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I am going to be overseas for a year from this summer, and my partner will be joining me from next February. We'll have a house sitter, but I don't hold out too many hopes of finding someone who is a wonderful gardener (as well as wonderful with cats, perfectly tidy, and all the other things we are hoping for!). I think that mowing the lawn and pulling up the odd dandelion is probably as much as I can ask. So I really need to think about ways to put my garden to sleep for a year - or at least minimise the damage we have to undo when we get back.
Ideally I would get a gardener to come in for a couple of hours once a fortnight or so but the finances may preclude it.
Assuming that the gardener doesn't happen, my main question is around some sunny flowerbeds where we grow veg every year - I don't want to leave them empty all summer. Any suggestions as to what we could put in easily and cheaply before February, which would just take care of itself until the autumn, without taking over the garden (and maybe help the soil)? I was wondering about one of the natural nitrogen fixers like Comfrey but I've heard it's impossible to eradicate?
I don't think there's anything much I can do about the rest of the garden, except hope that the groundcover I've planted does its job of suppressing as many weeds as possible! But any tips would be much appreciated. I've put so much work into the garden that I will be heartbroken if I have to start again.
Oh dear -this going to sound so pessimistic but unless you have someone to look after it no matter what you plant will go rampant or get eaten or run too seed-you only need to take a holiday for a fortnight to see how much mess a garden can into -but months -that is asking for trouble-and just when all the weeds starting to grow.
I have one suggestion which goes against gardening completely -why not just cover the area in weed suppressing membrane -it will look awful but not as bad as the jungle you could have
Perhaps others will have positive ideas
I have to agree with Sotongeoff if you are just going to leave your garden to itself. "They" say that if the population of UK was wiped out tomorrow it would take just one year for most urban areas to be smothered by weeds and brambles and that motorways would be almost invisible. So, imagine what will happen to your garden in a year. Most of us struggle to keep control on weeds while living in the house 24/7.
Perhaps a membrane would be the answer with a couple of inches of mulch on top to keep it in place and then this could be dug in after a year to boost the soil.
I do have another suggestion - on the positive side - how about renting out your garden to someone who either doesn't have one or would like to have extra growing space for veggies etc and can't get an allotment. With the house sitter in situ access wouldn't be a problem and you could either charge a little rent or just let them have the use of the garden for the year as a goodwill gesture. The house sitter and garden tenant could keep a friendly eye on each other too - if you are not too sure about either. I expect a contract drawn up and signed by both should put things on a good foundation for avoiding difficulties when you return. It's just a thought and I put myself in your position and thought that I would probably go down this road.
What about Landshare as an option? More info here http://www.landshare.net/index/
Renting the space out or landshare are very good suggestions indeed, although I don't think you'd want to come back to a veggie patch right in the middle of your lawn(although if it someone you trust things would be entirely different). Could you get a neighbour to pop round every fortnight and do a bit of weeding?
As for what to plant out, I agree, nothing. Your best bet is trying to suppress the weeds.
I use bark, a good depth of that as a weed suppressant will help, not too ugly either you could always put a few pots of something hardy in (large pots so they dont dry out) something like hardy geraniums which flower for weeks in the summer
How big is your garden, Viola? Unless it's large and complicated I would have thought that a gardener coming in once a month through the growing season would keep the lid on it.
The house next door to me has been let for two years, and both tenants are non-gardeners. The first one did nothing at all. The second tenant hired a gardener to chop everything back - two men spent a whole day doing it. The tenant now just mows the lawn but nothing else. Let's just hope you get a tenant who wants to rent a house because they really want a garden. Failing that I would definitely organise a gardener to keep it in order.
The thought of a non-gardener hiring a so-called gardener to do someone else's garden is pretty frightening. Make sure you hire a reputable gardener before you go, Viola.
Thank you for all the suggestions! Much appreciated - I was feeling extremely pessimistic myself but lots of positive ideas now.. I hadn't heard of Landshare, will have a look at it.
The garden is only small (the lawn area is about 30 feet long and 20 feet wide) but yes, plenty of space for the weeds to go rampant. I am tempted to go for green manures in the veg patch, and then put huge amounts of bark down in the flowerbeds in between plants. I'll have a look at how much it would cost to bring in a gardener once a month. Thank you!