Holiday season tips on keeping your flowers and plants moist

Watering plants in a tray (S)
Watering plants in a tray (S)

With just a little planning and a friendly neighbour you can go away on holiday without worrying about your plants - by Martin Fish

The holiday season is now upon us and many people will be taking a well-earned break. For gardeners though this can lead to concerns about holiday watering!

Whether it’s your house plants, containers and hanging baskets, tomatoes or greenhouse plants, they are all going to need watering while you are away. I have known people try all sorts of things to keep the precious plants moist while away for the week such as standing pots in full buckets of water or putting them in a garage where it is cool and dark, but in these conditions the plants suffer.

By far the best way to keep you plants healthy and growing is to ask someone to water for you on a regular basis while you are away.

You can, however, do some things in advance to make the chore of watering a little easier for your friend. Hanging baskets on a warm south-facing wall will dry out very quickly, so consider taking them down and standing them on pots or buckets out of direct sun where they won’t dry out as quickly. Containers can also be grouped together out of direct sun. Vegetables and ornamental plants growing in large pots can be stood in shallow saucers that hold an inch or two of water. If the saucer is kept topped up with water the roots will remain moist and as long as this is only for a week or two, the plants won’t suffer. In the greenhouse where you have lots of small plants, shading the glass will help to keep the temperature cooler and the plants can be stood in large shallow trays.

Outside in the garden, make sure that your soak the soil around the base of newly planted trees, shrubs and vegetables to keep the root moist.

Readers’ Questions

Mark from Harrogate has emailed me to ask about growing sweet peas. His plants are growing well up a trellis and are just starting to develop flower buds, but he has read that he should have been removing the tendrils and tying the plants to the support. Mark has just allowed the plants to grow naturally!

It really depends on what you want the sweet peas for. If like me you grow them purely for decoration in the garden and cut flowers for the house, it is perfectly fine to allow the sweet pea plants to grow naturally up trellis or mesh where the tendrils will support the plants. If however you want show sweet peas with long straight stems and perfect blooms, then you do need to adopt a different growing technique. For show flowers the plants are grown as single stems, or cordons, where all side shoots and tendrils are pinched out. For support the stems are tied to canes with soft string. This method is time consuming, but you will get bigger flowers. If you want to learn more about growing sweet peas, there is an event on this weekend, July 13-14 at RHS Garden Harlow Carr in Harrogate where the National Sweet Pea Society are holding a show. The prize blooms will be available for viewing from 10am on the Saturday.

If you have a gardening question for Martin Fish please email him at and we’ll print a selection of questions.