Holiday Problems for Gardeners: Watering and Relatives

The talk of holidays will make any keen gardener nervous and as the school holidays come to a quick, abrupt end with wails, screams, gnashing of teeth and trips to the shops to buy new uniforms, it is not a surprise that the talk of a foreign holiday comes up. This is enough to put the hackles up on anyone who grows vegetables. August is one the most important months in the harvest calendar, how can we sit by a pool in Malaga when our beloved courgettes are turning into marrows or even worse are now rotting in the rain? Or, worst still, the whole plant is withering in an unseasonal heat wave.

When weather men bandy around the words Indian summer, every gardener in England blanches, shakes their head and walks up to their water butts brimming dark and salubrious in the July rains. We snort that it will never happen and for the last thirty years in the North it hasn’t. But there is always a slim chance. Now, on top of the pressures we face to bring in a crop for the freezer, we’re being asked to leave behind our beloved gardens and turn red as a lobster on a deck chair, eat bad food, listen to bad music and spend a fortnight moaning about the fact you’re on holiday with your teenage kids. There is a truth about family holidays, everyone is excited they are going somewhere new, somewhere foreign, somewhere warm, this initial excitement quickly crumbles away when you leave the airport and realise that you will have to spend fourteen days with people you love but by the end of the fortnight may not like.

This truth was learned by my family back in the eighties, we went to Wales, we were excited, we even took the dog. My sister and I spent fourteen days winding up the hotel staff, my parents and the Welsh. My parents couldn’t even go to the pub because we were under age and couldn’t be left alone. My Dad after the first two days constantly volunteered to walk the dog. One day it became a pitched battle between my Mum and Dad, on who would take the dog for a walk, the argument lasted the rest of the holiday. This was the highlight of the holiday, we drove to Wales, we drove around Wales, we drove back from Wales and when we got home we agreed that we would never go on holiday together again. My Dad went back to his bowling and gooseberries, my Mum to baking, my sister to teenage boys, I locked myself in my room and listened to my albums and the dog for once was not forced to go on a walk; the dog never liked going on a walk and I am sure that that fortnight in Wales was a living hell for her.

That’s why when anyone mentions a holiday I can see myself in a cramped hotel room, looking out at rain and looking forward to weeks of arguments. We all love our family but we all secretly hope that there will be children’s entertainer where ever we decide to holiday. We entertain them for fifty weeks of a year, so if we’re being forced to go on holiday we demand the right that during those two weeks we never see them unless they’re sleeping. It doesn’t stop us worrying though about what to do with our gardens while we are away.

There are some easy ways to make sure that the garden you come back to will still be there. You can ask a neighbour to water your garden but this means you will spend your time by the pool texting your neighbour reminding them to water your garden and then texting them half an hour later asking whether they’ve done. You will spend a fortnight text stalking your neighbour and that isn’t a good thing. There are several gadgets on the market that are useful and I want to share some that have been of a great use to us on Pig Row. The weeping garden hose (from Two Wests & Elliot at http:// is a great way to keep your plants in the borders and in the greenhouse watered over the holiday and is a cheap and cheerful solution. I’ve connected these to taps and water butts in the past and both have worked. If you have the money you may want to invest in a complete eco automatic watering kit for your garden pots, beds and greenhouse (from The Greenhouse People at They’re not cheap and if you have a big garden I’d go for a weeping hose system that is gravity fed. I do advise that you invest in some automatic vents for you greenhouse (from The Greenhouse People), you don’t want to come back from your holiday to discover that you’re not the only thing burnt to a crisp.

If none of these interest you then I have the ultimate solution, stay home, spend the fortnight in your garden, send the rest of the family away, they’ll have a better time with your credit card and you’ll love the peace.