Pre-holiday garden bed checklist

timer + drip hose - two ways I've travel-proofed my garden

I love my garden - and at the moment it's doing really well. So should I spend my time overseas worrying about it? Hell no. Some careful planning should keep my greens going strong until I return in 6 weeks' time. And if things go wrong? It's ok. I can always replant.

Over the week before we left home, I made about 243 lists, for house and travel and garden and work and school and documents and clothes and so on. I'm one of those list-y people who can't function without being able to put tasks on paper and check them off with neat ticks as they're accomplished. Oh yes, that's me. Maybe it's you, too?

My garden list was the most fun of all of them - it makes me feel so happy to dig around in dirt and grow things. I checked off tasks one by one, chilli by lemon, kale by basil, rosemary by silverbeet. Today, I thought I'd share that list with you - to help encourage you to give yourself some well-deserved freedom.

I don't believe in not-traveling because something might happen to my garden (substitute any number of words for the word garden), because who can ever predict what might happen? I've returned home after months away to find fresh basil sprouts and new tomato seedlings and heavy bell peppers (capsicums) all over a somewhat neglected garden. And I've been at home and walked outside after breakfast to find every chilli decimated by a hungry (hopefully tummy-sore - take that you inconsiderate marsupial) possum.

But here you are: a list of simple things you can do to ensure make it more likely you'll return from your trip to a garden full of produce. Green stuff always feels good in your body after travel, don't you think?

Hope you have a great weekend! And a great trip :)
Amanda xx

aphids. on MY nasturtiums. grrr.

A Pre-Holiday Garden Bed Checklist

Here's my pre-holiday checklist for a small-ish townhouse garden bed like mine, which measures about 2x2m, is surrounded by pots, and is planted primarily with green leafy things, sweet and hot peppers, tomatoes and herbs.

  • Set up a drip-based watering system that maximises the water getting into the soil and should minimise leaf-scorching (which is when leaves burn from a water-then-hot-sun combo). Make the watering comprehensive - leave no plant behind. As you can see in the pictures, I've wound a clog-proof hose throughout my garden. If you're concerned about attractiveness - which I might be when I get back - you can always bury this kind of hose under soil and it'll water the plants straight into their roots. 

  • Install a timer. Programmable timers that come on at a set time daily can be expensive, but will save your neighbour from having to trek over every day or two. If you have a housesitter, or want to make it (more cheaply) easy on your neighbour, install a timer that automatically turns off the water. The one I'm using sits between the spout and the drip-hose, and - much like a cooking timer - stops the flow of water after a set period. 

  • Find a friend to check on your garden and water (if needed). Even if you have a 100% automatic system set up, you'll still want to make sure it's functioning properly while you're away. 

  • Fertilise. Use compost, or diluted worm farm juice, or organic chicken poo, or your favourite organic/natural fertiliser in the recommended dosage for your garden's area. Make your plants happy! (before you abandon them)

  • Mulch. Here in the subtropics - and in our garden beds - it's critical to completely cover the surface of the soil with mulch to prevent evaporation and soil dry-out. Mulch is a great water-conservation measure. Pile it up all over the soil, around the garden plants themselves - in addition to keeping the soil wetter, it'll compost slowly over time, and make it more difficult for weeds to sprout. I like sugar cane or organic tea tree mulches - tea tree is native in Australia, but has a nose-clearing fragrance you may have to get used to.

  • Remove caterpillars and leaf hoppers. A quick scan should help you find all the little guys eating your yummy leaves. In my garden, the poor kale suffers terribly from caterpillars - if I'm not diligent about a seek-and-remove every week or so, I end up with stalks. And fat, organic caterpillars. Dispose of your pests as you like - I have a hard time squishing bugs so I tend to throw mine over the fence out onto the street. (I figure the birds will find and eat them - yay! Happy birds!). You can ask your friend/neighbour to sweep the garden for bugs while you're away, or just take your chances they won't eat everything

  • Spray for ants and aphids. This is another issue in my Brisbane garden - the diligent farming practices of my ants. I know, I should encourage the behaviour ... but the aphids suck the life (literally) out of my garden, and contribute to extreme ant populations that eventually start scanning my house for new home sites. Great. So I spray them with a non-toxic (to me) organic oil and water mixture. To make one yourself, simply mix 1/2 cup vegetable oil* + 1 1/2 Tbs Dr. Bronners liquid soap + 1 cup water in a spray bottle. Shake, and spray. I recommend spraying in the early morning or evening, when the mixture won't scorch the leaves. *I've used sunflower oil and avocado oil and both have worked fine - but use whatever you have on hand. Insects respire through holes in their bodies (spiracles), and vegetable oils block these holes making it difficult for them to breathe. Yes, they suffocate. But at least you don't have to squish them!

  •  Most importantly? Relax. Don't stress. Enjoy your time away!

homemade organic aphid oil


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