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Vacation and your vegetable garden

Your vegetable garden is the best place on earth 🙂  But, sometimes you still need a vacation. 

So, what do you do with your garden? Just when it's looking soooo good too?
In short: "How will your vegetable garden survive the weeks you're away?"

I've got tips at the ready. Most are about June, but they're just helpful for the middle or end of summer too.

Tip 1: Harvest as much as possible before you go

"Duh, Jelle."

Okay, fine. It's obvious. But it's worth repeating.

Leafy vegetables grow fast this time of year. When they're fully grown they start to flower.

So, even if you've got heads of lettuce that are half as big as you'd like, it's better to harvest and eat them now. Don't wait for them to grow to full size or you risk them bolting. Once flowers appear, the leaves won't taste as great.
Volwassen krop sla die al doorschiet
A fully grown head of lettuce starting to bolt

Tip 2: Get a babysitter

Ask somebody to take care of your plants when you're away. You're actually doing them a favor. You'll see: neighbors, friends, or acquaintances are usually happy to water your plants every now and then. Especially if they get to harvest fresh vegetables and herbs.

Just mention that it only takes about 5 minutes a day. And if they say they don't know anything about growing a vegetable garden, then let them log in to your app.

Can't find someone? No worries:

Tip 3: Prepare your garden boxes

Going away for 2-3 weeks means you can't water your plants for that whole period. That can be tough on your vegetable garden.

The MM-Mix retains a lot of water thanks to the vermiculite in it. So all you need to do is thoroughly water it in the days before you go.
Maak de Makkelijke Moestuinmix door-en-door nat
Drench that soil mix completely

Check if your soil mix is moist everywhere. Sometimes it may seem wet, but the bottom of the garden box could still be pretty dry.

I put the hose straight into the soil mix and let the tap run. 

So, just before you leave, give it 1 last thorough watering. Since the soil mix retains moisture so well, it should be good for 2 weeks or so, even if there's no rain.

Tomatoes, zucchinis, and cucumbers

These summer vegetables spend a lot of time in the same spot. So give them an extra scoop of nutrients (MM-Plantfood) before you go.


Remove all the suckers from the armpits (axils) of your tomatoes. Even the really small ones. You can easily pinch them off with your fingers:
Haal de dieven in de oksel van het blad weg
Picking off a little sucker
If you leave them there, they'll grow into huge side branches and zap energy from the rest of your tomato plant. 

Is your plant producing fruit already? Remove all of the (almost) ripe tomatoes. Leave the green ones on the plant: they'll take a few more weeks to ripen.

Climbing zucchini

Zucchinis grow super fast. 

To prevent total zucchini domination while you're away, remove all the small fruits and the female flowers.

You can recognize females by checking below the bud. If you see a thick bulge, that's female: it's where the future zucchini grows. Male flowers have long skinny stems. 
Vrouwelijke bloemknop bij de courgette
A female zucchini bud (right of the orange male flower)
You don't want to leave your zucchini fruits on the vine, because if they get too big, they'll produce seeds. That means they'll grow fewer flowers and fruits.

Last but not least: tie it up. Attach the main stem of the Black Forest climbing zucchini to your trellis, so it grows upward, not outward.

BTW: The main stem of this variety is longer than regular zucchini, but it won't climb by itself. It just needs a little help from you (and some string).


Trim back all the side shoots that are growing from the main stem: you want them to be about 15 cm long. The photo of the plant below isn't quite there yet, but you can see what the side shoot looks like:
Knip de zijscheuten bij komkommers terug tot op 15 cm
Trim the side shoots so they're only 15 cm long
Just like the tomatoes suckers, cucumber side shoots demand a lot of energy from your plant. But since they will eventually produce a lot of fruit, don't remove them completely.

And just before you leave, remove all the female flowers and small cucumbers. Just like you did with the zucchini.

Peas and beans

Still got pea or bean pods on your plants? Great, pick 'em off.

New ones will grow while you're away. With a little luck, they'll be ready for picking when you return.

If you leave the pods hanging, the peas or beans in the pods will become really big and ripe. And the plant will stop producing new flowers.
Pluk de peultjes allemaal weg
Harvest all your pea and bean pods

Carrots and beets

Carrots are best left alone: they'll just get bigger and thicker.

If you have large beets you don't want to harvest yet, leave them in your patch. Just cut off all the leaves. This buzz cut will slow down the beet's growth.
Knip het blad van de grote bieten helemaal af
Give the beets a buzz cut

Parsley and chives

These herbs can be pruned back a lot, no problem.

Cut back chives about 5 cm above the soil mix:
Knip de bieslook terug tot op ongeveer 5 cm
Okay, now that's a real buzz cut
Remove all the adult leaves from your parsley, just leave the young ones. It doesn't look pretty, but when you come back the plants will be bursting with new leaves.
Laat van peterselie alleen de nog kleine takjes staan
Leave the small parsley leaves and stems

Tip 4: Protect your garden box from pests

Kale varieties

In the summer, butterflies like to lay their eggs on plants in the kale family. The caterpillars that hatch will devour every last leaf if they get the chance.

To prevent this, cover your plants with insect netting. Check for any eggs and remove them. Spray the plants with garlic spray and/or sprinkle with finely ground black or white pepper. Butterflies and caterpillars don't like it.

Put up a slug barricade

If there are lots of slugs and snails in your garden, install a slug fence on your garden box before you leave. No slug can cross it.
Our electric fence wards off slugs and snails

Not up for any of this?

Then just leave things as they are.

The worst that can happen is that you come home to a dried-up garden box. Or a big mess of bolting plants.
Verwaarloosde moestuinbak na 3 weken vakantie
A garden box that's been abandoned for 3 weeks
It's no big deal.

Just remove the ugly plants, cut back the overgrown ones, remove any weeds, and refresh your empty square patches with a scoop of nutrients. Then decide what to plant next.

Really. Within an hour, your Planty Garden will be in top shape again. And you'll be ready for the next round.

Happy travels!

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