Gardeners’ holidays

Can there be a good time for a gardener to enjoy a holiday away from home? How long can we afford to stay away? Before we had our garden we could book a holiday at any time of the year. Now it needs to be carefully worked out. The bleakest months of November to March seem to be the best options!

Our first year in the garden I blithely booked a holiday for early May, only then did it occur to me that all our tomato plants would be still indoors and could not be placed outside yet, and many other little seeds would be just emerging. An elaborate survival plan had to be prepared. Our bath tub became the temporary home for all the tender plants, placed together in the relative shade of the bathroom, with a common store of water. The seeds were placed in trays of water out of direct sunlight. I figured too much water was better than too little. The plan worked reasonably well but the tomatoes became a bit leggy and some of the seeds were lost.

Autumn seemed like a better choice, next time out we chose September, no problem with seeds or tender plants we decided. However, the garden was laden with produce: tomatoes, onions and courgettes, lettuce and radish. Before we could leave, all ripe and ripening fruits and vegetables were picked and I made pots of cooked tomatoes and courgettes for the freezer.

Duration of holidays has become another issue, can we really stay away for two weeks? Or should we shorten our trips? Watering is the biggest problem, in a country where it rains most days this should not be a problem, but it’s surprising how drying winds or a couple of sunny days can cause a localized drought. Enlisting the help of neighbours or friends is usually recommended, but this is quite a chore to impose on elderly neighbours, or the young families nearby.

This year we opted for April and I held off planting seeds of annuals until I returned. The bath tub was pressed into service again for tomatoes, and all vulnerable pots outside were watered well. As it turned out we got the driest April in years and we had some casualties outdoors and many other plants, particularly lettuce and radish, had bolted and gone to seed.

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