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"Possibility and promise greet me each day as I walk out into my garden. My vigor is renewed when I breathe in the earthiness and feel the dirt between my fingers. My garden is a peaceful spot to refresh my soul." Meems

Welcome to my Central Florida Garden Blog where we garden combining Florida natives, Florida-Friendly plants, and tropicals.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

But Who Will Tend the Garden While I'm Gone?

Hubby is unashamedly not a gardener. He is many wonderful things but gardening isn't in his blood like it's in mine. I knew this fact before we married three decades ago so no surprises there. He is the generous funder of all my fun and he enjoys the 'fruits' of the gardener's labor but gardening is not his thing and we are all perfectly okay with it.

It Used to Be the Children, Now It's the Garden
So when one of my long-time and closest friends invited me (let's just say it was a spontaneous plan) to take a road trip with her to North Carolina, my first thought was, "what will I do about the garden?" She was attending a two-day conference relating to her business, I was going along as a riding, site-seeing, let's-see-how-much-fun-we-can-fit-in-to-six-quick-days buddy.

These Are Serious Matters
Ever my encourager, turns out hubby didn't hesitate to cover for me if I wanted to get away with my friend for some fun and relaxation. He even cooperatively took the tour with me around the garden for the numerous instructions he was willing to abide while I would be gone.

Afterall, there are really important things to do like hand-watering when dry-this is a science (not everything each day), monitoring rainfall and the irrigation system, seek and destroy missions for evil grasshoppers before they eat every living thing in sight, babying just-planted pass-a-long cuttings and newly transplanted plumbago and penta plants, filling bird feeders/baths, then there's that morning walk-about to assess/recover the nightly damage from the Armadillo's rampages in my planting beds where they especially like to uproot/dig out my recently planted caladium bulbs, on top of all that there is the veggie garden that is struggling to hang on in the summer temps ... and on it goes with the endless and all-important check list.

You know I'm not kidding...

It was determined that nightly hubby and I would speak by phone to discuss which pots he was to water, when to pick the tomatoes, when to pick the beans and equally as important ... when not to.
Last Thursday morning my friend and I left for our initial destination in confidence all was well in the garden. Twelve hours later, with a couple of stops and ceaseless gabbing along the way, we arrived in Charlotte, North Carolina... well, technically it was Concord which is just north of Charlotte.

Every New Job has a Learning Curve ... Rescued by the Rain
For a couple of weeks it had been raining all around Hoe & Shovel but we had not been the recipients of any significant amounts of much needed precipitation. The weekend following our departure... Hoe & Shovel finally got some goodly amounts of rainfall. The heavenly soaking was a huge relief in terms of high-anxiety to get it right on hubby's garden tending chores.

Overall, I give him huge props for willingness, for effort, for remembering, for enduring the heat (somehow this can be done with no problem for golf but gardening is another story all together- but who's noticing?), for bravery in judging the ripeness of tomatoes AND... the inside of the house wasn't so shabby upon my return either.
How Do You Manage Your Garden When You're Away?

Once gone, I didn't think about my garden as much as I thought I might... which is the good thing about taking a break from the daily routine. I imagine every gardener to go through the same thoughts, the same concerns when leaving for vacations or out of town travel of any sort. When once we return it is easy to realize how much work is needed to catch up but for the most part all is fine without me for a little while at least.

It is a lot to think over when leaving what needs constant attention to thrive. Every climate is different and adds to the variables of the need for help while gone. If we weren't getting rain right now it is so hot day and night we could easily lose some plants while away.

What do you do about being away from your beloved plot of ground? Do you just let it be or do you find a garden-sitter?

My friend and I covered a good bit of road and experienced some fun times in our short six day trip. I'll share lots more in some later posts. Stay tuned for the visit to my friend's cousin's house on the marsh waters that lead to the Atlantic Ocean in Savannah, GA. They prepared a meal of fresh blue crabs pulled up out of the trap right from their dock. That was an extremely delicious outdoor experience.

Note: All the photos in this post are from what I snapped randomly at various places/times on the trip ... none are from Hoe & Shovel.


  1. Meems,

    I did so much love this post! It was like listening to myself...I don't have the armadillos but you know we gardeners love our gardens and worry. Geez the time, energy and expense we have put into them. A huge investment of ourselves is in every plant!

