sure to water your houseplants 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.
You’ll enjoy your vacation more by making sure your plants are well prepared for your absence.
Roy Carter is the County Extension Director and Agricultural University of Florida Extension Agent for Gulf County. For more information about gardening in our area, visit the UF/ IFAS Leon County Extension website at http://leon.ifas.ufl.edu. For gardening questions, email us at Ask-A-Mastergardener@leoncountyfl.gov