7 Things to do right now to get ready for a fabulous summer garden

1.  Improve your soil, if it needs it. Marjory Wildcraft of Grow Your Own Groceries, says that conditioning your soil is one of the first thing any gardener should do. Keep in mind that soil composition can change over time and should be re-evaluated every so often.

image by celesteh

image by celesteh

Our garden was growing tomatoes non-stop, even throughout the winter, when suddenly everything pretty much died. We learned, later, that our soil had accumulated too much nitrogen and had to back up several steps to make some adjustments. You might need to:

  • Have your soil tested by your local extension office
  • Mix compost in with the soil you now have
  • Add amendments, per instructions from extension office or local growers

2.  Push your composting into high gear! Make sure everyone in the family knows what can and cannot be added to compost and place “compost catchers” near the kitchen sink and anywhere else food is prepared.

Get the kids busy shredding newspaper and old mail (remove plastic windows in envelopes before shredding). Visit a nearby coffee house and ask for their old coffee grinds. Ask neighbors for grass clippings, piles of old leaves, and vegetable peelings.

3.  If you’re not sure what to plant and when, visit a farmer’s market and talk to the pros or search on the internet for local gardening blogs.

Out of curiosity, I did a search for “Phoenix garden blog” and came up with 28,900,000 results. OK, most of those won’t have the information I’m looking for, but the way I figure it is that if someone cares enough to write about their gardening efforts, they probably have some pretty good information and tips to share!

image by ndrwfgg

image by ndrwfgg

Local nurseries (probably not the big box store nurseries) will likely have good advice about what grows best in your climate. Remember that many of us live in micro-climates, which affects what we can grow and when it should be planted and  harvested.

4.  Check your watering system. Replace any missing or damaged valves or hoses. There’s nothing quite like spending some money on seeds and/or seedlings, ammassing a good amount of quality compost, and then coming out one day to discover that your plants are nearly dead from an unexpected heat wave.

This happened to us last June.

5.  Think about what you like to eat a lot of. There’s no point whatsoever in planting lima beans if no one, and I mean no one , in the family will eat them! Once you have a list of what you and your family enjoy eating, check with gardening blogs, farmers, local nurseries, and planting calendars and schedule planting dates.

6.  If your planting season is still a month or more away, solarize your garden area. This is very easy, and I wish I had done this last month.

Water  your garden area very, very well and cover it with a huge sheet of clear plastic. I’ve seen some gardeners use black plastic, but this site recommends otherwise.

Weight the plastic down around the edges to make sure that it doesn’t fly away, even in a good sized gust. Wait for 4-6 weeks. This allows the weeds to sprout, thinking, “Yaaay! We can begin adding hours of backbreaking work to this poor gardener’s week!” However, the joke is on them because once the seeds have sprouted, they will quickly die, either from the heat beneath the black plastic or from being smothered with no air or sunlight.

Some seeds won’t sprout at all but will still die from being overheated.

There are more technical instructions on line, but this is my version.

7.  While you’re messing around with your soil and garden area, check for earthworms. I was pleasantly surprised this week to discover a nice, healthy assortment of worms in our herb garden that I didn’t realize were there.

If your garden area doesn’t seem to have worms, they can be purchased and added to both your garden and your compost pile.

There may be links in the post above that are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission, which does not affect the price you pay for the product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. 

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  1. says

    Hay, great information. We are getting ready for our first plant soon too! You know as I am reading your post I am wanting to see a link to buy seeds or even worms for that matter :) You might want to add one..
    Thanks again.
    Preppers News Today

  2. Melissa says

    Love this info!! Our garden area has a problem with Bermuda grass we plow we pull and every year it comes back any advise?

    • S.Lynn says

      Dig deeper to get every runner. Or, if you can go without that space for a year, spray a soil sterilant on it. Have to have green leaves so it absorbs. Even if it looks dead it might come back. You have to stay on top of it. If you can’t leave it dormant, protect your surrounding plants (with plastic?) and spray the bermuda several times over a month or two.

  3. IndividualAudienceMember says

    I especially liked number 6. It would work very well for container gardening I think. Now if I could just figure out how to keep the seeds from trees out of the containers during growing season, maybe put the plastic back on later and poke holes in it for what I plant?

    I wonder if I put earthworms in my containers if they would stay there or just crawl out?

    Some of my containers are near where rainwater runs off the roof. I’ve often wondered if there were bad substances from the roofing material or if it’s a non-concern.

    I can think of one reason, two reasons why grow something like lima beans if you don’t eat them. For the practice and knowledge gained, and the flowers feed the bees and such. Although I admit those are not very good reasons and flowers would likely be a better choice.

    I also wonder if all the wasps in the Summer which love to suck at the lettuce stalks change the taste of the lettuce in some small way? One thing I learned, wasp traps do not work, except to catch small wild honey bee looking insects.

    Pardon the worse than usual grammar, pre-coffee.

  4. dave says

    I used to fertilize our plants with commercil fertilizer. It made a bit of difference but not that much. A couple of years ago we got a bunch of laying hens. I started dumping the litter from the coop onto the garden. What a huge surprise! Things grow like crazy now.

    • B. Dover says

      Chicken poo is one of the best fertilizers known to man, I’ve used it on my fescue fields and what bumper crops I had.

  5. Chelsea says

    Thanks for all the info! I am looking forward to planting a nice, big garden this year. I want some practice in how to tend a garden in case my family’s food supply ever depended on it. Keep up the great work!

  6. Chandra says

    Also check into permaculture. It is a good way to ensure some food is available even if you cannot tend your garden at some point in the future.

  7. says

    A quick way to improve your soil is to use 1 part compost, 1 part peat and 1/2 part Perlite. Mix the compost, peat and Perlite thoroughly and use this as your garden soil or mix in with your current soil to amend it.

    Measure by volume, NEVER by weight, you’ll see why after you do it once. Mix all three in a large bucket. I like to use a clean 5 gallon bucket to to do my mixing in.

    If you do not have a compost pile, get one started, and until that is ready you can pick up some compost/humus from any home or garden center for a couple of bucks per bag (depending on the size of the bag).

    Perlite is also readily available at any home center, and you can substitute that for vermiculite if that is cheaper, which is rare, or your area simply only carries vermiculite as opposed to Perlite (which is also rare).

    Peat is available anywhere, and while some won’t use it because of environmental concerns, that choice is yours. You can substitute peat with coir, which is the husk of coconuts. You will have to soak your coir in water first to get it to expand.

  8. liz says

    As a master gardener in my state, here are some additions/clarifications to your list

    2. Don’t use anything in the compost that has been chemically treated, also, only use paper products that have been printed with soy ink… stay away from things printed with petroleum based inks because they often have heavy, toxic metals, and you definitely don’t want those getting into your soil/plants.

    3. Visit a local Master gardener event, they are usually at local libraries and farmers markets on the weekends. Also, look at your state’s university extension office for plants recommended to your local environment.

    6. People are always surprised when I tell them to use clear plastic for solarization — the reason is because it allows the UV rays to shine through. UV is what actually kills all the nastyness in the garden :) Also, remember to add a nice helping of compost to the garden after solarizing, because it’s like antibiotics, it kills the good along with the bad, and you need to add the microbes back in.

  9. Nathan says

    Hi, in response to the bermuda grass question. I read in “Old Wives’ Lore for Gardeners” that if you sow turnips densely in that area they can get rid of it, if you don’t like turnips then lupin or tomatoes can do the same trick. I tried it and it worked. We call it couch grass in New Zealand.


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