It is the holiday season, many people will be going away and leaving plants in warm conditions where they can easily dry out. Three methods come to mind for watering whilst you area away…..
1. pot your edibles in self watering pots
These pots are not actually entirely self watering, but have a reservoir of water in the bottom from which the plant can draw water which greatly extends the time between waterings. The image to the right shows the workings of such a pot. You can make these yourself from a couple of large buckets (use google to help you find detailed instructions) or you can buy them ready made at garden centres and hardware stores. There is a small ‘neck’ of the upper container where the soil drops down into the reservoir so that it can draw water up. This is often achieved by making a hole in the upper bucket and dropping a small plant pot into it. There is a pipe to fill the reservoir, but this is not totally necessary as conventional watering will filter down and fill the reservoir too. The lid you see on this pot with the plant growing through it is not a common feature and can be left out, it will reduce evaporation but may increase fungal problems. If you use a lid then you will need the pipe to fill the reservoir as conventional watering becomes less feasible. Oh – and the black dot is an overflow hole so that you can’t flood the main body of the soil. These pots can provide enough water for a couple of weeks in many cases, and if you are away longer then it at least reduces the amount of attention your plants need from your neighbours. To learn how long your plants can go between watering you will need to experiment before you go away, each situation will be different and will also vary with the temperature. If you are starting your urban vegetable garden from scratch then these pots are a great way to go and don’t require much extra effort (especially if you buy them ready made). If you already have an established garden then you will need to invest some time and effort into transplanting, but if may be worth it if you go away a lot or forget to water often.
2.install a watering system with timer tap
You can buy and install a watering system with a timer tap that waters your plants with drippers regularly whilst you are away. These systems are commonly available from garden stores and hardware shops. Most of them can be self-installed, and whilst they take some time to set up, they make for easy watering whether you are home or not from then on. They are moderately expensive, but may be worth it if you are the kind of person that forgets to water or goes away for long periods. We recommend you experiment with how often you need to water for different weather conditions before you go away as each setup will be slightly different. Start with 15 minutes 3 times per week and see how things go from there. Set them to water in the night so that you minimise evaporation. Disadvantages of this system are the setup cost and time, the fact that you need access to a tap (sometimes a problem on a rooftop or balcony) and the fact that you need to leave the water on when you go away (many people shut it off in case there is a leak). Advantages are that it is totally self watering once established whether you are home or not, meaning you can just get on with other things in your life!
3. Ask the neighbours!
This is an age old method for getting the plants watered whilst away, advantages include social cohesion and someone checking on the house. Note: in extreme cases may result in an unwanted stream of email updates with photos attached.