8 Steps To Planning Your Best Summer Garden + What We Are Growing!
Want to plan your best summer garden yet? These eight steps will help you think through some of the most important parts of planing your summer garden and we're also showing you a little sneak peak into what we have planned as well!
Since I personally love walking through other peoples gardens and seeing the way they lay out their garden design I thought that it may be helpful to share what we are growing in each part of our garden so you can get some ideas when it comes to planning a beautiful garden of your own.
Things To Think About When Planning Your Summer Garden
When it comes to planning your garden everyone is going to have different options and ideas based on what your particular space and climate is like, but here are a few things that are good for absolutely everyone to think about when planning their summer garden.
Find Full Sun And Utilize It
Most plants and herbs are going to want full sun to really grow to their full potential. This is especially important for Mediterranean herbs like basil, oregano, thyme, lavender, rosemary, and sage, which thrive in full sun and well-draining soil. Tomatoes are another vegetable that really needs full sun as well to thrive, while most leafy greens and herbs like mint prefer cooler partial shade.
Don’t Skimp On Soil Quality
Think of your soil as the foundation and nutrition supply of your entire garden. A strong foundation with a rich supply of nutrients will provide an incredible base for your plants to flourish and be strong enough to prevent against disease, while poor foundation with limited nutrients will leave your plants struggling and begging for help.
So do yourself a favor and before you get started planting always make sure to test your soil (once every two years is good) or opt for a high quality organic potting mix/compost to grow your plants in. You also will want to invest in an organic fertilizer as well, especially if you are growing in containers since your plants will need added nutrients periodically throughout the summer months.
Know Your Last/First Frost Date
If you live in an area where you get a frost then you are going to want to know your first and last frost date. This will help you plan when it is safe to plant most of your garden plants outside (after the first frost) and when the growing season will be over (when the first frost hits). While some plants like kale or swiss chard can be hardy to frost, most won’t survive which is why it is so important that you pay attention to your frost dates before planting.
Plant Throughout The Season
Often people will plant in the spring and then not do any more planting the rest of the summer. This is not an efficient use of your space and plants since many like leafy greens and many herbs can be planted continuously throughout the growing season using something called successive planting. This just means that you spread your planting out a few weeks at a time, which allows for some plants to mature while others continue to grow.
Prevent Pests Naturally
I understand how difficult pest management can be, but is is a natural part of gardening (and farming) and we need to accept that fact the pests will always be an issue we need to contend with, versus trying to wipe them out with chemical pesticides that can harm our soil quality, pollinators, air, and water supply.
One of my favorite ways to prevent pests naturally is to focus on companion planting, which can help to naturally prevent pests by placing certain plants that repel pests near ones other plants that they may be attracted to. You can also use diatomaceous earth sprinkled around your plants to prevent insects that like to crawl on plant's leaves.
Think Beyond Vegetables
While everyone's mind immediately think to growing vegetables and herbs in summer gardens, there are so many other plants you can grow.
Think about adding some fruit to your summer garden, or try including some pollinator-friendly flowers that can improve the overall look of your summer garden and act as an attractive option for pollinators!
It’s inevitable when you are planning especially a new garden that you are going to experience some overcrowding, and one of the best pieces of advice my Dad (who is an incredible gardener) told me was “don’t be afraid to pull some plants up and let them go”. Overcrowding will make it impossible for any of your plants to really thrive, so if you are noticing that your garden is overcrowded think about what plants you could prune back or remove entirely to free up some space for others you care more about.
Get Creative With Design
You can grow your garden in almost anything and I really encourage you to get creative with the design. Think about vegetables you can trellis, flowers you can plant in hanging pots, and herbs you can grow in a container kitchen garden on your patio. The sky really is the limit when it comes to garden design so don’t be afraid to be creative!
What We Are Growing This Summer
Here is what we grow in roughly 80 square feet of elevated garden beds, plus varying containers. Ideally, if we had more space we would spread out the plants we are growing in our elevated beds a little more, but so far they seem to be doing just fine.
This is a good example of how reading plant spacing/yield instructions can generally be helpful, you never really know exactly what you will get in your space with your particular growing conditions until you try.
Bed #1: 4x8 feet long
2 - window box cherry tomatoes
4 - oregano
4 - basil
1 row of carrots
1 row of beets
3 rows of scallions
1 sq foot of spinach
1 row of bok choy (one harvest, pulled to make space)
2 - nasturtiums
Calendula flowers on either end
Bed #2: 4x8 feet long
2 - holy basil
2 - parsley
9 - pepper plants (different varieties)
2- asian eggplant
3 - morning glory (grown-up our 10-foot rock wall)
2 - nasturtiums
Calendula flowers on both ends
Bed #3: 2x4 feet long
2 - cherry tomatoes
1 - thyme
+ plants for arched trellis (see below)
Bed #4: 2x4 feet long
2 - vine tomatoes
1 - thyme
2 rows of radishes (one early harvest then pulled for space)
1 row of swiss chard (one harvest then pulled for space)
2 - basil (we ended up moving these to a sunnier spot)
+ plants for arched trellis (see below)
Our arched trellis is one of the best additions we made to the garden. Not only is it space-efficient, but it is also so beautiful to look at! One the arched trellis (which sits in our 2-2x4 foot beds) are:
3 - cucumber plants
2 - sweet peas
6 - tri-colored poll beans
1 - morning glory
Large Clay Pots:
2 - rose bushes
1 - climbing rose bush
6 - vine tomatoes (black krim, gold metal, san manzano)
Large Self-Watering Pot:
3 - tomato plants (1 vine, 2 cherry)
Galvanized Metal Tub (3 feet long by 1.5 feet wide)
Three lettuce varieties
3 - rosemary
4 - lavender
2 - mint
1 - sage
3 - basil
5 - eggplant
1 - pepper
2 - dill
2 - chive
2 - cilantro
2 - lemon balm
2 - sage
2 - tarragon
1 - lemon thyme
Small Rock Wall Herb Garden:
We do have some space about 2x4 feet at the end of our patio where we planted an herb garden into our rock wall. This spot is a bit of an experiment to see what thrives, but for now we have:
1 - Russian sage
1 - tall grass
2 - lemon grass
2 - basil
1 - stevia
3 - sage
1 - rosemary
2 - lavender
2 - lemon balm
1 - evening primrose flower
1 - tarragon
1 - thyme
What We Will Do Differently Next year
While generally we really have liked how everything has worked in the garden there still are a few things we will do differently next year. Gardening is a constant process of moving and learning what works best in the space you have, and even year to year your success with the very same plants can change.
This is the fun (and frustrating) part about gardening.
Next year we have already decided that we dedicate a larger amount of our raised bed space to some root veggies that we love (like radishes, carrots, and beets). Because they can take a longer time to mature if we are going to put the work into growing them we decided that we need to get more from our crop then just a small row or two.
This year we also started our basil plants near our tomatoes in two of our small elevated beds, which once the tomatoes grew large enough totally blocked the sun from reaching the basil. We ended up having to move the basil plants to a sunnier spot, which can be stressful for the plants and something we will avoid next year.
And that’s it! We honestly have a lot going on in our small space summer garden, but so far everything is growing really well and thriving.
We definitely weren’t afraid to get rid of a few plants after one harvest (like beets and bok choy) to make room for others, which helped with some overcrowding issues, and overall I am happy with how everything is maturing and the cycle we have been able to harvest in since late spring.
What are you growing in your summer garden? Let us know a few of your favorite below in the comments.