Summer is an excellent time to start gardening, even as a beginner. You can start with a garden full of flowers or a collection of plants that can serve as cooking ingredients.
Focus on plants that support pollinators. These plants do well and look pretty in your garden. “Many of our native pollinators are in decline, and providing them with sources of nectar and pollen is one step we can take to support them,” says Jessica Walliser, author of gardening books including Plant Partners: Science-Based Companion Planting Strategies”. for the vegetable garden.” She suggests starting with North American native perennials — plants that will live for several years — including coneflowers, perennial sunflowers, milkweed, and calamint.
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Tara Nolan, author of “Gardening Your Front Yard: Projects and Ideas for Big and Small Spaces,” joined a local Plant of the Month club last year. Many plant retailers offer this as an option for indoor and outdoor plants; Some, like the Urban Organic Gardener, send seeds so you can grow food all year round. “It introduced me to a variety of plants from my region that are perfect for attracting pollinators to my garden,” says Nolan, who runs the site savvygardening.com alongside Walliser and his gardening expert Niki Jabbour. “A new favorite is Prairie Smoke with its delicate seed heads.”
Grow herbs and other edible plants. Why not wow your al fresco table companions with a homemade pesto sauce made with basil you’ve grown yourself? “Basil is particularly good for summer planting because it thrives in hot weather,” says Walliser. “Planting a few new plants mid-season results in a consistent harvest because of their staggered growth rates,” she says, noting the same is true for rosemary.
Rosemary is also a focal point for Linda Ly of Garden Betty, a blog dedicated to gardening, homesteading and sustainable living. “If you’re new to gardening, rosemary is about as low-maintenance as it can be for an edible plant,” she says. “Rosemary can be grown as a culinary herb, a pollinator-friendly perennial, or as a hedge, and is a great choice for hot, dry climates as it is very drought tolerant once established.”
Dan Allen, CEO of Farmscape, California’s largest urban farming company, is also a proponent of herbs for new gardeners. “They stay relatively compact and aren’t overly susceptible to pests or diseases,” he says.
Or try cherry tomatoes, which work well in larger pots, wine barrels, raised beds, or cultivated beds, says Allen. Once established, they will thrive in the warm temperatures of summer. When growing tomatoes, be sure to remove almost any “suckers,” or growths, that develop between the main stem and leaf tufts to ensure the plant has “few leaders,” says Allen. “You will be rewarded with a more manageable garden and tastier fruits.”
Take time to plan for the next year. Summer is an excellent time to start thinking about next year’s garden. “Summer isn’t an ideal planting time for many plants, as they prefer to be transplanted and establish themselves when temperatures are cooler,” says Allen. But maybe you can find inspiration by going for a walk. “A lot of gardens in your neighborhood will be in bloom, so it’s a perfect time to get inspired, make a list, and plan ahead for what you might want to incorporate into your garden in the future,” he says. Then research the best time to plant these strains, whether it’s fall or spring, so you can enjoy them next summer.
Creating an indoor jungle
No backyard? No problem. Take advantage of this season to become a full fledged plant parent from the comfort of your living room.
Consider your schedule. You probably won’t spend your summer watering your plants all day; Vacations can take you out of your home for days or even weeks. If you’re looking for a plant that will thrive this season but requires little maintenance, go for the money tree, says Lindsay Pangborn, a gardening expert at Bloomscape, an online plant retailer. She says the money tree, with its large leaves and braided trunk, is perfect for creating a summer tropical vibe in your home. An added bonus: It’s relatively low-maintenance, making it ideal for people who are away from home for long periods of time.
Opt for something that thrives in humid climates. Do you have access to a covered porch? Take advantage of the intense humidity of summer and put some plants out there. Tasha Adams of Hickory Lane Plants, a mobile planting company based in Springfield, Missouri, says many plants thrive in high humidity. She says Monstera strains are special Monstera deliciosa, are great for beginners. “These plants are easy to keep alive and propagate, don’t require finicky care, and thrive in bright, indirect light,” she says. “They grow fast, put out nice leaves and are quite hardy.”
Though many houseplants thrive in summer’s humidity, don’t put the plants outside until they’re ready, says Anna Johnston, owner and creative director of plant shop Jungle & Loom. The company offers a variety of plants, including palms, cordylines, and elephant ears, that are grown in full sun and can live outside during warm months. They will also thrive in medium to bright indirect light when brought indoors. “They don’t get quite as big in your house, but that might not be a bad thing because [elephant ears] can get quite large, especially in your garden,” says Johnston.
Sarah Lyon is a freelance writer and stylist based in New York. Find her on Instagram: @sarahlyon9.