Preparing your landscape for a vacation

home landscape with turf, trees and shrubs
Keep your garden lush while you are gone by checking irrigation and running a test cycle. Photo by Wendy Hanson Mazet, Cooperative Extension.

Memorial Day weekend traditionally kicks off the season of family vacations and summer getaways. We always remember to prepare our homes for an extended leave, but sometimes we forget to prepare our landscapes and gardens.

If you will be gone for a long weekend, you can get by with checking your landscape and doing necessary repairs to your irrigation system. If you plan to be gone longer than a week, you may want to hire a professional landscape company to maintain your lawn and garden.

If there is rain in the forecast, check your gutters; remove the built-up leaves and debris you didn’t get to last fall. Also, think about where water pools in your landscape. In northern Nevada, we often get downpours with a lot of rain all at once, so we tend to flood easily. Think about using sandbags to redirect the water if you are concerned about where the water may build up.

If hot, dry weather is forecasted, check your irrigation system. Make sure you don’t have broken sprinkler heads or cracks in the drip system by running a cycle and monitoring during the run. Make repairs now to keep your water bill in check and your lawn or landscape plants adequately watered.

Container plants can be grouped near a water source, in an area shaded during the afternoon. This will ensure they don’t dry in the afternoon heat, and they continue to receive water while you are away. If you don’t have a good location, try filling a children’s pool with 1 to 2 inches of water, and place your pots in the pool. The water will provide increased humidity to reduce water loss from your plants.

Another option for protecting your plants from excess water loss is to place mulch around their roots. Using an organic mulch, such as wood chips or shredded bark, is best and can be put around trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals and vegetables. Mulch will also shade out and reduce sprouting of weeds while you are away.

For vegetable gardeners, have a friend or family member water your plants and inspect for pests at least twice a week while you are away. Vegetable plants don’t enjoy our extreme summer heat and may not produce if the plants dry out or are exposed to heat for long periods. If you don’t already have a drip system for your vegetable garden, install one before you leave. Don’t plant seeds or seedlings outside before your trip because they need consistent water and care to establish.

Mow turf grass to a height of 3 inches right before you leave. If you will be gone for longer than two weeks, have someone mow again. Check your sprinkler system and fix broken heads, if needed.

Sprinklers should have 100 percent head-to-head coverage, so make adjustments to your heads accordingly. Make sure you aren’t watering the pavement and that there isn’t excess water flowing into gutters.

By preparing your garden and landscape, you can rest easy and enjoy your vacation all the more!


Jenn Fisher is the commercial horticulture program coordinator with University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. For information on irrigation and plant water requirements, Master Gardeners are available in the horticulture office on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the summer months. Contact them at 775-336-0265 or