Are you planning a vacation? I know in my conversations with many of you that a lot of us are panning on taking some type of trip this summer, if we haven’t already.  If you are planning on taking a trip, you’ve probably already thought about what you’ll do with fido, the family cat or more importantly the 4-H livestock projects while you are gone, but have you thought about your yard? Landscape preparation for a summer vacation may sound like a lot of extra work, but just a little extra effort on your part before leaving can make a big difference in the health and well being of your plants.

Here are some practical tips that should help ensure that your home landscape will not suffer the post-vacation blues.

Water. Water your landscape well prior to leaving. Soak your lawn, gardens and all landscape plants deeply. Some of our shallower soils can dry out rapidly even after heavy watering, so if you will be gone over a week, plan to have a neighbor hook up your hose and do a little supplemental watering. Or you can invest in some automatic battery powered timers that connect directly to your garden hose and outside faucet.  You can find those at most lawn and garden stores. Don’t forget about those pot plants too. The soil in pots will dry up really quick in the heat of summer.

Cut. Mow your lawn a day or two before you leave. Use the same cutting height that you normally do and avoid lowering the mower blade for a ‘closer shave’ as that will cause additional stress on the lawn. If you plan to be gone more than a week, it would be a good idea to arrange to have a friend, neighbor or high school kid mow the lawn for you. Be sure that sidewalks and flowerbeds are neatly edged and weeded before your departure. A buildup of growth while you are away will be a headache to manage on your return.

Mulch. Mulching helps conserve soil moisture taken up by your plants. It also helps suppress the weeds. Make sure you have adequate layer of mulch in those flowerbeds two to four inches.

Check for Insects and Diseases. Spray, if necessary, for insects and diseases, to prevent a buildup of pests during your absence. Summer insects and diseases do not take a vacation, and will work overtime on your healthy plants.

Harvest. Pick all ripe or nearly ripe fruit and vegetables. If you will be gone over a week, arrange for a friend to pull and use produce. That shouldn’t be a hard favor to ask with the lure of fresh produce. Frequently when vegetables are left unpicked the plant will quit bearing new veggies.

Protect Your Property. Arrange for a neighbor to pick up newspapers, or ask the paper delivery service to hold them until you return. Newspapers scattered over the front lawn are a dead giveaway that no one is home. The same thing can be down with your mail. Lights on a timer are also a good idea, and can provide the impression that someone is home. Or having that friend or neighbor over to water and pick produce will give the impression that someone is there.