11/08/2014

Preparing your garden for your holiday

It is holiday season! Children now have 6 weeks off school and many of us to go on the annual family vacation, but this can have disastrous consequences for your garden.

Most of us like to ensure that our gardens are neat and tidy while we are away. We don’t want to come home from a nice relaxing break to find we need to spend hours in the garden to get it looking good again. 

While not being out in the garden for a week might not cause too much mess, missing a fortnight might, and there are a few simple precautions you can take to protect your lawn while you are away. 

Before you go away, make sure that you remove any weeds or moss from your lawn. Unfortunately these plants once established will quickly spread. The best way to prevent them from taking over your lawn and garden when on holiday is to remove them before you go. This is good lawn maintenance anyway and should be done before mowing to prevent them from spreading. 

Most people before they go away on holiday mow their lawn. In principle this is a very good idea, however some people over compensate and cut the lawn extra short so that it looks good when they return. 

This often has the opposite affect to what they are trying to achieve. By cutting more than a third of the length of the blade of grass off in one go can cause long term damage to your grass. As a result, it may cause it to turn brown as the grass has been overly stressed. 

Cutting the grass very short has other dangers too. When cutting the lawn very short you risk scalping the lawn. This is where the lawnmower blade gets too close to the soil and ‘chews’ up the ground. Again this can cause the lawn to go brown and take weeks for it to recover, and can also damage your lawnmower. 

An overly short lawn also exposes the soil to the sun. This causes the soil to dry out more quickly removing essential water that is required for the grass to grow healthy. 

After cutting the lawn, you should reuse the grass clippings as natural fertiliser for the lawn and flowerbeds. Leaving the grass clippings on the lawn and flowerbeds has a number of benefits. Not only does it add nitrogen back into the soil which is essential for healthy plant and grass growth, it provides shade for the soil from the sun helping it to retain moisture, whilst adding water also. 

You can also add the grass clippings to your compost heap. Before you go on holiday remember to turn your compost heap and add a little moisture to ensure that it has everything it needs to continue to break down to make compost while on holiday. 

A day or so before leaving for your holiday, thoroughly water your lawn. By watering thoroughly the soil will retain more water further down nearer the grass roots and allow them to get more water when you are away on holiday. 

If you don’t already it is a good idea to begin watering your lawn deeply and less frequently. This encourages deeper root growth of the grass, allowing them to obtain more water from the soil, reducing the frequency in which you need to water your lawn in the long run. 

An alternative to this is the addition of an automatic watering system. These often inexpensive watering systems like those offered by GARDENA are widely available in most retailers. These systems can be programmed to water your lawn at a pre-set time and day or the week. 

If you are to use an automatic watering system when you are on holiday make sure that you have checked that it works correctly before you go away. Ensure that it waters the lawn evenly and that it does not ‘pool’ water in areas of your garden. If prolonged periods of pooled watering occur it can drown your plants and grass. 

If you are not using any automatic irrigation system for your potted plants, move them into a shaded area of the garden and dead head them. 

This will help them retain moisture while you are away and protect them from the elements while you are away. If you are expecting strong wind in while you are on holiday you could consider adding a temporary wind break to protect your plants. 

Obviously the best way to ensure your garden is taken care of when on holiday is to ask a neighbour. If you do 
get a neighbour to help take care of your garden try and make it as easy as possible for them. Go through what needs doing and when and move all potted plants into one area of the garden so that they can be easily watered.

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