Have you started your summer garden planning? If you love the idea of having an herb box, veggie patch or a cutting flower garden to enjoy this summer, it is essential to start prepping now!
A few questions to get you started:
Where do you live?
Within the 50 states, a range of plant hardiness zones help gardeners determine which plants are most likely to thrive at a location. The first step in planning your garden is to determine your ‘grow zone’ based on this map. It will not only help advise you on what to plant, but also when to plant it! Based on geographical location, think about when the last frost date in your area occurred, how much sun exposure your land gets every day, and how much water access you have.
How much space do you have?
Do you have an established garden plot, or will you need to create one in your yard? Do you want to commit to removing an area of lawn to establish your garden, or do you want to pursue a more organized look with raised beds? Alternatively, if your home does not have yard space, you could plant in elevated garden containers or pots. Start small, so your time, money, and water investments are conservative. When considering how much space you have, also think about where the desired plot is located, in full sun, partial sun, or shade? Is it close enough for your water hose to reach and small enough that you (or your partner and family) can manage the maintenance and harvesting?
Do you have a plan?
This is the fun part! Choose the herbs, veggies, fruits, flowers, and root vegetables you would like to grow. If you are unsure of your choices, speak to someone at a local garden center and ask what fares well in your grow zone. Keep in mind that all plants have different requirements for soil, fertilization, sun exposure, watering, soil pH, and more.
Crop rotation – If you have planted a garden in past years, switch up the crops you grow this summer. Planting different crops in alternating years keeps your soil nutrient rich.
Companion planting – Just like humans, plants like to have companions! My grandma always planted marigolds between her tomato plants to help deter insects or disease. There are many other ‘companions’ that work well to help keep bugs or grubs at bay when planted together.
Starting from scratch:
If this is your first attempt at planting a garden, try to have fun with it! You don’t need to install fancy irrigation systems or a dozen different crop varieties. Start small and enjoy the fruits of your labor, literally!
A raised bed is a great way to ease into gardening for many homeowners. It requires a basic setup/installation, needs less maintenance, and can give your yard a more organized look. You can purchase a raised-bed kit at a home improvement or garden center store. Usually consisting of lumber (do not use pressure treated), corner posts or caps, and some type of material (cardboard or thick layers of newspaper can also work) to lay down to deter grass and weeds from growing up into the bed, a raised bed should usually be 12-24 inches tall. A taller bed can help with plants that have deeper root systems.
A garden planter is also a great option for folks with little or no yard space. You can purchase a waist-height planter box in a variety of sizes and materials to sit in a sunny spot on your patio or even the side of your driveway. This option is also great for people who may have back issues and prefer not to bend over to reach all their crops. Lettuces, flowers, and many vegetables do well in this style planter.
If you are in a city and are limited to potted plants on a stoop or window boxes, there are still options for you! Maybe you won’t be able to harvest corn, but you can try your hand at herbs, lettuces, peppers, or even garlic and carrots in a deeper pot.
But very important: contain your mint! The idea of homemade mojitos or watermelon mint salads sounds enticing but plan carefully when planting your mint! This low-maintenance herb is invasive and can easily spread throughout a garden. Plant your mint in a contained area, or else you will soon have to quit your job to become a full-time mint farmer!