What You Can Do Now to Prepare for a Summer Garden 

Shandra Martinez

| 3 min read

Young farmer with prosthetic leg picking tomato in greenhouse
Now that a winter’s worth of snow has melted off lawns, decks and front porches, many of us start thinking about what has laid dormant under the cold and ice for months: our gardens – or at least the potential for some great vegetable, fruit and flower gardens this year.
Whether you’ll be working in a large backyard garden, a small patch that serves as a kitchen garden, or just a collection of pretty pots for container gardening, they all start at the same place this time of year. Early spring means it’s planning time in the gardening world. And this year, that green-thumb group is expected to be larger than ever.
More than 20 million people in the U.S. joined the gardening ranks last year around the start of the pandemic, bringing the number of people who garden in this country to about 63 million, according to Better Homes and Gardens.
So, what can you do in the spring to prepare for a summer garden? Quite a few things. Here are some suggestions to get you started, depending on what kind of area you are planning to tend.
Container Garden. This is probably the easiest gardening style. It’s low maintenance, requires little weeding, and can produce some eye-catching results. It’s a great way to teach small children how to care for plants, and convenient for people who don’t want the stretching-bending-sweating workout that can come with larger gardens. Some things to do now include:
  • Purchase containers. These can be trough-style planters, urns, pots or big tubs.
  • If reusing containers, empty them, scrub them, let dry.
  • Purchase potting soil or a soil blend.
  • If planting seeds, order them online or buy them at your local store.
Kitchen Garden. A French-style potager, or kitchen garden, is pretty as well as useful. These are typically small garden areas near a home’s front or back door. They hold a mix of vegetables and herbs, even flowers and fruits. They allow you to quickly grab a handful of this or that to add to your dishes as you cook. To get started:
  • Identify a small, sunny patch that will work for this purpose. An existing flower bed can be turned into one, too.
  • Make a list of herbs and vegetables you’d like to grow for cooking purposes, so you’ll know what to buy later. Add in a couple kinds of bright-colored flowers or sunflowers.
  • Draw up a plan for where things will be planted.
Backyard Garden. The most ambitious type, big backyard gardens can supply lots of food, enjoyment and even a good workout when it comes to all the planting, weeding and harvesting. Michigan State University’s Extension service has some good tips for getting started in the spring:
  • Where to put a new garden: Pick a spot close to your home, and close to a water source. It should be a level spot that gets six or more hours of sunlight a day.
  • Plan it on paper: Sketch out a map of what your garden will look like. Plant tall vegetables like corn and pole beans on the north side. Leave spacing between plants and rows.
  • Check planting dates for your area with this handy planner from the Michigan State Climatologist Office.
Photo credit: Getty

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