Have you ever been growing when a sudden trip comes up, or do you have a vacation planned? So what are your options to keep your plants alive?
- Ask someone to watch your grow and trust them to keep it alive the whole time you are gone.
- Figure out a way to keep them alive yourself.
So what if you don’t have anyone you trust enough to watch over them? Or what if they don’t have a green thumb? Sure, you can leave detailed instructions and take the risk, or you could throw something together with supplies you may already have and “automate” maintenance. In this guide, we will teach you several ways to keep your plants alive in case you have to go away for a while.
The Cotton Wick Method
This method is very simple and, chances are, you already have several of the items needed lying around. With this method you don’t have to worry about over or under watering as the plants take up just the amount of water they need and you can set it up in minutes and have peace of mind knowing that your plants will be ok. What you need to have is a large container like a 5-gallon bucket and something to use as a wick.
This could be shoelaces, twine, or clotheslines but the best is cotton. You can pick up a bundle of cotton wick online and cut it to size for each plant. Next, fill a container with water: we recommend that you put the container in the middle of your plants to make it easier to control the wicks.
The wicks need to be long enough to be pushed about 2 inches into the soil. Place the other end of the wick at the bottom of the bucket of water. Obviously a cotton wick won’t sit nicely at the bottom so tie a weight at the end to make sure the wick does not come out of the container. If you have a large plant you may need more than 1 wick to be able to provide enough water. Be sure not to overlap the wicks if possible so that the water can flow directly to the plants.
When the soil starts to dry out it will suck up water through the wick and into the plant. A tip that has been used by some growers is to soak the wicks in the water first before placing them into the soil then, to ensure that your plants will be OK a period, you can water the plants before you leave—this will extend the amount of time you can be away. We also recommended that you try this a few days before leaving just to make sure it works properly and you can make tweaks to the system if needed.
Automatic Watering Systems
This method is simple but more expensive: just use an automatic system with a pump and a timer. Run the hoses to each plant and put the siphon into the container of water. This method will water on a schedule and will turn off in between the programmed times.
Make sure that you cut each tube to size to reach each plant without too many bends. Of course, because you’re using one pump each plant is going to receive the same amount of water so be prepared for that. Also be aware that some pumps take batteries and some use a power outlet—when going away it is better to use a system plugged into an outlet so you know the power won’t cut out.
This system includes many things like aqua globes and water bottles. With this method, you do not need much to get started besides the following.
Aqua globes are plastic or glass that you fill with water and then stick into the soil. For smaller pots, this can be a problem as the globe will be heavy and can tip them over, but for larger plants this can be a great thing in a pinch.
You can also do this with a water bottle: tap a hole in the lid and the bottom of the bottle. Then, using a stick or a tripod, slide the lid into the soil and press it into place. Same as the an aqua globe, if you have smaller planters this can pose a problem or if your plant is bushy you may have issues.
Both aqua globes and water bottles can last for 1-2 weeks before needing to refill but some growers report they ran out of water in as little as 2 days so it is good to test this out before you start—depending on stage of growth and how thirsty your plants are you’ll probably see different results.
Another tip is that you also need a small pipe cleaner to clean your aqua globe can clog with dirt. As with every technique, we recommend that you water plants first before using these to prolong the amount of time before they are empty. Aqua globes and water bottles will work in a pinch but if you are going to be away for more than a couple of days you might want to for a different method.
There are many ways you can set up a system to provide your plants with water while you are gone. Each method has its pros and cons, but hopefully this article allows you to pick a method that would be best for you. Whichever method you choose, we hope that you will come back to beautiful happy plants and we hope that the next time you decide to go away for a little while you will have the peace of mind knowing everything will be just fine.
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