Watering plants while on vacation is a practical problem that gardening enthusiasts cannot avoid. With the scorching heat of July and August and increasing drought at our latitudes, having a water rescue system for plants is of fundamental importance. This issue is even more pressing for those who cultivate plants and vegetables in pots on balconies.
There are several DIY methods to create an automatic irrigation system capable of watering plants while you’re on vacation or away. In this article, we will describe the ones that seem most efficient and cost-effective.
Irrigating Potted Plants
Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a small piece of land or a garden for cultivating crops in open fields. For enthusiasts, an alternative solution is to create a garden on the balcony.
Of course, by this term, we don’t just mean vegetable plants like tomatoes or peppers, but also herbs and medicinal plants like basil, parsley, sage, rosemary, peppermint, and generally all outdoor plants that are flowering or ornamental.
We can exclude succulents or similar plants, like aloe and cacti, which don’t need watering while you’re on vacation.
The problem is precisely this: how to meet the needs of the plants and enjoy a well-deserved vacation at the same time? Watering plants while on vacation requires some organization. After months of hard work, there’s a desire to take a short break. Unfortunately, sometimes there’s no way to delegate plant watering to someone else.
Plants grown in pots generally need more water and can’t do without it for long periods. Their root systems can’t reach deep into the soil to find moister layers. Consequently, during periods of intense heat, they require constant attention.
Practical measures include placing plants in the shadier areas of the balcony or garden. A good practice is to place taller plants in front of smaller ones to create natural shade. But these are just precautions, not solutions. Watering plants on vacation requires a more structured system.
How to Water Plants While on Vacation
Depending on the number of days you’ll be away and the availability of water and electricity, you’ll need to adopt progressively more complex irrigation systems. Let’s see what they are.
The simplest system is the carrot-shaped cones. These, when inserted into the soil, release water gradually by allowing it to transpire through the pores of the material (usually ceramic).
The major advantage of this system is that it doesn’t require electricity. Cones are connected to water in two ways:
- Screwed in like a bottle cap full of water turned upside down on the ground (you can find this type of cone here).
- Through a tube immersed in a water source, where the cone draws the necessary water for the plants (You can find this system here).
These are simple and cost-effective solutions that also have the advantage of releasing water gradually. However, their limitation lies in the time factor, usually not exceeding a week for cap-shaped cones. In cone systems with a tube, this limitation can be mitigated by connecting the tube to a larger water source, such as a 25-liter plastic barrel.
Consider the number and size of plants you need to care for. This system works best for small-scale applications.
Complete Automatic Irrigation Kit
If you have numerous plants on your balcony, a more complex system is necessary to water them during your vacation. If you have a water source, such as a tap, and don’t have problems with electricity, you can easily install a complete automatic irrigation kit.
This kit includes an automatic timer that allows you to program when the plants should be watered. These devices usually offer weekly programming options that can be repeated. This way, watering plants during vacations or absences won’t be a problem.
The automatic timer is equipped with a pressure regulator to prevent tube disconnections and leaks. Here you can find the irrigation timer.
This type of timer needs to be connected to electricity. If you cannot connect it, an alternative solution is battery-operated timers, like this one. This way, no electrical connection is needed.
From the timer (attached to the tap), the irrigation system is connected. It consists of a tube through which water flows, various connectors for joining, and drippers placed at each pot or plant that needs watering, along with stakes for fixing. You can find such a kit here.
If desired, you can add a two-way connector to duplicate the system and have it circulate in two opposite directions. This is an effective solution for large gardens with extensive flower beds or spacious terraces.
Special kits are available on the market for specific situations. One interesting option is an automatic water distributor that operates on a simple 9V battery. It doesn’t need to be connected to the water system or electricity and comes with a carrying tube and drippers. This way, it can simultaneously water up to 20 pots. The barrel has a 25-liter capacity and releases water based on specific programs.
This is an ideal solution for shorter trips, such as weekends. However, for periods exceeding 7 days, it might not be an efficient solution. You can find this special kit here.
Automatic Garden Irrigation
So far, we’ve discussed solutions for watering plants while on vacation in the most practical way. Particularly, we focused on potted or garden plants. However, the situation is different for vegetable plants, which still need to be watered during periods of absence.
In this case, everything depends on setting up the irrigation system in advance. In a previous post, we explained how to create a drip irrigation system for your home garden. If you followed our advice and set up the system using a water pump, all you need is a simple timer like this one, and you’re all set.
This way, the irrigation system will be automatically controlled when the power is on.
If you have a large garden and need to serve multiple water lines, solenoid valves are a good solution. These valves allow you to program irrigation times more precisely and divided by sectors. There are many options available on the market with different prices and features, and you can find a variety of them here.