How to Keep Your Container Gardens Watered While You're on Vacation

Don't leave your outdoor pots and hanging baskets high and dry while you're away. Follow these simple steps to make sure you don't come to a wilted mess.

There are always lots of details to take care of around the house when you're preparing for a vacation. Your list might include tasks such as reprogramming the thermostat and holding the mail, but what about your garden? Your plants in the ground will usually be fine for a week or so without watering, especially if there's some rain in the forecast. But because containers have limited space for holding water and are more exposed to warm temperatures, they tend to dry out much faster. Nobody wants to come home to wilted or crispy plants, so with a little planning, you can keep your container garden plants happy and healthy while you're out of town.

potted flowers with bottle irrigation system
Blaine Moats

1. Check the Forecast

Larger pots should be fine if you'll be gone for just two or three days, especially if rain is in the forecast. Give them a good soaking before you go. Set up a contingency plan for small pots that usually need daily watering, such as asking a neighbor or friend to stop by and give them a drink. You also could use a self-watering device that slowly delivers water from a reservoir. It'll work for outdoor container gardens, and you could also set one up to water your houseplants while you're away.

2. Group Pots

Move portable planters and hanging baskets to a shady spot (pots dry out faster in sun) protected from drying winds. Cluster them closely together so they all benefit from the raised humidity of huddling. Grouping them together also makes it easier to place them strategically to get a spritz from sprinklers or other irrigation systems on a timer. Or try making this DIY self-watering container out of a 5-gallon bucket and moving your most valuable plants into it until you get back.

3. Hook Them Up

Purchase one or more container irrigation kits, available at garden centers and online, like this Flantor Garden Irrigation system, ($22, Amazon) and enough tubing to reach all your pots; it's actually really simple to set up a drip irrigation system yourself! Once it's set up, a drip system is the most efficient way to deliver moisture to numerous pots.

4. Set to Auto Drip

Use a hose faucet timer, like this Orbit Hose Faucet Timer ($30, Amazon) to set how often and how long you water. (Test it before you leave to determine the best plan.) Some digital systems can be operated remotely with a smartphone or computer, so you can water your plants from anywhere.

With a little preparation, your plants can get the water they need without you there. By taking these steps before you leave, you can be stress-free on vacation and come home to beautiful container gardens that haven't missed a beat.

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