Summer is an excellent time to get your gardening on, even as a novice. You can start with a backyard full of florals or a cluster of plants that can double as cooking ingredients.
Focus on plants that support pollinators. These plants will do good and look lovely in your yard. “Many of our native pollinators are in decline, and providing them with sources of nectar and pollen is one step we can take toward supporting 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, milkweeds and mountain mint.
10 low-maintenance houseplants you are very unlikely to kill
Tara Nolan, author of “Gardening Your Front Yard: Projects and Ideas for Big and Small Spaces,” joined a native-plant-of-the-month club last year. Many plant retailers offer this as an option for indoor and outdoor plants; some, such as the Urban Organic Gardener, send seeds, so you can grow food year-round. “This introduced me to a variety of plants from my region that are perfect for attracting pollinators to my garden,” says Nolan, who runs the website savvygardening.com alongside Walliser and fellow gardening expert Niki Jabbour. “A new favorite is prairie smoke, with its wispy seed heads.”
Grow herbs and other edible plants. Why not charm your alfresco dinner companions with a homemade pesto sauce featuring basil you grew yourself? “Basil is especially good for summer planting, because it thrives in hot weather,” Walliser says. “Planting a few new plants throughout the season results in a continual harvest due to their staggered growth rates,” she says, noting that the same goes for rosemary.
Rosemary is also a go-to for Linda Ly of Garden Betty, a blog dedicated to gardening, homesteading and sustainable living. “If you’re new to gardening, rosemary is as low-maintenance as it gets for an edible plant,” she says. “Rosemary can be grown as a culinary herb, a pollinator-friendly perennial or a hedge, and it’s a great choice for hot, dry climates, as it’s very drought-resistant 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 prone to pests or disease,” he says.
Or try cherry tomatoes, which work well in larger pots, wine barrels, raised beds or cultivated in-ground plots, Allen says. They will thrive in summer’s warm temperatures once they’re established. While growing tomatoes, be mindful to remove almost all “suckers,” or growths that emerge between the main stem and leaf clusters, to ensure the plant has “only a few leaders,” Allen says. “You’ll be rewarded with a more manageable garden and tastier fruit.”
Take time to plan for next year. Summer is an excellent time to think about next year’s garden. “For many plants, summer is not an ideal planting time, since they prefer to be transplanted and get established when temperatures are cooler,” Allen says. But you may find some inspiration if you go for walks. “Many gardens in your neighborhood will be in full bloom, so it’s a perfect time to get inspired, make a list and plan ahead for what all you’d like to include in your garden going forward,” he says. Then research the best time to plant those varieties, whether it’s fall or spring, so you can enjoy them next summer.
Creating an indoor jungle
No backyard? No problem. Take this season to become a full-fledged plant parent from the comfort of your living room.
Consider your schedule. Odds are you won’t be spending your summer watering your plants all day; vacations may take you out of your house for days or even weeks at a time. If you’re looking for a plant that will thrive this season but requires little maintenance, opt for the money tree, says Lindsay Pangborn, gardening expert at Bloomscape, an online plant retailer. She says the money tree is perfect for creating a summery tropical vibe in your home, with its large leaves and braided trunk. An added bonus: It’s relatively low-maintenance, making it ideal for people who will be away from home for large chunks of time.
Opt for something that thrives in humid climates. Have access to a covered porch? Use summer’s intense humidity to your advantage and house some plants out there. Tasha Adams of Hickory Lane Plants, a mobile plant business based in Springfield, Mo., says that many plants flourish in high humidity. She says that monstera varieties, particularly Monstera deliciosa, are excellent for beginners. “These plants are easy to keep alive and propagate, don’t require fussy care and thrive in bright, indirect light,” she says. “They grow quickly, put out beautiful foliage and are pretty hardy.”
Although many houseplants will thrive in summer’s humidity, you should only place plants outside once they are ready, says Anna Johnston, owner and creative director of plant shop Jungle & Loom. The company offers a variety of plants, including palms, cordyline and elephant ears, that were grown in full sun and are ready to live outside during warm-weather months. They will also thrive in medium to bright indirect light when brought inside. “They won’t get quite as large in your house, but that might not be a bad thing, because [elephant ears] in particular can get quite large in your yard,” Johnston says.
Sarah Lyon is a freelance writer and stylist in New York. Find her on Instagram: @sarahlyon9.