    It was very hard to leave the garden in the middle of a drought...the cat sitter and container waterer wasn't capable of making the decisions about what to water in the garden beds. So they went without and I can tell! I did give him clear instructions like when to water the containers....daily and to please let the hot water run out of the hose until it was cool...I didn't tell him to let it run into the barrel so it wasn't wasted! Too many instructions are too hard for teenagers!

    When I left for Folly Beach, SC I crossed my fingers and hoped for rain! I told myself that whatever bloom I missed, what ever plants didn't make it...there was next year...That has become my mantra when ever I leave town year!

    Or we can vacation in October in RI where I can see my son and fabulous fall leaf shows!


    ps Are our husbands related? He sounds as dear as mine!

  2. This question must be very pertinent to someone who gardens in Florida. Here in Illinois, I can just plan to go on vacation only in the winter. :^D But I have had to leave the garden in summer. I don't have any garden sitter. I just cut off all the flower buds & blooms before I leave, water well & weed. Then hope for the best.

  3. For me it is the same Meems. When I go away I worry about the garden, so my husband likes gardening (edible things). He waters my pots and looks more or less after my cuttings. Last time I lost the lot because he forgot to water them! New ones are on the way!

  4. If it is less than a week I don't worry to much, but a week or more can kill the garden if we don't get rain. I usually set up the sprinkler for them so they only have to turn it on and off. I only worry about the veggie garden, the rest of it has to live with our waterfall as it is. If it dies it wasn't meant to live here.

    I do have trouble convincing my friends to actually pick from my garden. I'm not sure why. I tell them it is important. They like the fruit and veggies, but don't seem to want to pick them. Which is bad. The raspberries get moldy if not picked on time. And you know what happens to zucchini.

  5. My dear gardening parents live just ten houses up the street, so they're always available to keep an eye on my garden when I have to leave. I can rest easy knowing it is in good hands. We generally don't like traveling much in summer but prefer late spring and early fall, so I've never had to leave a garden in full tilt for a long time...yet!

    My knee injury has provided my husband with a good gardening education. He's had to thin veggie seedlings, plant tomatoes, trees and shrubs, and do the watering for the new transplants and veggies.

  6. Meems,
    I am Soooo!! Glad that your garden survived. I have been worried SICK about it! I do not know how I could have survived responsibility for destruction of a garden besides my own!!
    Thank you for taking a chance with me...again. At the very least you have some new entertainment for the midnight hour!
    Hope I can "last minute" you again soon, especially now that you know your man can keep things from getting completely out of hand

  7. Our solution is vacationing in winter. We prefer to get out of Chicago at that time of year and go someplace warm.

    If we did take off during gardening season, I'd hire a gardener to come and water containers and the plants near the patio (stuff like astilbes. . . ) The stuff that's further out can take more neglect. Hiring a gardener would be worth the cost for the peace of mind.

    I still prefer to vacation in the winter though, and that makes even more sense now that I'm making my living gardening.

    Very nice post Meems, and I love the photos from your trip. Glad you had a good time!

  8. Blue crabs pulled up fresh from the dock and delivered to your wide open plate within an hour????
    I love my babies, but darn, I might let a couple die for some fresh blue crab!
    My Mr. Wonderful is pretty wonderful, but when I go away, I pull in all the plant-watering, dog-sitting favors owed by Mom and the Sisses. Garden baby-sitting requires a maternal instinct, I think, and I help it along with a "treasure map" of plants and their water needs.
    Last time I left, during a dry spell, I came home to a few drowning victims. Now that's love.

  9. Gail: It is so true.There is no really perfect way to leave our gardens but at least with some hit and miss help all was not lost for you. Teenagers aren't the only ones who don't particularly like loads of instructions... a few are okay for most.

    MMD:I guess if I lived in the north it would change the scenario tremendously. However, in Florida no matter the season, when we go away there are gardens to be tended. If both hubby and I go away I DO have a wonderful neighbor who is very glad and very good at helping to keep the garden growing.

    Your method of cutting of blooms and buds is very interesting.

