5 Tips to Help Your Garden Survive Your Vacation

Gardening is a great summertime hobby. You get to spend time in nature, lower your grocery bill, and for those with children, it’s a great learning opportunity. Unfortunately, it’s not a hobby you can pursue whenever you feel like. Like any living thing, a garden requires attention on mother nature’s schedule. A big garden can compete with other summer activities for your attention, particularly with vacations. Here are a few tips to help you keep a garden alive and still take a summer getaway.

Plan and plant accordingly. 

If you know ahead of time you’ll be taking summer vacations you can plan your planting to better fit your needs. There are three key things to think about when planning your vacation tolerant garden.

Drought Tolerance

The first feature to look for is drought tolerance. Crops like flint and dent corn, sweet potatoes, and peppers will all probably tolerate missing a week of watering while you’re away. Many perennials like asparagus and rhubarb can also handle a bit of neglect once they’re established. 

Weed Tolerance

You can also select plants that will outcompete weeds. Most crops need to be kept weed-free in the spring when they’re young but certain crops will keep themselves fairly weed free once they’re established. Vining crops like cucumbers, melons, pumpkins, and squash are ideal for this and can be used under taller crops like sunflowers, corn, or pole beans. Thick plantings of greens like kale can also keep out weeds once they’ve gotten started. 

The Three Sisters Garden Guide

Harvest Dates

Lastly, if you know exactly when your vacation will be you can try to time harvests around that date with certain crops. While there are no guarantees in gardening, many plants provide fairly reliable harvest dates allowing you to plan when you’ll be home to harvest. Try this with crops like sweet corn, dry beans, and onions. Root crops are also ideal because they can be left in the ground for long periods and harvest when you get home.

Use mulch.

Another great way to make any plant more drought and weed tolerant is to use mulch. A layer of cardboard or newspaper covered with grass clippings, straw, hay, wood chips, or old leaves will keep weeds down for a large portion of the gardening season. Also by covering and insulating the soil, it will help keep it cool and moist even when you’re not home to water. 

Install drip irrigation. 

If you’re able, installing drip irrigation can make life a lot easier. Drip irrigation delivers water right to the base of the plant decreasing loss to evaporation so you lose less water. It’s also easy to set your system up on a timer making it perfect for those times when you’re out of town.

Weed, harvest, water.

It won’t be the most fun way to start a vacation but if you have time put in the work to thoroughly weed, harvest, and water your garden before heading out on vacation. You may still have some work to do when you get back but not nearly as much catch-up as you would otherwise. 

Get a Garden Sitter

Many people hire pet sitters when they go away but few think about hiring a garden sitter. If you have a large garden hiring someone to harvest, water, and maybe even pull a few weeds while you’re away might be worth it. You may even be able to trade them some vegetables for their efforts. 

Recommended Varieties

There are many varieties that will tolerate a vacation or two but here are a few we recommend.

Summer is a busy time for everyone. Use these tips to maintain a productive garden while still enjoying a few summer getaways. 

Gardening in Shade

Having a shady yard can be wonderful on hot sunny days but it’s tough for those who love to garden. Thankfully there are a number of flowers, vegetables, and herbs you can grow that tolerate at least some shade.

Listed below are a few of the plants that tolerate partial to full shade (less than 3 hours direct sunlight per day) that you can order through us.


Many flowers, particularly annuals, love full sun but there are a few that do well in more shady areas. Some flowers like nasturtiums, tolerate shade but may not bloom as much as they would in sunnier spots.

  • Balsam
  • Violas
  • Bee Balm
  • Nasturtiums
  • Soapwort
  • Sweet Alyssum
  • Sweet William
  • Sweet Wormwood (Sweet Annie)


While you can’t necessarily start a vegetable garden in the middle of the woods there are quite a few plants that will tolerate some shade. In fact, having a bit of shade can help you grow cool season crops later in the south. However, it’s important to remember that many plants will grow slower in the shade than they would in full sun.

  • Collards
  • Lettuce
  • Swiss Chard
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Kale
  • Peas
  • Beans
  • Arugula
  • Spinach
  • Carrots
  • Radishes
  • Beets
  • Green onions

Woodland Medicinals

If you have a wooded area on your property consider growing ginseng or goldenseal. Both plants are highly medicinal and native to North American forests. They do well in the forest understory or other shaded areas. Wild ginseng and goldenseal are frequently overharvested so adding them to your property can help these plants survive. You can pre-order seeds or roots will both ship in the fall.


Though not actually a plant, mushrooms can help you make the most of your property because they love humid, shady spots. The mushroom spawn, available as plugs, comes from Sharondale Farms and makes cultivating mushrooms easy. The plugs are placed in holes drilled into logs and inoculate the log with mushroom mycelium. These logs will bear mushrooms for several years to come, giving you an edible product from your shaded areas. Great varieties for beginners to try include:

  • Oyster
  • Shitakes
  • Lion’s Mane
  • Reishi

If you have a wooded or very shady area on your property you can also check with local nurseries to see if they carry any plants local to your native woodland. Shrubs like holly and plants like Dutchman’s breeches and bleeding hearts are accustomed to growing in the shady understory and make wonderful landscaping plants as well!

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Farm Ferments: Swiss Chard Kimchi

Some evidence suggests that humans have been fermenting food and beverages for over 13, 000 years! This ancient method of food preservation uses naturally occurring bacteria that create acids to prevent spoilage and give fermented foods their sour flavor. Even though most of us now have access to other food preservation methods like canning or just refrigeration using this time-honored technique can still be a great choice for the modern gardener. Recent studies continue to link gut bacteria with mood and some even suggest that good gut health may help prevent depression.

If you want to improve your gut health an easy recipe to try is kimchi. Kimchi has probably been around since before 37 BC and is a staple in Korean cuisine. Traditionally kimchi was made from vegetables like napa cabbage, radishes, and carrots which were fermented in earthenware pots buried in the ground. The ground temperature helped the kimchi ferment slowly and keep for long periods during the summer and prevented it from freezing during the winter. This time of year a great way to make kimchi is with swiss chard.

Making Kimchi


  • about 1lb swiss chard
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 3 TBS red chili powder
  • 1 TBS paprika
  • 5 large cloves of garlic
  • 1 TBS fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 TBS sesame oil

Rinse off your chard and separate the leaves and stems before roughly chopping all of it into small pieces. Thoroughly mix all ingredients. It’s often best to sort of massage them together with your hands like you would sour kraut. You can use gloves for this if desired.

Pack your kimchi into jars leaving at least 1-inch of headspace. Fit lids loosely to your jars and leave them in a spot on your counter out of direct sunlight for 4-5 days. Remove the lids at least once per day to allow any trapped gases to escape and stir your kimchi so the same leaves aren’t always sitting on top. After a few days, your kimchi which shrink down and you may be able to combine jars if desired. Taste your kimchi every day or so and when you like the flavor move it to the refrigerator to slow down fermentation.

If you like this ferment try making your own sauerkraut!

The Power of Fermented Foods: Making Sauerkraut

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Saving the Past for the Future