Gardening Essentials

How To Look After Your Garden When You Are On Holiday

For many gardeners, a big concern about taking a holiday away from home is the effect their absence will have on their gardens. The thought of coming home to knee high grass, undernourished fruit and dried-out pot plants is enough to put anyone off taking a few weeks away, but with a few precautions you’ll soon find there’s no need to worry.

Keeping your containers watered

The big issue for most gardeners is how their plants are going to get enough water while they’re away. If you’re lucky you might have a neighbour who can help. If not, here are some suggestions on how to keep your plants in containers moist.

Hanging baskets

Plants in containers like hanging baskets are completely reliant on the water you give them. When planting these up, use water retaining gel mixed into the compost which acts as a water reservoir and helps to keep your baskets wetter for longer. Take your hanging baskets down from their hooks and place them in a shady part of the garden where they will be sheltered from the sun and can benefit from any rain showers.

Patio plants

Try moving your containers into a shaded area as they will need to be watered less when kept out of direct sunlight. It’s also a good idea to group container plants together, as this will increase the humidity around them and help reduce the amount of water they need. If possible, put your containers in large saucers as these will help retain any rain water that might fall, allowing it to be soaked up over time. Another good tip is to place a bucket of water next to a container and use a piece of capillary matting as a wick to transfer the water slowly from the bucket to your patio pots.

Keeping your garden going

If you’ve been looking after your garden, keeping it watered, fed and weed-free, you’ll be relieved to know that most areas won’t suffer from being left to their own devices for a week or two. However, there are a few tricks you can use to make sure your garden is still looking good when you get back.


Most standard or family lawns will cope perfectly well if you’re going on holiday for a couple of weeks. Make sure you give it a mow just before you leave and be ready to do the same when you get back. Don’t worry about watering a lawn – it will survive however dry it gets. Higher-quality lawns will need mowing more often to keep them in good condition, so if possible either ask a friend to do the job for you or arrange for a professional contractor to visit while you’re away.

Beds & borders

The main problem here is that weeds could establish while you’re away. If they’re allowed to flower and set seed they will continue to grow for years to come. Make sure you clear all weeds before you go, then cover any bare soil between plants with a layer of bark chippings to prevent other weeds from establishing – this will also help the soil retain moisture.

New plants

Most plants growing in your garden won’t need watering – the exception being those that have been planted recently as their roots will need to be kept moist until they’ve settled in. If you’ve got someone looking after the garden while you’re away, make sure they’re clear about which plants will need watering.


If you don’t want to miss the peak display of flowering in your garden, you can delay it by deadheading all repeat-flowering plants before you leave. This will allow new buds to develop while you’re away, ready to come into full bloom when you return.

Fruits & vegetables

A lot of vegetable crops will suffer if they run short of water. If you can’t arrange for them all to be watered while you are away, make sure supplies are concentrated on those that produce pods (like peas and beans) and fruit (like tomatoes). Leafy crops, such as lettuce, are also worth keeping well watered otherwise they may run to seed. Make sure you water them thoroughly before you go, and add some mulch such as composted manure or straw to the bare soil between rows and individual plants to help keep water in.

Some vegetables, particularly runner beans, courgettes and tomatoes need to be picked regularly to make sure the plants continue to produce new pods or fruits. This can be a sweet reward for anyone who is able to look after your garden while you’re away, but if you have to leave it unattended, make sure you remove all ripening tomatoes and swelling pods from runner beans before you go.

To get the best harvests from your fruit crops, they will need to be kept well watered while the fruit is swelling. Again a thorough watering and a thick mulch before you go will work wonders.

Top tip

  • Investing in an automatic watering system connected to a timer is a great way of continuing to water your garden while you’re away. This is of particular benefit if you have a lot of containers on the patio or a greenhouse that won’t get watered when it rains.



Writer and expert