On Hiring a Garden-Sitter

Wendy S. Delmater
By Wendy S. Delmater on Tue, Jul 25, 2017 - 12:40pm

Few things are as traumatic to me as leaving my garden in the care of another when I go away for any reason. 

We just came back from a two-week vacation, where we were checking up on friends and relatives we love who'd gone through things like heart attacks, job losses, recent bereavements, and decline due to age. It meant we had to hire what I call, for lack of a better term, a Garden-Sitter. 

It's not the first time we've had to do this. I thought I'd share what we've learned over the years. 

1. Timing is everything. Try not to schedule your vacation for planting time or harvest. We also try to avoid the dry season here in the Carolina midlands, which is all of August. And we avoid the time when we set up our winter cold frame. Be home for the tricky or impossible-to-delegate gardening tasks. 

2. Make watering simple for your plant-sitter. Unless you have a drip irrigation system or a sprinkler system on automatic, we've come to realize the best tool is a cast iron crawler sprinkler. It uses the hose as a track and water flow to ratchet itself along the hose to a stop you set up.  Unlike impulse, spike, or oscillating sprinklers it does not need to be moved around, and with our well water occasionally dredging up tiny pebbles we've found it much less likely to get clogged.  It also is more durable than sprinklers that have plastic parts which invariably deteriorate in our fierce sun. 

crawler sprinkler

We just laid out the track of the hose and the garden-sitter duplicates that track when watering. They stay the hour it takes to run, since they are also feeding our cats. It was projected to be in the upper 90s F to 100 F while we were gone, so we instructed them to run the sprinkler if it has not rained in two days. 

3. Don't plant seed just before you go.  A garden-sitter is not going to provide the TLC seedlings need. 

4. Expect losses, but expect more mature plants. When we came home, we discovered our tomatoes had contracted a wilt (and the fruit was split), and the lettuce bolted. Our fledgling quince trees suffered from fire blight and our potatoes were missed by the sprinkler. *shrug* All but the potatoes were beyond our control and would have happened anyhow. 

On the other hand, our grapes jalapenos and bell peppers are now producing and we did not have to sit on our hands, waiting for them to produce. 

Excuse me now. I need to get out there and pick some of the produce that magically appeared while we were gone. :-)

3 Comments

Bytesmiths's picture
Bytesmiths
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 28 2008
Posts: 200
Vacation? Gone?

Those are foreign words to me!

My idea of a "vacation" is going to the feed store.

All-In's picture
All-In
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 8 2013
Posts: 7
Vacation? Gone?

Ha!  So true.

All-In's picture
All-In
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 8 2013
Posts: 7
Garden-Sitter

Good article, Wendy.  Glad you got away for a while.  We're still working on it, and we haven't even had our first "real" pecan harvest yet.

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