Life When I Get Back From The Mississippi – Plants Surviving Vacation

Well, I am off on another whirlwind adventure.   I am taking the hubby and the kids on a weeklong cruise down the Mississippi River. Not quite Huck Fin style, but we rented our own little version of a water bound RV and we are planning on taking 7 days to fish, sleep, play and drink adult beverages (the kids won’t be partaking in the adult beverages – Somebody needs to steer).

But for as fun as a week away from home sounds, it is still a week away from home.   As an avid gardener, particularly given that I love container gardening, a week away from the garden is a potential time bomb. No matter how well you plan or how well you think you covered things, there is the potential for disaster.

Like 3 years ago when my wonderful but elderly neighbor hurt her leg while I was gone and was unable to water my plants in 90F heat for near a week. Utter devastation. I literally lost half of my potted exotic plant collection and the other half took the rest of the year to recover. Plus, all that vacation bliss I returned with that year got right back on the plane and flew off to destinations unknown.   Plant funerals are not a good way to end a vacation.

So, here is my game plan to come back to a garden that looks lovely and, most importantly, living:

1)      Kiddy pools are not just for kids — The advice for caring for houseplants when you leave on vacation is to relocate them to the tub and place them in an inch of water.   It is a little harder to do that with 20-30 rather large containers. But a $15 kiddy pool makes a great substitute.   Set it up in a shady spot and fill with an inch or so of water. *bonus* Your house sitter will have all your precious plants in one location, which makes making sure they watered everything that much easier.

2)      Be like the A-Team — have a Plan B — As mentioned above, your back up may need a backup.  Â  Ask a neighbor, family member or a close friend to stop by daily to water your plants. Ask another neighbor, family member or close friend to stop by once or twice while you are gone. If Plan A has an emergency (or just flakes on you), Plan B can at least make sure that your plants don’t pull a Death Valley imitation.

3)      Timers are a girl’s best friend — If you can’t find a Plan B (or a Plan A for that matter) consider investing $20 or so in a timer for a sprinkler.   You can make sure that your plants get a little spa sprinkler treatment daily on a schedule.

4)      Take a little off the top — All those annuals that are looking just a little too leggy, those perennials that came, bloomed and went and the herbs that have not been used quite enough. You need to trim those puppies the day before you leave. This is not just about coming back to a living garden but returning to a magnificent garden.   A week while you are not there will give those recently trimmed plants enough time to recover and greet you looking like the height of May.

5)      Give it away — You know that you have some things in the garden that will reach peak right after you leave or that you just won’t be able to enjoy before you go.   Veggies and herbs can find homes with friends, family and your local food bank. Cut flowers are always much appreciated by senior homes and day cares. Think of it as karma to ensure a blissful and re-energizing vacation.

Think of me fondly while I am floating down the Mississippi.   On a slightly related note, in theory I should not be able to connect to the internet while traveling.   This will make the first time in 10 years that I have been away from the internet for more than 24 hours. Wish me luck.

12 thoughts on “Life When I Get Back From The Mississippi – Plants Surviving Vacation
  1. I pretty much cried when I got home from a short vacation this year because I had so much trouble getting all my containers on the rooftop watered. Luckily I only lost one plant and it was an annual so no harm no foul.


  2. safe journey. enjoy the water and keep an eye out for paddlefish and sturgeon (ancent fish that are just cool). happy trails and “calm seas and following winds”



  3. Moonbeamsbaby on

    May your garden be as green on your return as I now am with envy!


  4. Never thought of the kiddie pool idea, thanks. Also, I bought a timer this morning. Now lets hope we can survive a long weekend or two this summer. It hasn’t rained here where I live, in central NC, for 3 weeks.


  5. mkog on

    Your ideas were great. I also have had to leave my treasured garden in the care of others and worried about the care in my absence. I invested in water timers a few years ago and I highly recommend them. Even when I am gone to work all day I have my timers set to turn on hoses that mist my shade loving plants. I love the idea of the pool, but it belongs to my two labs and I don’t trust them to share nicely. I will need to move it to a controlled area but it is a great idea.


  6. Judy on

    I’m from Moline, IL, right on the river. I look forward to reading about your river experience and where you visited.
    Also appreciate the vacation plant preservation ideas!


  7. This is so timely that I found not only your blog, but this post today. As I was getting on the plane last night, away from home and my vegetable garden, I wondered about what serious gardeners do about watering and harvesting during their summer vacations. Do they only vacation in the winter? Or get a vegetable sitter, much like a pet sitter? I’m new to vegetable gardening this year and I’m lucky to have a boyfriend who stays home while I travel for work during the week. I will be keeping your tips in mind next time we travel together for vacation. Thank you for a helpful post!


  8. The kiddie pool is a great idea, but be sure to drill some holes in the side of the pool at about 1″ from the bottom. If you get a downpour while you’re gone, you may return and find your plants sitting in 8″ of water if the excess water has nowhere to go.


  9. I just love the kiddie pool idea! I am going to have to share the with my mom. She is going away for a few weeks at the end of Summer and the two kids remaining at home just don’t understand what it’s like to love a plant!


  10. Another tip with the timer, make sure it is battery powered. Just replace the battery every year on its anniversary. That way you do not have to worry if the power goes out. Especially if you’re growing vegetables for daily consumption. I am a High Density Bucket gardener and daily production is important to me.


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