Gardener takes a vacation

In the Garden
Ralph Purkhiser, Purdue University Master Gardener

     It is difficult for a gardener to take a summer vacation.  Just the thought of leaving the garden in the summer increases my stress level.  I could miss the first ripe tomato or the blooms of a particular flowering shrub.  Timing is everything.  Of course, I could travel at less busy times of the year, but my traveling companions would be in school at those times.  Also, my number one reason for traveling is visiting other gardens and I want to see them when they are at their peak.  At some point, one must simply pick a week and face up to the fact that he or she will miss some things.
     One of the great concerns of being away from home is watering.  In my perfect world, there would be rain at home on at least two days of the week I am gone, but no rain in the area I am visiting.  However, I just cannot seem to count on that.  Therefore, I need to take steps to ensure everything does not die of thirst while I am gone.  If you have someone whom you can trust to do it, you may enlist the aid of a friend or relative.  Make the job easier for the substitute.  Mass the potted plants in just a couple of areas.  Put hanging baskets on the ground, where they will lose less moisture.  If the substitute waterer is able to just turn on the water and spray an area, they are less likely to miss specific plants.  You may move the pots back to the various locations in the garden when you return.  Newly planted specimens present a bigger problem.  A good way to let the water soak in around such plants is to use milk jugs with holes poked in the bottom.  You may need several around a large tree.  The person watering will them only have to make sure the jugs are filled and the jugs mark the plants that may need the water.
     Harvesting is another issue.  Some fruits and vegetables will simply et larger if left to grow, but other crops my move past prime.  The purpose of fruit is for a plant to produce seed for the next generation.  Mature fruits are a signal to the plant to stop setting blooms and new fruit.  It is essential to find someone who will keep such fruits and vegetables picked while you are away.  Let them have the produce for themselves.  It may take more than one harvester to find someone who will use the various crops you are growing.
     Grass and weeds will certainly continue to grow.  You may hire someone to mow while you are gone, but I know how difficult it is to trust someone else to trim around my precious plants.  My goal is always to have everything trimmed and mowed before I leave and know that I will have to mow again when I get home.  However, in reality, I never get everything done, so I know that some areas will be overgrown when I get back.
     A trusted friend always cares for my gardening companion when I go away.  It is, I know, a stressful time for him.  I try to leave a good supply of his favorite treats and I call frequently.  It is amazing how much just hearing my voice on the phone seems to calm him when I cannot be there in person.  It helps that he also really likes my friend and is used to his being around.
     So here I go, off to the Poconos with a great nephew and two great nieces.  It will be an adventure and, I hope, an educational and fun experience for them.  The garden chores will be waiting for me when I get back.  They always are, so why should I hesitate taking a vacation?  I deserve it.


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