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Henry Homeyer is a life-long organic gardener who has lived in Cornish Flat, NH since 1970 (except for his time in Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer and country director).He writes a weekly gardening column that appears in 12 newspapers around New England, and has written for the New York Times, The Boston Globe and other newspapers. Henry teaches organic gardening workshops throughout New England at garden shows, clubs, nurseries, public gardens and other venues, and is a regular contributor to NHPR and Vermont Public Radio.

Leaving For Vacation? Don't Forget To Protect Your Garden

bagsgroove via Flickr CC

It’s August and vacation season. Gardening Guy Henry Homeyer has some suggestions for keeping the garden growing while you're away. 

Henry, what do you do with your gardens when you’re going away for a long period of time?

“I think one of the things people don’t think about is the fact that deer are going to notice if you’re not around and particularly if your dog is not around. I think you need to do some protection from deer if you’re in an area where they can bother your garden. The best thing to protect against deer is always an eight-foot fence, and many of us don’t want to put the money into that. But there are other things you can do, as well. One of them is to put out stinky things that will deter them, will repel them. Traditionally, people have put out Irish Spring soap; drill a hole in it and hang it out in the garden. I don’t find that works particularly well; it’s a very strong, smelly soap, but I don’t think it in my experience has kept deer away very well. What has worked for me this year…I have a garden plot that’s remote from my house and I’ve been having a few deer problems. At the garden center, they sell coyote urine and little plastic bottles that are like air wick containers with cotton in the bottom and holes in the side that you can hang out on a fork stick. The smell of coyotes will be in your garden.”

I’m imaging that’s very pungent, very potent and might keep the deer away; would that not drive you away?

“No. After five feet away from it, and I can’t smell it. The deer have much better noses. Another thing I do besides the repellent is I cover certain things with row cover. I put up wire hoops over my sweet potatoes – deer love sweet potatoes and the vines are very tasty, humans can eat the vines, too by the way – and then I put row cover, which is an agricultural fabric that breathes and allows rain to get through and air to circulate a little bit.”

And this doesn’t block any sunlight for them?

“It does a little bit, but it still works fine. The big thing for me is it also keeps out the deer.”

What about watering? Presumably you’re going to be away for a few days and you’ll need someone to come in and do some watering for you.

“You might, but we’ve had so much rain this summer, the ground is pretty well saturated, at least up my way. But if you’re worried about watering, you can to the hardware store or the garden center and get a controller for your water if you have a sprinkler or soaker hoses. These are battery-operated devices that will turn on your hose for an hour a day or half an hour a day or three hours every other day.”

What if you’ve got potted plants and you’re a little worried about that? They dry out much, much faster.

“They do. First of all, move them out of the sunshine, put them in a shady place under an evergreen tree, and before you put them there soak them in a big recycling container or a deep bucket and hold them under water until they stop bubbling. That way, you know they’re fully saturated and they will be good for a week.”

Anything else you think you should do before heading out for a long vacation to make sure you come back to some growing plants and vegetable gardens?

“Well it’s always good to have a neighbor stop in if you can and if you tell your neighbor they can pick your tomatoes and beans, they will come and check on things. It’s good for your plants to be picked while you’re away.”

For many radio listeners throughout New Hampshire, Rick Ganley is the first voice they hear each weekday morning, bringing them up to speed on news developments overnight and starting their day off with the latest information.
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