Plants keep growing, seeding and dying, even when you’re on holiday, so there’s plenty to do before you leave them to their own devices. A jungle might await you unless you take precautions. I even make a to-do list a couple of weeks before locking up.

The lawn can become a meadow after a fortnight, so I rush around with the mower at the last minute, and I’m never fool enough to treat the lawn with feed-and-weed concoctions. These stimulate speedy growth, so you can hardly complain when this happens. Even without such a treatment my mower will have its work cut out.

By your return some weeds will have inevitably poked through and near your precious plants. They will even manage to scramble between a rose and its surrounding mulch, but at least a mulch helps to keep most of the ground moist and weed-free.

You can’t mulch the entire garden, however, and the briefest of showers is enough to trigger groundsel and chickweed into life. All you can do is feed the compost bin with as many leafy culprits as possible. During a dry spell I like to do my rounds with a sharp hoe as this fells young weeds, which then shrivel in the sun.

On the more positive side, I make sure my seedlings and young plants get the right conditions to become sturdy and strong enough for planting out after my holiday. If planted too early, their tiny root system near the surface would dry out and their fresh, succulent stems and leaves would be a magnet to molluscs, voles and cutworms.

Ideally, you should arrange sowing times so plants are either large enough for putting in the ground or can stay in pots until you get back – and those containers must be large enough to stop seedlings becoming pot-bound and stressed. This entails checking round seed trays and root trainers and potting on to larger pots than you’d normally use. Most vegetable seedlings are in the ground by now but you may need to do this for successional sowings of coriander, dill and basil. And though I usually direct sow rocket, it’s safer in a pot just now.

Flower seedlings are also safely in the ground, but, again, recent purchases often need to be potted on. If you’ve got someone watering for you, ask them to do pots and seed trays, but it’s a bit much to include the open ground as well.

Established plants generally look after themselves, but, if the heavens haven’t done it for you, give everything a good soak to ward off drought stress and the resulting powdery mildew. I also like to deadhead my roses and sweet peas as close to packing the suitcase as possible.

If you’re going away before any soft fruit is ready, get your netting organised in advance. The fruit will be a tasty bonus for your friend when they are watering. Speaking of which, I’ll need to make some stout frames to stop the badgers trashing the small Red Ruby rasps I’ve got in a couple of borders.

Container-grown plants are also vulnerable because they can overheat when in a sunny, sheltered spot. By grouping the pots together, some will be out of direct contact with the sun, so will stay cooler. This also helps prevent the compost from drying out.

Drip irrigation systems aren’t always as effective as they’re made out to be, so ask your friend to give the pots a good soak, maybe every day during a sunny spell.

Too much water is just as bad, though. Before you go on holiday, check the drainage holes in pots are working properly because plant roots hate waterlogging. And use pot feet or a few old slates to raise containers off the ground and allow free drainage.