    Titania: I guess it is always a risk and we have to be grateful for any help we can get. :-)

    Daphne: Hello and welcome to Hoe & Shovel. We actually have an inground irrigation system... only we are also under (government)once a week watering restrictions due to the drought. To keep the garden alive in Florida often the container plants have to be watered daily. When it rains around here it's as if life just handed me back another 1 1/2 hours to my day.

    Amy: There's something to be said for family living close by especially when you can cover for each other. My sweet daughter lives about 20 minutes away and volunteered to help me out but it would have been a strain for her with her little one and not knowing the first thing about plants.

    Your husband will be the one that knows what to do next year with all his experience. What a dear.

    P- I knew you'd get a kick out of this post with my mention of garden vs. a trip to the beloved state of NC. I can't over-emphasize it is a good thing it rained I think... this garden can be overwhelming for even the experienced person.

    Garden Girl: Linda, I guess planning all your getaways during the months you aren't gardening is a simple solution when gardening shuts down each year for you. Not the case here so it is an issue no matter when we leave. The watering issues are not quite as intense during the winter months due to cooler nights and the angle of the sun but nevertheless -- always an issue as we are always growing.

  10. Penlyn: I hear ya... it's just that I rarely plan to be away at all during the summer months when everything is growing like a jungle. Favors and paybacks are good to cash-in too... sounds like you have it figured out.

  11. It was very hard to leave for two weeks, but my nephew did a great job. Have fun on your trip and try not to worry. BTW, I posted about this same thing under "Trip Prep"~~Dee

  12. So glad that your husband got a bit of a reprieve with the rain. I'm nervous about a trip late in July with my niece for a week. Probably everything will already be dead, but just in case, I'll leave my husband a list. He's okay with that but often travels for work so if he has to leave while I am gone, all bets are off.

  13. You wrote beautifully about one of a gardener's worst dilemmas, Meems - and my bet is that most of us hands-on people are terrible at delegating in general anyway.

    My husband does a pretty wonderful job of watering [in our heat, containers need daily watering] so when my IL family needs me, turning the garden over to him doesn't freak me out, but it sure cuts into his evening!

    But there have been other times when we all must leave, and that's meant begging for help from neighbors, Divas of the Dirt, and paying for help.

    In Illinois there were off-seasons when you could waltz off without a care. That never happens in a place where December can be in the 40's or pushing 90 degrees.

    Well it sure sounds like you had fun in spite of the stress of leaving the garden!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  14. I am so glad that the garden survived. I had this feeling it would...especially as I contemplated building an ark again this year. There was a period of time last summer that I thought I would float away, but I know this year we desperately need every drop of rain we can get. Glad you had a great time!

  15. Nothing like getting away from the garden to make you really enjoy it when you get home. I love to go away for a few days then come home to see how it changes. Unfortunately I don't usually get away too often during summer. I ask a friend to water plants. I bring all potted plants onto the patio for easier watering for my friend. The rest of the garden is on its own.

  16. Dee: It's good you had a nephew to help you out. I guess all gardeners have to figure out the same things about leaving what we tend to on a daily basis otherwise.

    Vertie: There's just no perfect solution... without the gardener... the garden will show signs of stress. Fortunately July is kind of a blah month for gardening in the south... hopefully your garden will survive the heat while you leave.

    Annie: It's true delegating is not an easy thing for me... I always feel sorry for anyone having to try to live up to my expectations too. Daily watering is essential here too so the rain was a huge lifesaver.

    Jane: No where near needing an ark yet... as a gardener the daily rains are most welcomed even though they can be inconvenient for all other daily activities.

    Lisa: when we both go away my neighbor is very good to water all my potted plants for me. I move most of them into the pathway of the irrigation system to help out. Somehow I have increased the number of potted plants by a hundredfold it seems and now they are all over the property... too many to keep up with for any sane person.

  17. I'm glad you enjoyed your trip away and that your garden was safe and sound while you were away.

  18. Robin: Thanks. Things are never as bad as we imagine are they? All survived quite well... everything is so overgrown already with the rain and the heat... have been busy trimming like crazy.

  19. What a delightful post. I can relate.

  20. Meems, what a delightful post. I'm going through the same dilemma here with my trip just days away. You are very lucky though as my husband is balking over just running the various sprinkler systems and watering a half dozen containers. I will be gone for over 2 weeks so I will really have to pray that the garden survives, at least the tomatoes :-)


Have a blessed day,

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