How do you prep a house sitter…not to kill your indoor plants and outdoor gardens?
In this edition of the Gardening Series, we chat with Brittany Hill of Beet & Yarrow on navigating the ins and outs of plant parent vacations—how to keep your stress low and your plants cared for.
Who do you usually entrust with plant care when you're away?
I have the best plantsitter—my neighbor Jeanne! We both love our gardens, and our yards are side by side with a low fence, so when we’re outside at the same time milling around, we’re always chit-chatting, comparing our techniques and theories. She waters her tomatoes every two days, I water mine every three days, and we geek out on nightly watering schedule and morning routines. She buys the seeds, and I start them; we even know the color schemes we each prefer, so if she sees an amazing perennial in a peach tone, she knows how to repay me. I know her yard as well as mine and vice versa, so we hardly have to explain much when either of us goes away, but as plant lovers we make a point to detail any delicate, or newly planted varieties that might need more attention. For my indoor plants I usually just soak them and hope for the best! You can clearly see where my priorities are.
Do you write a detailed list or instructions? How specific does it get?
My mantra would be: “Survival, not Perfection.” I would simplify my usual routine down to the bare minimum, and try not to explain details that would be hard for people to remember. If I just planted new seedlings, I wouldn't try to point out every little sprig to Jeanne that needs watering multiple times a day. I would just take the loss and try to time my plantings around my trips so as to not to ask too much. It would be a good idea to group your vulnerable and picky plants together for your plant sitter so they know which ones to pay special attention to. Your succulents and sansevieria can stay where they are, but if your ferns and calatheas are together it can be easier to tell what needs water immediately, or maybe just some daily splashes to ensure survival. Grouping plants together also helps increase humidity!
Do you check in / send reminders?
I don't check in, but a handwritten note that your sitter can refer to can be helpful and give you some peace of mind.
Do you feel the need to visually ID certain plants for them?
No—and if they can't identify any plants at all, you might want to find a different sitter...
What advice do you have for others looking to assign a trusty sitter?
Create a stress free set up for your sitter; stock your place with the plantsitter's favorite snacks and drinks so they are comfortable to hang out awhile and therefore don't rush through the process; keep saucers under every plant to avoid ruining any furniture and creating any messes.
Jeanne always pre-fills several watering cans and has them placed next to her greenhouse for me to use, and I think it's so nice! You could also have pre-filled vessels next to your special/picky/challenging plants so the sitters know exactly how much to water.
Don't over explain—for example: “for this one plant 3/4 cup of water every 3 days, misting every other day, and wipe down the tops and bottoms of leaves once a week”—no one needs to know that you do that. A sticky note on a plant that says "Water me once" or "water me every other day" will help your plant sitter avoid confusion.
Last, pick someone who lives close by who can easily pop over to keep an eye on things, especially outdoor gardens. One extremely hot day can create an immediate need for care that a neighbor can easily see and address in a timely manner.
Thank you for the wisdom, Britt! We’ll see you all next month for our farewell to summer manifesto. In the meantime, you can check out what’s fresh on the website for all of your arrangement and gifting needs.