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Publié le by NmNomador

Going Green: Plant-sitting Tips for both Homeowners and House-Sitters

Not all house-sits involve pets. Or perhaps we should say not all pets have fur or feathers—some of them have leaves and roots and flowers. For plant-lovers, having their greenery tended while they’re away can be an important component in travel plans.

Homeowners with houseplants—or gardens or yards—who want to travel can find peace of mind knowing they’ve found a house-sitter whose thumb is as green as their own. For homeowners and house-sitters alike, the key to success is managing expectations.

Potential Plant-sitters: Be honest about your abilities

When applying for appointments, house-sitters must be honest (to themselves as well as the homeowner) about their capabilities and interests in the plant kingdom. If your prior experience with plant care is limited to caring for (or perhaps not really caring about) a single dusty cactus that requires watering only once every few months, a house-sit that involves a collection of precious orchids is probably not for you. However, you may be a city dweller with a container garden that’s tiny but worthy of a horticulture prize. In that case, you might view tending a vegetable patch in a homeowner’s yard as heaven on earth.

Since Michael and I are nomadic, we no longer have a home and garden of our own. Therefore, we enjoy an opportunity to get our hands dirty (literally!) every now and then. We like houseplants, and a bit of weeding in the flower beds is fine. We just finished a stay at a flat in Lyon, where the homeowner’s herbs had taken a beating in the summer heat. I relished watering, pruning and cajoling them back to health (and using the tasty results to flavor a roast chicken!). Another time the homeowner had recently planted a few new trees in his yard. Their roots were still adjusting to being transplanted, so he needed us to water them every few days. That was pretty easy.

But heavy-duty yard work is not high on our list. One of the reasons we eventually sold our house in the suburbs was we realized we’d rather be out exploring museums than raking leaves in the yard. In fact, when Michael was a kid and his chore was mowing the grass in the front yard, he actually hired a friend to do it for him. (It was a great plan . . . until his dad found out!) Consequently, we don’t apply for house-sits that involve a lot of outdoor chores, and leave those opportunities for house-sitters that really love digging in the dirt.

Homeowners: Be clear about plant and garden care requirements

Homeowners must be clear in the type of plant care they are seeking, whether it’s a single precious orchid or a multi-acre meadow. “Routine garden maintenance” might mean daily weeding and watering of the petunias out front, or it could refer to spraying the tomato plants, pruning fruit trees, and stacking hay bales. The more specific you are in the house-sit listing, the likelier you are to find someone perfectly suited to tending your fauna.

It is also important to provide specific directions for the plant/garden care you are expecting. During one of our summer house-sits, we watched over several fruit trees that were practically dripping with ripe peaches, plums and apples. The homeowner had told us we could eat as much fruit as we liked, but asked us to be certain to dispose of the pieces that dropped onto the ground, which attracted bees and mice. We enjoyed several pies and fruit salads, while we dutifully cleaned up the dropped fruit and made sure it was taken away during the neighborhood’s weekly trash collection.

What we didn’t realize was that the homeowners had a huge compost bin, which would have been perfect for the rotting fruit! They assumed we had seen it, but unfortunately we hadn’t. Although the situation wasn’t a disaster, it was clearly a miscommunication that could have been avoided with a simple list of instructions or a walk around the yard. (And as house/plant-sitters, we have learned to ask lots of questions if the directions aren’t clear to us.)

Homeowners should also be realistic—and safety conscious—about certain gardening tasks. If you are uncomfortable with someone using your tractor or riding mower properly, it might be best to hire a lawn service during your absence. And be sure all insecticides and herbicides are clearly marked, or even locked away. If you don’t want someone over-pruning your favorite shade tree (or perhaps their finger), it might be a good idea to lock up the chainsaw as well.

Clear communication is the key to plant-sitting success. During a stay in Savannah, Georgia, our homeowner made it clear we would only be responsible for tending the houseplants and the flower beds out front, which for the most part required simple weeding and watering. They had made separate arrangements for a lawn service to mow their grass -- an arrangement that suited Michael perfectly!

In addition, our homeowner had a pet gardenia that required a little more TLC: it needed misting (by hand) for 10 minutes every three days. I was a bit nervous about this one, it was obviously her prized plant possession, and I didn’t want to damage it. But our homeowner had left such explicit instructions (on graph paper—she was very organized), that they were easy to follow. The gardenia was happy, I was happy, and most importantly, the homeowner was happy!

Author Bio
Larissa and Michael Milne

Larissa and Michael Milne have been global nomads since 2011.
They chronicle their journey at
ChangesInLongitude.com. The Milnes also write the weekly “Field-Tested Travel Tips” column for The Philadelphia Inquirer and online at Philly.com.

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