You've planted a garden or filled your porch with planted containers. Now you want to go on vacation?
Relax. With some planning and care, your garden can survive without you for a week or two. Even your houseplants will get along. While you might have to lower your expectations for a bushel-busting harvest of peas or beans or tolerate spent annuals, the majority of the garden can definitely withstand a break from care.
The first thing to consider is water. We are about to enter our annual "drought season," where the rainfall level trickles down to nonexistent and the ornamentals and vegetable plants start to take off. Despite the rainfall we've had recently, it's good to keep watering new vegetable starts and seeds so the former get a chance to set roots and the latter can sprout. If you plan to take a week-long vacation in July or August, put the rest of the vegetable garden in now and call it good, or seek some plant care for your absence.
In the ornamental garden, most perennials and many annuals can survive a week without water, if they have had some time to become established beforehand. Keep watering what you have now, pay special attention to any annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees you've recently added and don't put any more in the ground in the weeks before you depart.
If that means you have a bunch of potted plants sitting around, waiting to go into the ground, keep watering them, too. Before you leave, gather them up and put them in one shaded place. You can add a tablespoon or so of plant polymer to each pot, akin to the water absorbent gel you would find in a disposable baby diaper. Mix it into the potted plant's soil, and water. The gel absorbs water to release later, when needed. You can also mulch around the pots, watering the mulch material as well as the plants, to provide an extra layer of moisture. The mulching trick works in the garden beds, as well, because it helps to retain moisture and keeps the base of the plant and its roots cooler. Compost, fine bark or shredded newspaper works well. Potted shrubs and trees especially benefit from this.
If you want a green lawn, keep up with watering before leaving. Established lawns should do fine with a spell of neglect - consider holding off on a mowing before you go, so your newly shorn lawn doesn't scorch.
Meanwhile, back in the flower garden, keep up with the deadheading, if you want a pop of color when you return. If you want to slow the growth down, and don't mind deadheading later, let the plants be. Also, don't fertilize right before you go. Rapidly growing plants like lots of water, and you won't be around to give it.
If you are lucky enough to have a plant sitter or garden caretaker, try to make their job easier. Gather up those potted plants, put them in the shade and make sure there's a hose nearby. Consider taking down the hanging baskets and adding them to the shaded area, too. Set an easy watering schedule for the vegetable garden - perhaps two long waterings in a week (an hour or more with a sprinkler - it's overhead, but the plants can take it a couple of times) instead of daily attention.
Protect your houseplants while you're away by putting them in a "home greenhouse" that you build in your shower. Put a plastic drip cloth at the bottom of your bathtub and cover that with several layers of newspaper. Put the houseplants in the tub and turn the shower on long enough to wet leaves, soil and newspaper. Pull the shower curtain, place a light plastic tarp over the top and tape it to the back wall to form a tent. Leave a light on in the bathroom and the plants should be in good shape.
Don't use this method for plants with leaves that rot easily, such as African violets, cacti or succulents. You might want to buy a plant wick for those. A wick transfers water via capillary action to dry plant soil from a nearby water jar.
Cathy Peterson belongs to the Clatsop County Master Gardener Association. "In the Garden" runs weekly in Coast Weekend. Please send comments and gardening news to "In the Garden," The Daily Astorian, P.O. Box 210, Astoria, OR 97103 or online to email@example.com
SATURDAY, July 2
The Oregon Garden in Silverton celebrates its Saturday 4 Kids program. Every Saturday through Labor Day, take part in hands-on activities in the Children's Garden. There are four different themes. July 2 is flowers. Free with garden admission. For information, call (877) 674-2733.
SUNDAY, July 3
Joy Creek Nursery, 20300 N.W. Watson Road in Scappoose, holds a fuchsia celebration. Fuchsia growers Paul Bonine from Viva Plants will speak at 11 a.m. and Ron Monnier from Monnier's Country Gardens will speak at 1 p.m. They offer information and insight into what plants will work best in your garden. Both will bring specialty fuchsias for sale. Admission is free. For information, call (503) 543-7474.
SATURDAY, July 9
The Lower Columbia Preservation Society's fifth annual Garden Tour and raffle takes place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The tour features "town and country" gardens. The cost is $5 for LCPS members, and $10 for nonmembers. For information, call (503) 325-3981.
UPCOMING AND ONGOING
All are invited to attend the 22nd annual Oregon State University annual Gardener Mini-College July 20-23 in Corvallis. "Rediscovering Your Roots" features 23 classes and workshops with titles such as Herbs Used by Lewis and Clark, Japanese Gardening and Fire Resistant Plants for Oregon. The registration deadline is July 1. Download a registration packet from extension.oregonstate.edu/mg or stop by the Clatsop County OSU Extension Office, 2001 Marine Drive, Astoria.
The Clatsop County Master Gardeners offer free assistance on the Help Desk Hotline. The volunteers can answer questions about your yard, garden, household plant and insect problems and offer advice. The hotline, (503) 325-8573, is staffed noon to 3 p.m. Mondays and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesdays.