By Andrés Muñoz
Imagine that you’ve been organising a trip for the past several months. The itinerary has been arranged perfectly, and you are finally ready to begin your adventure. You giddily dance as you pack your bag and mentally prepare for whatever challenges this thrilling journey will bring. As the taxi draws up outside your house on your departure day, you stand on the doorway and shoot a final scan to your apartm- oh my goodness… the plants.
As I mentioned in one of our articles earlier, many who are starting to live on their own prefer to (little by little) adopt slightly increasing levels of responsibility. One might say that having a pet is one level, just like a kid is definitely another.
While houseplants might be a bit lower on the totem pole of maintenance and responsibilities, they’re still vital elements of your home and, as such, deserve to be taken care of, even when you’re away for extended periods. Here are some guidelines and instructions you might want to follow if you’re planning on going away from home for a little while.
Watering Systems: Humans, DIY, And Tech
Let’s start from the most basic of points: water. Needless to say, give your plants a good watering right before you leave. General plant keeping indicates that you should water your plants when the topsoil on the pot is dry. Well-watered plants generally could last a week, so if exposure to water is guaranteed during your time away, you’ll be more than fine.
There are all types of watering systems involving many different levels of technology, from basic ones to more high-tech ones.
This is by far the easiest method: appoint a plant sitter.
No person is an island! Ask a friend to check in on your plants every few days or so, and everything will be alright. You might want to make it easier for them by gathering all your plants together in a part of your house so that your sitter might not miss a plant or two.
Careful, though, if you have some delicate plants that might need to have their water on a more sporadic basis, make sure to let them know. Perhaps leave an instruction note beside it.
If you’re having a hard time finding a reliable plant sitter, here are a few more options.
Depending on the type of plants you have, you’ll be able to use a wick to take care of them for an extended period. First, you take a rope of natural fibre and submerge it in a container full of water. Then, you put the other end of the rope into your pot, preferably several centimetres underneath the top level of the soil. This will act as a natural transferrer and keep your soil moist for several days/weeks.
Another self-watering system that can work is anything related to a drip. The most classic of the slow drip systems is an upside-down bottle filled with water with small holes drilled on top. Right after you water the plants, leave the upside-down bottle with water deep into the soil, and it should naturally drip water little by little for the time you’ll be away. While not perfect, this rudimentary system will guarantee a steady flow of water. However, it can run out of water relatively quickly, so it’s not ideal for longer trips.
Never fear; technology is here to the rescue! Depending on the number of plants in your home, you can use different types of drip-based timers that will activate according to a programmed schedule. You’ll no longer have to spend time on your long-planned journey worrying about returning to a dry plant wasteland. With many different technological drip systems available, there will be something that can provide a small drip every specified time period.
Extra elements: Shade and Mulch
Apart from watering, move your potted plants to a cool and shady environment. While some of your plants might normally require exposure to direct sunlight, you must bear in mind that they would only be exposed to direct sunlight for several days, which might be a bit too much for them. They are more likely to survive from underexposure rather than over. Plants in the shade will thank you immensely.
Mulch is a natural or synthetic layer of material typically laid over the soil. Above all things, it helps trap some of the soil moisture, improve fertility, and keep weeds out. So, when you leave for a while, a great strategy is to first water your plants adequately and then add a deep layer of mulch. Many things can work as mulch, from leaves to grass clippings, to pine needles to chips of bark; all these are very useful, free and natural.
We hope that these guidelines keep your plants alive if you are taking a vacation! What other suggestions do you have for us? Let us know in the comment section below!
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Very useful. I’ve been hesitant about getting houseplants because of travel. Happy these hacks exist to keep them alive while gone!