This gardening year is turning out to be unlike any I’ve had since my passion for gardening began.
Here we are in early spring and by this point, my grow shelves would be filling up with seedlings of onions, leeks, celery, celeriac, kohlrabi, peppers (both hot and sweet), eggplant, lavender, flowers, herbs and many others. However this year, our basement is being renovated and my grow shelves have been tucked away and stored until the work is done. In addition, our family has plans to travel this summer, so I won’t be around to check on and tend to my garden as I have in the past.
Will these challenges stop me from having a vegetable garden? No way! This year will be filled with learning experiences and adaptations, as I look forward to this challenge.
Read on to see what I will do differently this gardening season and learn how you too can have a garden and travel.
The first thing you want to do, when planning your traveller’s garden is to decide when you will be travelling and for how long. This is an important step. The period of time you will be away will determine which vegetables are appropriate for growing during that time, based on crop maturity, harvest period, watering needs and more. In addition, some crops require more attendance than others.
Then decide how much work you would like to take on, after you return. Do you want to be inundated with a large harvest, that keeps you grounded in the garden? Or would you like a smaller more easy harvest, which is not time sensitive or you risk your crops going to seed or passing maturity. If your garden is large, you may choose to limit how much you grow in your space. If your garden is small, you may choose to fill the space with a variety of different crops, or only plant a few large, space hogging crops, like pumpkins, squash or cabbages.
If you decide to plant less and have garden space left over, don’t leave your beds unplanted and unattended. Instead, select a mulch and cover any unused beds to create a weed barrier and protection against soil erosion. Any exposed soil may be vulnerable to penetrating sun, winds, rain and the spread of weed seeds. Some examples of mulches may be straw, biodegradable plastic film, shredded leaves, and grass clippings.
Once you decide on the size of your garden, sketch out your garden either on a grid, blank sheet of paper or garden planner app. Be sure to label all of the beds with their corresponding crop.
Here are a few vegetable ideas to consider, when planning out your traveller’s vegetable garden:
- Vegetables with a long window until maturity, considering the time period you will be away (early summer, mid-summer, late summer) – beans, squash, pumpkins, ground cherry, popcorn, luffa, gourds, cucamelon, carrots, parsnips, beets, onions, leeks, garlic, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, potatoes, eggplant, peppers, celeriac, celery, herbs like parsley, sage, thyme, rosemary, lavender and flowers.
- Plants that don’t require a lot of work and attention after planting – pumpkins, squash, ground cherry, parsnips, popcorn, beans
- Plants that don’t require a lot of watering after planting – pumpkins, squash, onions, garlic, leeks, beets, parsnips, carrots
- Plants that don’t require a lot of attention – squash, pumpkins, onions, leeks, popcorn, beans, garlic, ground cherry, luffa, gourds, carrots, beets, celeriac, collards
Keep in mind the time period you will be away. If you will be away the first half of summer, some vegetables may mature before your return and become damaged. For example, garlic is typically ready for harvest towards the middle to end of July. If you miss this window, then the garlic bulbs will become overripe, causing the skins to thin out and split. Garlic that is harvested late won’t store well. Also, the garlic scape needs to be removed from each garlic stalk, or your garlic bulbs won’t reach their optimum size. Early potatoes also need to be harvested during the first half of summer. If you plan on being away, plant late maturing varieties.
If you plan on being away the second half of summer, different vegetables need to be considered. Salad greens, peas, asian greens, green onions and other late spring/early summer varieties may be planted and harvested before leaving for your holiday.
Don’t forget to add flowers to your traveller’s garden. The pollinator’s will appreciate it, helping your crops with their pollinating needs. Certain flowers varieties mature during the first half of summer and other ones during the second half. Consider your travel schedule and plant the appropriate flowers. It’s so lovely to return home to a garden filled with colour and ready to pick bouquets to brighten your home.
|Early Flowering Varieties:||Late Flowering Varieties:|
What shouldn’t you plant?
Vegetables that reach maturity quickly and go to seed if the crop isn’t harvested regularly. There’s nothing worse than working so hard to plant your garden, then leaving on a trip, to come back to an overrun garden, filled with crops that have gone to seed. It’s important to have realistic expectations when travelling. You can’t plant everything you’d like, but you can plant many things, based on your travelling schedule. Vegetables like lettuces, spinach, mustards, asian greens, claytonia, radish, cucumbers, zucchini, peas, basil, dill, chervil and cilantro, all mature quickly and go to seed if they’re not harvested. It’s best to leave these crops for another gardening year, when you will be around and able to harvest them.
What to do to prepare your planting beds?
- Create your garden plan – which crops will you be planting?
- Map out your garden on a grid, garden planning app or blank sheet of paper.
- Set up a drip irrigation system on a timer, which will run once a week for several hours, in all your garden beds.
- If you started your seeds indoors, be sure to harden off your seedlings prior to transplanting them into the garden.
- Transplant your seedlings into their designated garden beds/locations. (see my post “The Ultimate Guide to Seed Starting”, for specific instructions on starting your seeds indoors)
- Mulch all beds to protect them from moisture loss and weed growth.
- Tend to your beds until you leave for your holiday and harvest anything that reaches maturity, before you leave.
- Enjoy your trip, knowing your garden is ok and will be there when you return!
Find a friend to stop by the garden once a week or less often, to observe for any pests, weather damage, plant disease, etc. – Reward: to help themselves to any harvests! Your plants will reward you by producing more.
I used to think that it would be very difficult to travel and have a vegetable garden. I always put a lot of work into my garden every summer and I couldn’t imagine leaving it. But the time has come for me to step away and enjoy a family vacation. As a result, I’ve had to shift my mindset and find another way to have a successful vegetable garden while travelling.
As my father always taught me, “Life is not a rehearsal”. When opportunity presents itself, we need to take that opportunity to make memories with the ones we love. Although I love my vegetable garden, I need to sacrifice what I will be growing. I may not be able to grow all that I want, but my mind is open for a change this year. My modo is gardening should be fun and an escape. If it becomes stressful, then we need to make it less stressful. I’m excited about the change this year and I look forward to learning from the experience. You too can have a garden and travel. Whatever grows is better than not growing anything at all. Just enjoy the experience!