Have you been wanting to start a garden and don’t know where to begin?
Well you’ve come to the right place and it’s not too late!
Yes we are in the middle of summer, but you can actually start planning for a garden next year or even start one for this year for what is called a fall garden, meaning you can plant now and the vegetables will be ready to harvest in the fall.
All you need is a seed, soil, water, and sun.
Also be sure to check out my new video: Summer Vegetable Garden Tour.
Seeds and Starters
You can start your garden using seeds straight from a seed packet, dried from a vegetable plant, or as a little seedling or baby plant.
Plant “starters” are infant plants. Some plants do really well when planted from a seed straight into the ground. Others may do better when the seed is planted into soil and given a chance to begin growing indoors before planting into the ground. Starters allow a little more TLC to be given and protection from the elements when they are just beginning to sprout. They then can be transplanted into the ground when they are hardy enough to tolerate being outdoors.
Plant what you want, not what’s in stock
By planting something you enjoy eating, it will be more rewarding than picking whatever is just available at your local big box store or nursery.
I like to grow basic, essential herbs and vegetables as well as ones that are a bit exotic, challenging, and adventurous for the USDA Plant Hardiness Zones that my gardens are growing in. I choose herbs and vegetables I tend to use a lot in recipes, ones I run to the store more often for, or ones that go bad easily because when you grow them in the garden you can pick fresh as you go and not be wasteful.
Note the characteristics of each plant
Vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, and beets have edible leaves. Some plants are a harvest one and done, others continue to produce all summer long, some produce early, some produce late. These characteristics may be something to consider when choosing your plants.
Plants that grow fast will be more rewarding
Growing a few herbs and vegetables that yield an early harvest will be encouraging and rewarding. It also may allow you to plant an additional something in its place if the first plant’s growing season is done, it may allow your remaining plants to use up some of that now freed up space, or you can use that space for in-ground composting.
Add pollinator attracting flowers and plants
Bees and butterflies help to pollinate your plants, meaning that they transfer pollen from the males flowers to the female flowers that produce the fruit. Flowers can also help to ward off predators and pests, and they also add beauty and charm. I like lavender, mums, morning glory, snapdragons, echinacea, and sunflowers.
And of course, roses are always a good choice.
Don’t forget to label your plants! This is especially important if you are a first time gardener and do not know what the foliage of each plant should look like early on and as it matures. Weeds and other edible plant-life may come up and it can be difficult to distinguish them apart from your intended plant and you don’t want to mistakenly pull it out.
Choosing a Theme
Choosing a theme may help you narrow down your list of haves and wants in your garden and allow you to create a garden that is fun and exciting.
Here are some garden themes that are especially fun if you have children who might be helping out in the garden:
- Alphabet Garden- Use different letters of the alphabet when choosing plants.
- Butterfly Garden- Grow flowers and plants that are attractive to butterflies.
- Favorite Book or Movie Garden- Choose a book with a garden theme and recreate it such as Peter Rabbit or Alice in Wonderland.
- Cultural or Regional Garden- Choose plants relative to a people group, historical significance, region of the world, or according to cuisine you enjoy.
- Three Sisters Garden- Native peoples from different parts of North America often planted corn, beans, and squash together — a trio often referred to as the “three sisters.”
- Mediterranean Garden- Basil, dill, oregano, lemon, mint, rosemary, tarragon, sage, tomatoes, thyme, parsley, fennel, eggplant, and cucumber.
- Fairy Garden- Ferns, succulents, grasses, and plants that have tendrils like squashes and melons, and nightshade varieties such as mushrooms or eggplants.
- Giant or Miniature Garden- Choose varieties of vegetables that remain get oversized like giant sunflowers or pumpkins or remain small such as baby carrots, sugar baby watermelons, fingerling potatoes, Jack Be Little pumpkins.
- Moonlight Garden- Pick a few plants that bloom at night like evening primrose or moonflowers. Choose vegetables from the nightshade variety such as mushrooms, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants.
- Pizza Garden- Grow the ingredients to make a pizza such as tomatoes, garlic, wheat, basil, oregano, and peppers.
- Rainbow Garden- Choose an assortment of flowers, leaves, or vegetable harvest that shows off the different colors of the rainbow. Kaleidoscope carrots are a fun one.
- Salad Garden- Grow the basics of a salad such as lettuce, carrots, cucumber, radish, and tomatoes.
- Salsa Garden- Tomatoes, tomatillos, onion, peppers, garlic, and cilantro.
- Sensory Garden- Select plants that engage the all the senses by choosing a variety of flowers or plants that are hard and soft to the touch, ones with distinct aromas and taste, of vibrant color or design, and flowers that attract the buzzing bees.
