For people who love the garden and love holidays, the watering of plants becomes a significant chore. Therefore, learning how to water plants when on holiday was an essential lesson – better still, the team at Sloane & Sons Garden Benches discovered ways to create DIY watering systems that do not cost the earth.
Here we offer our guide, reporting all we have learned about keeping your plants alive. We found that these tips work brilliantly for the forgetful (and some would say slightly lazy) gardener too. Our tips are for those plants that need daily watering. If you have succulents, it is probably best to leave them alone while you are away.
This is old-school trickery – but no less effective for its age. You will need a water container – like a bucket, vase or glass, depending on how long you will be away. You will also need some cotton clothesline, which will be available at your local DIY store.
Cut a length of the cotton rope – it should be long enough to push to the bottom of the water container and then reach across to push into the soil of your plant. Place one end of the rope several inches below the soil surface, avoiding the plant’s roots as much as possible. The other end rests in the bottom of the water container.
The cotton rope will transfer the water and magically (well, more scientifically) deliver this to the soil of the plant. This is called water-wicking. The moisture level will be delivered gradually to the plant, keeping the ground moist.
You can buy drip systems from a garden centre. They are quite expensive, though they will gradually water your plants over a few weeks. Better still, and much cheaper, you can create your DIY drip system with a few simple tools. Take your empty plastic bottle, which you have felt bad about buying ever since David Attenborough and the whale. Clean it out and piece some drainage holes in the cap at the top.
Fill the water bottle up and replace the cap. Turn the bottle upside down in the plant’s soil. The container will slowly drip out the water while you are away on holiday. Make sure the earth covers the holes. If you don’t buy plastic bottles but you do have wine bottles – you can fill it up and upturn the container (using your thumb to prevent too much glugging out at first – and bury the top in the soil. There is no need to pierce the cap of screw-top wine; the narrow neck of the bottle naturally allows for a slow release of the water into the plant.
You are literally going to put your plants in the tub. Odd, we know. However, if you fill your bath to about an inch or two and lay a towel to protect the surface of the bath, you can keep your plants hydrated from below. If your plants need sunlight, your kitchen sink might be a better option. You should avoid keeping the plants in the dark bathroom for too long.
It might sound like common sense, but we will make it clear that the pots will need holes in the bottom. You are placing the plants into the bath so that water is sucked up from beneath. Sometimes when we are rushing out of the house for our holidays such small details can pass us by.
It might look a little like you are suffocating your favourite plant when you cover it with a plastic bag. However, a clear bag that is big enough to cover the pot and its contents with limited contact with the leaves will create a mini greenhouse. If you water your plants as usual before putting them in the bag, the humidity will help keep the soil moist. This will work best if the bag is placed in indirect sunlight. You do not want the plant to get too hot – as this will kill your plant. You need it to be warm enough to encourage evaporation.
This method of plant watering comes with a bit of a health warning. There are lots of ways that the plastic bag can do damage – if the leaves are too much in contact with the bag, for instance – or if it gets hot while you are away. Therefore, only use this method if you are confident with the conditions.
Anna is the marketing and office manager for Garden Benches – a premium supplier of high-quality wooden benches and other outdoor furniture.