Before you head out the door for your summer vacation, here are some tips to reduce worries about your vegetable garden, flowerpots, annuals and perennials while you are away. The last thing you want is to come home and see all of your hard work fried from the sun and lack of water.

Many in-ground, well-established vegetables, perennials and annuals can go about a week without supplemental watering. Give everything a good soaking a day or two before you leave. If you have an irrigation system, then of course, your worries are limited.


  • Harvest vegetables that are ripe or nearly ripe. Store the produce in a cool place, such as a kitchen counter out of direct light, or give to a food bank, neighbor or friend.
  • Depending on how long you will be away, you might want to ask a neighbor or friend to water the vegetable garden every couple of days, if temperatures soar and there’s no rain. Allow the caretaker to pick whatever is ripe.
Cut back perennials
Give perennials and annuals a haircut before going on vacation. They will bounce back in a week or two.
© Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp
Corral pots into a kiddie pool
Corral pots into a kiddie pool and add 1-2 inches of water.
© Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp


  • Cut back perennials and annuals by one-third to one-half. This reduces the amount of top growth the plant needs to support. The plants will bounce back within a couple of weeks.
  • Cluster pots to make it easier for someone to water. Consider moving the containers to an area that gets dappled sun or light shade for the time you are away. Moving the pots out of full sun will reduce the watering needs.
  • Corral pots into a kid’s plastic swimming pool or a tub and place in a spot with dapple light or part sun. Place pots on sheets or towels to elevate them slightly. Add an inch or two of water to the pool, which is enough to keep the plants moist, but they won’t drown. Avoid putting the pool or tub on the lawn because it will smother the grass.
  • Set up a wicking system. Tightly twist a moistened rag or towel, and using a screwdriver or similar tool, gently push one end of the material into a pot, getting it as close to the bottom as possible. Stick the other end into a water source that is slightly elevated from the pot. You also could do this wicking technique with several plants ringed around a child’s swimming pool or other large reservoir.
vacation wick system
A wicking system works well for pots, including those that are too heavy to move.
© Kate Copsey

When you return

When you get home, give everything a good soaking and apply a dose of plant food according to label directions.

by Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp