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A gardener's holiday checklist.

Byline: Hannah Stephenson

SO YOU'RE away for two weeks in the summer holidays, when your crops are at their peak, your bedding plants need deadheading regularly and everything, especially hanging baskets and containers, needs watering. What do you do?

If you're lucky enough to have a kindly neighbour or relatives close by who can pop in to do the watering and pick some of your tomatoes, lettuces and green beans, then you're laughing. But, if no one's going to be around, you need to plan ahead.

If you have a lot of pots, cluster them together in a sheltered, shady place which is open to the rain and feed and water them thoroughly just before leaving.

If you have hanging baskets, make room in a bed and dig a hole in a cool, shady spot where you can sit them, and drench them with water so that the soil underneath gets wet.

Alternatively, dunk the basket in a large bucket of water or a tub trug - the multi-coloured gardening tubs that come in a range of colours are ideal. Let the water soak into the soil from below, but avoid submerging the basket completely to avoid the soil spilling out of the top. After doing that, transfer the basket to the hole in a shady spot.

Simple automatic watering systems can also be set up for your containers using an upturned bottle full of water set into the pot.

The water will be slowly released as the compost dries out. Or use strips of capillary matting tucked into the compost at one end and a bowl of water at the other.

Remove all flowers from plants in containers, not just the faded ones, before you leave. Hopefully you should have a fresh-looking display of new blooms on your return.

Most soft fruit will be ripening this month and much of it can be picked before you go. Apples and pears won't be ready until you come back, so that shouldn't be a problem.

The vegetable garden should be well watered before you go, and any vegetables which are ready for harvesting should be picked, blanched and frozen, if possible.

Try to plan your vegetable garden to tie in with your holiday dates, so you are not sowing a load of fast-growing crops which are going to mature - and bolt - in your absence.

If the weather is hot and dry while you're away, don't expect to return to a lush, green lawn. Grass may struggle but it invariably returns to its former glory with autumn rains. To minimise damage, though, don't do anything which will encourage it to grow fast when you are away, so don't feed or water it just before you go.

You shouldn't have too many problems with your perennials and shrubs while you are away, as well-established plants generally have strong roots that will go deep enough to find moisture. Hopefully, you will have mulched borders in spring to help retain moisture during warmer spells.

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Hanging baskets need particular care while you are away
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jul 26, 2008
Words:509
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