If you are going away, chances are excellent that you do not need the extra stress of worrying about whether or not your plants will survive. If friends or family members cannot help you, and you do not want to hire someone to water your plants, you do have other options. Commercial drip irrigators and moisture-retaining methods are available. Some clever appropriation of common household items may also be of assistance to you and your thirsty plants.
Install drip spikes or similar small drip irrigator devices. While they come in several shapes and sizes and are sold under various brand names, these all do the same thing. Drip spikes hold a small amount of water in reserve. When you poke one into the soil of a houseplant, the soil will wick up water as it dries out.
Mix moisture crystals into the soil of your houseplants. Some potting soil formulations come with these crystals already present in the mix. Moisture crystals retain moisture and help prevent over- and underwatering of your plants.
Cut up a diaper and stick parts of the absorbent padding in the soil of your plant pots. Diapers are able to absorb moisture in much the same way as moisture crystals. If you have diapers around, there is no need to spend extra money on moisture crystals.
Create a moisture-wicking system using shoelaces and an empty 2 liter soda bottle. Brenda Beust Smith of The Lazy Gardener advises filling the empty bottle with water and placing it somewhere so that it is lower than your potted plant. Then, take a shoelace and place one end in the soil and the other end in the bottom of the bottle of water. Dry soil will wick the water out of the bottle and up through the shoelace like a straw. Bigger plants may need more than one shoelace and bottle.
Mulch to a depth of 2 to 4 inches around your plants. Keep mulch away from direct contact with the base of each plant. Leave about a 2 inch gap between a plant’s base and the start of the mulch all the way around. Mulch helps keep soil temperature constant and chokes out weeds. Additionally, it helps the soil (and your plants) retain vital moisture and can help stop soil erosion caused by the elements.
Water your outdoor plants deeply before you leave. If the soil is very dry, you may need to water lightly, then stop and allow the water to sink in for about an hour. After that initial soil moistening, turn a hose or sprinkler on and water for an hour. Overly dry soil will repel water rather than absorb it and must be remoistened before it can begin absorbing water effectively again.
Shade your outdoor plants slightly, if possible. This will help them to retain moisture. If they require full sun, this may not be possible or advisable. If you grow vegetables or fruits, this might be a good time to try bribing your neighbors with fresh produce if they will water your outdoor garden while you are away.