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Mary Lowther column: Soaker hoses to the rescue when it’s time for a holiday

Timers on soaker hoses will keep this garden alive if we leave for a few weeks. (Mary Lowther photo)

We often travel for a week or two in late August. I wish it was during the winter when there is no gardening or harvesting to be done, but somehow driving and camping in the rain and snow doesn’t appeal to me.

My life runs more smoothly when I plan ahead so I start a few days before we leave and plan on taking a few prepared veggies on our trip.

Our soaker hoses hooked up to a timer make the difference between arriving home to a dead garden or a living one.

The timer has four individually-timed spigots that I set to water for half an hour every three days. One spigot is set to start at 3 a.m. for half an hour, the second for the next half hour and so on until the time the fourth spigot stops watering at 5 a.m. Three days before we leave, I start my final harvest and weeding so that I can finish processing the harvest before we leave. I try to get a few inches of mulch on the garden to keep the sun from blazing on the soil.

The day before we leave I do my final harvest, including under-ripe produce, and store, can or dehydrate everything. It’s better to harvest small, unripe veggies than leave them to become overripe when I’m gone, unless I’m planning on ending the harvest and saving the last ones for seed. Picking all the fruit stimulates the plant to grow more, while leaving it on triggers the plant to stop fruiting.

Since I like to cook when we’re on the road I take a few ingredients with us. Potatoes, onions and garlic store well in a box, but perishables only last a few days in a fridge or cooler, so I buy something on the road. I must admit that I quite enjoy trying out other food when we’re on the road, especially from farmers’ markets. When we traveled across Canada in 2017 I was pleasantly surprised with how many farmers’ markets there were, and I fondly remember the terrific one in Moncton, New Brunswick where the growers fertilize their gardens with ground up lobster shells.

But I digress: I don’t sow anything new within a week of leaving because I won’t be here to hand water the new seeds, and that’s where good planning comes in. Since we often leave about mid-August, my fall and winter crops will have gone in a week or two before we leave so they’ll be fine on the three-day watering schedule while we’re gone. I used to be tied to the garden all summer or find someone to water the garden, but now I can relax on the road, knowing that I’ll still have a garden when I return.

Mind you, our usual vacation routine has been interrupted again. In 2019 we had torrential downpours that overflowed dikes and river banks everywhere and since then we had the new plague to keep us home. In retrospect it seems obvious that after flood and pestilence any reasonable skeptic should have expected fire to follow in due course, but I am ever hopeful and made my preparations in case the smoke clears and Armageddon is cancelled, or at least postponed long enough to visit Bromley Rock.