Choosing a Design
The flowers and vegetables you choose along with the space limitations of your garden plot will help you in your garden design. Characteristics such as growth space, whether you have certain plant types or materials available to grow ones in a vertical fashion with the support of a trellis, as well as climate, and soil type will help further narrow down your plant choices and the look of your garden.
I think the design as far as aesthetics goes is the fun part. Pots, raised beds, and in ground planting in rows or grids are all possible choices in any combination. I’m not a fan of coffin-shaped raised beds. I like squares and designs that give a secret garden feel. Ornamentals are a fun way to add pizazz and charm. Your garden will be unique to you so don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through!
Here is what this year’s design looks like in the main corner of my summer garden, I did an in-ground garden with stepping stones in between:
Soil is basically made up of weathered rock materials such as sand, silt, and clay. There are also other soil compositions that can be found in native soil. You can add deficient materials to your garden to help with the success of your plant. Adding your own made compost is a great way to do that.
I’d recommend getting a soil testing kit that will check for pH as well as nutrients.
Rain water is best. It has a neutral pH and can allow you to skip on watering. More often than not, you don’t have to water everyday unless you live in a desert, in which case requires watering sometimes twice a day.
If your garden is needing to water from your city’s municipal water source, test the wetness of your soil using the depth of your fingers and if it’s still wet 1-2″ down, hold off on watering. I typically recommend only watering in the early morning unless you live in a hot desert climate because watering at night can be conducive to plant fungi, disease, and unwanted pests.
Doing a slow, deep watering is usually best so that the water can reach the roots instead of flooding just the surface. Try not to blast your plants with a sprayer but rather water from ground-level. Also not to get water on the leaves, if you do, gently shake off the excess water.
Southern and western exposures typically receive the most sunlight. So you’ll want to place sun-loving plants accordingly. Keep in mind your designated space constraints of full-grown plants because if you over-plant and crowd out your plants, they will compete for sunlight and nutrients found in the soil and they also won’t get adequate airflow to ward off fungi.
Here’s some advice…
It’s much more simple than you may think
Everyone has an opinion
It can be discouraging to read yes about this, no about that and I’ve often found gardening information to be confusing and contradictory. And much like child-rearing, everyone has an opinion about it, a very strong opinion at that. There are also a lot of myths out there and it can be difficult to weed them out.
We all want to be successful, skilled gardeners who can produce both flavorful and dependable produce, quality and quantity. We don’t want to be labeled as someone who can’t grow a plant to save their life, especially in the event of a zombie-alien apocalypse. Don’t be that person, they’re always the first to go in the most gruesome way.
I’ve certainly had my fair share of mourning over dying plants. It’s a bummer watching them slowly shrivel up as they go to their grave, but keep trying, even master gardeners and farmers have their bad days.
Take joy in the process
Gardening is therapeutic. It takes time and work, but it’s rewarding work and relaxing at the same time. The maintenance does get easier once your garden is established and it’s awesome to have something to look forward to.
Experience the joy of gardening like waking up early with your morning coffee and watching bees and butterflies go about. Nothing beats eating a fresh, crisp, non bitter cucumber you grew yourself, you really can’t compare that amazingness to anything you purchase at the store.
The more you give away, the more you get back
So what did I grow for harvest this summer/fall?
Watch: Summer Vegetable Garden Tour
Green leaf lettuce
Husky cherry tomatoes
Kale, two varieties
Mustard green, three varieties
Okinawa sweet potato
Red leaf lettuce
Ruby Queen beets
Sugar baby watermelons
Busy bee sunflower
May Breeze flowers
New Guinea flower
Suntastic Yellow sunflower
There is so much you can grow!
A fall garden?
There are couple vegetables that do well for a fall garden as the season starts to get cooler. These types of vegetables grow more quickly and do well with the sunshine and temperature change and will be ready to harvest in the fall if you plant them soon.
The growing season from peak sun/heat to first frost can actually be a longer, more abundant pivot point for some hardiness zones compared to the last frost of spring to peak sun/heat.
How to start
You can start by sowing seeds indoors now or plant them directly into the ground. If you plant directly into the ground during peak heat (July/August), be sure to shade them garden from the heat.
What to grow for fall
Varieties of lettuce, kale, spinach, mustard greens, boy choy, Brussel sprouts, green beans, radish, turnips, kohlrabi, carrot, garlic, onion, chive, cilantro make for great fall/winter crops.
In fact you can bury items like garlic cloves as a fall/winter cold season item and they will actually grow for next spring/summer season.
Do you have a garden or are interesting in starting one, let me know in the comments below!