Gardening To-Dos Before You Head Out On Vacation

06/27/2014 | Ken Lain, mountain gardener In the Garden, Landscaping, Outdoor Living

This pre-vacation checklist makes sure you return home to a live and healthy landscape.  Easy to use vacation security tips also contribute to your peace of mind while you’re away.

unkempt landscapeNothing says “No One is Home!” like an unkempt lawn, flowerbeds overrun with weeds, or rotting fruits. It’s important to keep your garden and landscaping maintained while you are away. Lisa and I just spent 10 days of well-deserved rest in Colorado. We were fortunate that we could call on our very capable garden center staff, and have our college-age children watch the house and dogs.   Even so, I went through the checklist I personally run down for every trip just before leaving home.


Find a responsible sitter.  If you plan to be gone longer than two weeks, it’s a good idea to get a home sitter – for the health of your plants, your home’s security, and your peace of mind. Call on high school age neighbor kids to stop by the house every few days.  We have had college students stay at the house and tend to animals and plants while we’re away.   (As a result, my college bound daughter has started a business watching after plants, pets, and homes while homeowners travel.)  Find a well-respected person under the age of 30 and chances are that he or she will be more than happy to earn a few dollars by keeping an eye on things while you enjoy your trip.

Lawns – Your pre-vacation lawn preparation is just a slightly refined version of your regular lawn care schedule. In general, 10-14 days is the maximum time you can expect your lawn to maintain a lived-in look. This, of course, depends on what the weather is like while you are way.

Mow the lawn at the regular mowing height. If the grass grows a lot while you are gone, when you return be sure to mow it at a higher setting to prevent scalping.

Water – If the weather has been dry, water the lawn well prior to leaving. Run your regular irrigation cycle twice a day for a couple days before leaving.  For best results, do this double watering early in the morning.  Planted beds, shrubs, and trees would also benefit from this double deep soaking.

Edge planting beds, sidewalks, and driveways so they are left with that just-manicured look.

Add fresh mulch to planting beds to conserve moisture and reduce weed growth.

Prune those hedges and shrubs that you know may start to look overgrown while you’re away.

weedsWeed flower and vegetable gardens.

Deadhead old blooms from flowers for a neat, clean appearance.

Check for signs of pests or disease and treat plants accordingly.  (For long-term pest management apply Watters ‘Plant Protector’ at the first sign of infestation.  It works like an antibiotic for your plants.)

Pick vegetables and fruits that are ripe or starting to ripen. This also keeps rats and mice from moving into your garden while you vacation.

Resist feeding with a high nitrogen fertilizer prior to leaving. Abundant new growth while away will only stress plants.

pw_breezy_shoresOutdoor container plants are vulnerable since they dry out more quickly even under normal circumstances. Think about moving them to a shadier area for the time you are away. Consider adding them to the drip system.  Of course, if you engage a house sitter this will be part of that person’s duties.

Hanging baskets should be sheltered if possible. Place them in a shady place on the ground while you’re away. A house sitter will make it unnecessary to move the baskets.

Houseplants – Give them a good watering, but don’t drown them. Move them away from direct sunlight, especially if you adjusted the thermostat from the normal home temperature. This will prevent scorching and slow their growth rate.

prescott importsSend it to the shop.  Vacations are a good time to get your equipment worked on while away. Engine tune-ups on that riding mower or chainsaw, and sharpening mower blades can all be done while you are away. They will be ready for use upon your return.  (I had our other car worked on while we were away; the mechanic was more than willing to watch the car until our return.  Thank you Prescott Imports 🙂  )

Security safeguards are easy to overlook.  Don’t forget to take care of newspapers, mail, automated lights, etc.

Even if you have taken all of these precautions, it still is a good idea to have someone check on your home periodically while you’re away. If necessary, leave a hose or watering can within easy access for quick supplemental watering.

There’s my list.  I hope it helps you to keep up appearances and security high while you take some time away from it all.

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Gardening Class – “Landscape Designs that Thrill, Fill and Make you Money” will be presented free of charge to our gardening friends next Saturday, July 5th at 9:30 in the morning.  Sedona landscape designer Rich Olson and I will be teaching this fast paced, inspirational class.  Students will be shown some things that can bring back or add personality to a landscape. Our monsoon season is an ideal time to change the look and feel of your yard. Students will be taught about tree placement, privacy techniques, ground covers, erosion control, inspirational bloomers, and more. One hour certainly isn’t enough time to cover all these topics in detail, but you have to start somewhere!   Garden Class Schedule

Tell a friend – If you find these garden tips helpful and want to share them with friends, point them to this link for the High Country Garden Club.