Plants that have suffered from thirst
Returning from vacation can be traumatic for those who love plants. Unfortunately many of us are forced to abandon them at the most difficult moment for them due to the heat and the lack of rain. It is not always possible to set up an automatic irrigation system or we have people to rely on.
To reduce damage to a minimum, it is first of all essential to put some tricks into practice before leaving.
What to do before leaving?
The subjects most at risk are certainly those in pots: the little soil available dries quickly and then begins to heat up. So let's move them to the shade, equip them with a deep saucer and prepare a thick mulch before proceeding with a very abundant irrigation. We can also wrap the container with an insulating material: we will reduce the impact of the heat wave.
The more fragile plants, especially the herbaceous ones, survive more easily if they are drastically pruned, removing most of their leaves.
Then there are specific soils on the market for these occurrences (rich in clay, organic material and water pearls). We replace at least the most superficial layer (or we repot, without disturbing the roots, and use the product for integration). The sprinklers to be connected to a bottle are also interesting: they guarantee autonomy for at least a week.
On the way back: irrigation and hydration
We carry out a sort of triage by separating the lightly affected plants from those with serious damage. The former will recover quickly with frequent watering and perhaps a light cleaning of dry leaves. For the others, a more drastic approach is required.
To rehydrate them quickly, fill buckets (or, if there are many, the bathtub) and leave them to "soak" for a few hours, until we see a clear recovery.
To further facilitate the vegetative awakening, we continue to water often, for at least a week. The frequent nebulizations of the foliage are also very useful, especially during the hottest hours of the day. We also wet the floor or distribute in the area containers full of expanded clay, to always keep moist.
Shading and pruning
Plants that have undergone such trauma need to be subjected to very little stress to recover. This is why it is important to continue to keep them in a shady, cool and sheltered area from the winds.
If we have not done it before, we prepare a thick mulch on the surface, based on vegetable material (excellent straw and hay): the fresher roots will resume developing faster.
Those less in need of light can be brought indoors for a few days: they will greatly benefit from it, especially if we have air conditioning.
It is also fundamental to reduce transpiration and lighten the load on the roots: herbaceous, suffruticose or small shrubs recover faster if they are immediately subjected to a fairly drastic pruning, eliminating all the dryness and, in any case, at least half of the aerial part.
How to revive a plant that has suffered from thirst: Repotting and fertilizing
Repotting is not strictly necessary: it is often best to leave the roots quiet. However, if we realize that the earth is unable to retain water (due to the abundance of peat), we can intervene: by working very gently we eliminate the substrate as much as possible, but without breaking the roots. Better performance is obtained by mixing a good percentage of heavy garden soil with a quality soil.
Fertilizers, especially if rich in nitrogen, should be avoided: they can cause burns at the level of the roots. Furthermore, stimulating vegetative growth in debilitated specimens only weakens them further. On the other hand, an excellent support can come from products based on algae or with a lot of organic carbon or with specific amino acids, to be administered through irrigation (perhaps in half doses) or through frequent foliar nebulizations.