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Protect Your Plants While Away on Vacation by Increasing Soil Moisture Levels

There is no shortage of tips on how to keep plants alive while away on vacation. However, all these tips have one common goal: ensure your plants have enough water. Therefore there is only one thing you really need to do and that is to increase the moisture retention of your soil. Find below tips on how to address the three ways that soil loses moisture: evaporation, transpiration, and percolation. 

 

Tip 1: Remove plants from direct sunlight when possible or reduce exposure

 

Removing plants from direct sunlight helps to reduce evaporation. Evaporation is the loss of water from the surface of the soil. Think of evaporation as soil sweat. The dark colour of soil absorbs sunlight, raising the temperature and causing it to overheat. When humans get overheated our bodies sweat to cool us off. Soil does the same thing, however, soil cannot replenish itself by drinking more water. Removing your plants from direct sunlight is the best way to prevent evaporation, but it is only possible for plants that are in pots, planters, or other moveable containers. 

 

So what do you do for those plants that cannot be moved? One way to discourage evaporation from garden beds is to prevent the sunlight from reaching the soil. There are several ways to do this, but the easiest is to cover any bare soil with a mulch, such as wood chip mulch. Wood chips are lighter in colour so they absorb less sunlight and, like most organic materials, wood chips absorb and store large amounts of water. 

 

Tip 2: Pruning plants a little before you go.

 

Pruning a plant before going on vacation reduces transpiration. Transpiration is the process a plant uses to release waste byproducts and excess water. Think of transpiration as the “plant peeing”. Here is how it works: 

  1. The plant’s roots soak up water and nutrients (food) from the soil. 
  2. The water and nutrients are transported to each leaf of the plant for photosynthesis. 
  3. The stomata (tiny holes in the leaf) transpire (release) waste liquid. 

Think of the plants’ roots as a mouth drinking in the moisture from the soil. The stomata, which each leaf of a plant has, is like a butt hole. To prevent transpiration - plant peeing - we need to discourage the plant from drinking more water than absolutely necessary. 

Plants use water to absorb nutrients and for photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is a fancy term for the process of taking sunlight, water, nutrients, and carbon dioxide and turning it into energy. Each leaf will photosynthesize a specific amount of energy. By pruning we reduce the number of leaves, which reduces the amount of water required by photosynthesis proportionately. Since the pruned plant will consume less water it will transpire less, so both plant and soil will retain more moisture for a longer period of time.

Tip 3: Add Jocelyn’s Soil Booster Worm Manure to Increase Moisture Retention

 

One of the benefits of adding worm manure to the soil is a reduction of percolation. Percolation is the process of moisture leaving the soil by traveling through it. The water moves through tiny air pockets created by the individual particles of soil fitting together. The size of the air pockets depends upon the size of the soil particles. This is because of porosity and permeability. Porosity is the amount of tiny air pockets the water can move through and permeability is determined by how connected these air pockets are. If all your soil particles are round then your air pockets all connect to one another and the permeability of your soil is increased. 

 

The addition of worm manure will help to create macro aggregates, a collection of soil particles, organic matter, and microorganisms that help to create soil structure. Since macro aggregates are not round they prevent the air pockets within the soil from connecting and increase the permeability. Another benefit to macro aggregates is that they are full of organic matter. Since organic matter can absorb and store 10 times its weight in water.

 

Improving the moisture retention of your soil will make leaving for vacation less worrisome. By adding worm manure regularly you can ensure that macro aggregates are present, the organic matter is full of water, and percolation is slower. Then, all that is left to do is a little pruning and relocating to minimize evaporation and transpiration while you’re away.