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Tips for Maintaining Container Plants When Going on Vacation

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Three containers or flowersI love container plants because they add so much to the garden. I have them by my front door, along my garage entrance, on my patio and bracketing a seating area in the backyard. They do take some care, as summer’s heat may require daily watering to keep them going.

My boys are tired of seeing sticky notes on the microwave each morning. They are home from school and have been sleeping late while I go off to work. The note reads, “Water the Containers!” I have also done a little traveling this summer that's taken me away from my watering chores even more.

What to do with container plants when you are away
Everyone likes to get away for a few days during the summer. These travels could be for vacation, work, or just time away to visit family. That leaves us with the problem of how to keep our container plantings thriving in these hot, dry conditions. Here are several options to consider.

Ask a neighbor. The most common solution for keeping the containers going while away from home is a reliable neighbor. Asking a friend to come over and water is usually the simplest. I have a neighbor girl (who just got a car and needs a few extra dollars for gas money) come over and water when my family and I are out of town. I spent a few minutes showing her the location of the pots and water source. If your neighbor agrees to help you out, offer to reciprocate when they go on vacation.

What to do if help is not available
If the neighbor is not on hand, there are a couple of other tricks that can help reduce the need for watering. One is to group your containers. Groupings help reduce evaporation and transpiration from the pots. By grouping, I simply mean to move them all close together in one spot so that their canopies are touching. Grouping also helps reduce the work for the friendly neighbor.

Another trick is to move your plants from the sunny locations to the shade. This will give you a day or two reprieve, as we all know the benefits of shade during the summer. A short stay in the shade will not harm the sun loving plants. The grouping trick in the shade will also buy you a little more time between watering.

One of my favorite tricks, especially for the smaller pots that require seemingly constant watering, is to bring them indoors. I have set containers in my kitchen sink and they have done just fine for almost a week. It might lose a few leaves with the lower light, but once returned to their spot they quickly recover.

More advanced options: Irrigation systems
For those that are not technologically challenged, many people with irrigation systems have hooked their containers up to a drip system. The containers are then watered by the time clock, along with the rest of the landscape. There are pros and cons to this method, but it does work with proper planning.

No matter if you are planning a short little getaway or a big vacation, with a little thought your containers will survive a stressful summer. At the Patton household, my boys will probably continue to see a sticky note each morning on the microwave listing a few little chores, such as watering the containers, unloading the dishwasher and feeding the dog. I have given up on asking them to clean their room, so that doesn’t even make the list!

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Have questions? The Garden Hotline is staffed by trained EMG volunteers and Extension staff who will assist you with questions.

Phone: (913) 715-7050

Email: garden.help@jocogov.org