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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A gardener on the road

by Francesca

I was on the road for almost three weeks this month, first in a country I'd always wanted to visit, Portugal (here), and then in a region I love, Tuscany (here). But my vegetable garden did not share my enthusiasm for travel. By the time I returned home, it had become a forest of healthy weeds threatening to choke my weakened plants. Traveling when you have a vegetable garden is an issue.

neglected lettuce
~ what remained of my lettuce and carrot patch ~

A vegetable garden needs constant care and attention during the hot summer months: watering, weeding, harvesting ripe vegetables and removing unhealthy ones, checking for pests and diseases - these are just some of a gardener's daily tasks. And although you can install automatic irrigation systems to take care of the watering, everything else needs to be done by hand with a watchful eye.

neglected tomatoes
~ my unruly tomato plants invaded by weeds ~

I love gardening, and I spend many winter months eagerly waiting for that magic spring day when I can start preparing the soil for sowing and transplanting seedlings. During the summer months, I cherish the time early in the morning or late evening that I spend with my plants in the garden. And what a special joy it is to walk back to the house with a heavy basket full of vegetables I've grown, and to know that my family will eat good and healthy food! So every summer, when my garden is in full production and I have to leave it, I'm torn.

neglected basil
~ luckily, my basil and strawberries were among the plants that survived ~

This year I was lucky, and found the damage of three weeks of travel, during which a neighbor girl watered my garden every other day, wasn't as bad as it looked: I'd lost my string beans, eggplants, zucchini, cucumbers and, naturally, all the different varieties of lettuce. But my herbs, tomatoes, strawberries and chards are alive. And of course, I may have more nice surprises waiting for me underground: I'm really curious to see what happened to my carrots, garlic, onions and potatoes during the weeks of neglect.

How do you handle going away on vacation and keeping your garden alive and healthy in the meanwhile?


Sue said...

Mulch---it's a lifesaver. I have poor , sandy soil and live in a pretty dry area. I just got home from a two week trip and everything looked great. There was only 3/4 " rain, but the mulch worked to keep the soil moist (well, as moist as sand can be kept!). I put a heavy layer of grass clippings on every bed after a good rain, and that seems to do the trick.

Anonymous said...

Wish I had an answer. This is really one of my big hang ups for going away on longer trips. My husband wants us someday to do long thru hikes (backpacking for days and days) but I am very reluctant to leave my garden during summer. Not to mention the farmers markets, berry u-pick farms etc..

renee @ FIMBY

JuratBernard said...

apart from having someone come and turn the water/drip irrigation on and off (no timers for me since a water pipe bust), i have straw mulch everywhere in my garden beds, walkway/paths and flower beds. i hardly have any weed problems and watering is kept to a minimum. Also of importance are trellis and cages - they keep everything in their place. My biggest issue is to encourage my neighbors to come and pick the ripe vegi's so they don't rot on vine and cause other diseases, etc. i was gone for 2 weeks and only my container plants suffered a bit, but most bounced right back.

Teresa/safira said...

We have friends check in on the cats when we travel. Often, we spend 2 weeks at a mid-August festival, so we'll have them water and harvest any veggies they see.

Unfortunately, the friends who are experienced gardeners either don't live anywhere near us or go to the same festival that we want to attend.

Violet said...

You guys have a great blog! I enjoy it very much.

lucy said...

It's really pretty cool yeard looks good good to see ya making your post about a gardener on the road. It's looks like wonderful nature garden.


denise said...

We live in a very farming oriented area. Summer is only for weekend 'up north' in cabins at the most, otherwise close to home. Spring is for seedlings.
Fall, Winter...vacation time!

We don't leave in the summer for more than a day or two.

Nikki said...

I'm with Denise. Don't go anywhere for long in the summer months! Not always possible though.

AG Ambroult said...

well, I guess we don't get out much...or for too long, I should say. Gardening and travels are the two most inspirational endeavors, that require completely different things from you. I would be torn, too.
Glad a few plants were able to pull through!

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Nicola (Which Name?) said...

I am so glad I am not the only one with this struggle! We were gone for 9 days and our neighbor lovingly watered for us, but it was our chickens (which she cared for, but are allowed to roam free with guidance from us, but none from our neighbor) that have eaten many of our vegetables and fruits.
I will have to rethink gardening from now on, despite plenty of fertilizer!

Anonymous said...

I only leave for a week at a time and weed before I leave. and have someone water things for me and keep and eye on it. This may not be an option for everyone. But I find not alot of detrimental damage is done in a week!