Capillary matting is cheap and easy, the professional's choice for ensuring a steady supply of water. Often used to cover greenhouse benches, can be a godsend. There are several ways you can use it to create a 'self watering' system to keep your plants moist.
Set up a bench, ideally in the shade, either in the greenhouse or outside, covered with waterproof fabric (a sheet of polythene will do fine). Cover it with capillary matting. Get a big bucket, fill it with water and place it on the bench. Now cut a long strip of the matting and weight one end down at the bottom of the bucket of water. Lead it up and out of the bucket, down the side and then tucking the other end of the matting strip securely under the main sheet of mat on your bench. Water will soak up the strip and into the main sheet, as long as the end of the strip is under water.
Your plants can then be placed on the capillary matting, where the moisture will wick up into the pots. The bottom of the pots will need to be in direct contact with the mat (no seed tray in between) and they will need to be filled with compost right to the bottom - no layer of crocks. Clay pots need a single crock to cover the hole of course, but otherwise the water will wick up through the absorbent clay.
A leaky plastic bucket, with a small hole pierced in the bottom, will do the job even better!
Your kindly carer will just have to top up the bucket every few days if you are away for a long break. For a few days to a week, this will do the job all by itself!
In the house, lay a sheet of capillary matting in the bottom of the bath - PLUG OUT! - and leave the cold tap gently dripping onto the matting. The bath will need a good clean when you get back but all your houseplants will be happy as anything. But remember - remove all saucers and make sure the bottom of the pot is in direct contact with the mat!
Capillary matting of a luxurious thickness is available from the Trading Store at just £1 per square metre.