When the much-anticipated summer season finally arrives, make the most of your garden time with a checklist of ongoing tasks that will keep your plants healthy year-round.

a hand-shovel in the dirt

Clean up

Much of your clean up might have taken place in the spring. However, if winter rolls straight into summer in your part of the country, or you haven’t had the time or motivation to tackle the task, get busy pulling weeds, mowing the lawn and cleaning the patio furniture. Avoid harsh chemicals and instead borrow a pressure washer to blast the deck, fencing, porch and paver stones. Also, tidy up any concrete blocks along your raised beds.

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Continue to plant

Again, your garden is probably well underway from your spring plantings. But in addition to monitoring the growth of your current plants, continue planting for late summer and fall crops. Plan to keep your garden producing by planting fall crops such as pumpkins and squash. Create a calendar for planting based on where you live and how long crops need until harvest.

Use mulch

Summer heat zaps moisture out of the soil, and many plants suffer without mulch to help them retain much-needed water. Check your trees, shrubs and flowering bulbs a few times each month and supplement the mulch as needed. 

a garden full of purple and yellow flowers

Plant bulbs

Although spring and summer steal the show for flowering bulbs, the fall months can dazzle too if you think ahead. Use the warm days of late summer to plant bulbs such as autumn crocus, winter daffodil and Guernsey lily that will burst to life in the fall. Be sure to mark where you placed them, so you don’t plant over them.

Install a timer

Using water efficiently not only benefits your pocketbook and the planet’s resources, but it also results in better plant production. The best way to water where you need when you need is to use timers that automatically turn the system on and off. Timers can be used for complex underground sprinkler systems with several zones and also for simple drip systems for hanging baskets or berry patches. Water in the early morning or late evening, when temperatures are cool and evaporation is less likely. Make sure to turn the timers off when rain is in the forecast.

a sprinkler emerging from a bush

Prune and deadhead

As plants continue to thrive throughout the season, they’ll benefit from a trim here and there. Identify plants that bloom early winter to late spring and prune them back during the summer. Deadhead current blooming plants as blossoms die off; this diverts the energy away from spent blooms and towards active ones. 

Support your plants

Early in the season, get cages around your brambling plants, such as raspberries and tomatoes. Other plants also need support as they grow, including bush beans, snap peas and flowers like delphinium. Check on your plants at least every other day to keep them in line. 

a field full of purple flowers

Train them to climb

Summer is also a productive season for your climbers, and without training, they may grow to undesirable places within or even outside your yard. Keep up with your hops, grapes, clematis and wisteria, guiding them up trellises or along wires as they reach new heights.

Close the buffet for animals

Your garden full of flowers or fruits is a tempting invitation for the neighborhood animals. Summer is the time to protect your plants against critters large and small. Put up fencing around your food garden and make sure it is tall enough that deer can’t jump over it. Inside your garden, further protect plants from smaller animals that may squeeze in, such as rabbits and chipmunks. To protect against the smallest of hungry animals, keep ladybugs around to feed on aphids, move old plants to another area of the yard, use natural insecticides and place short, open cans or cups of beer nearby to draw in slugs. You can also use netting over the top of your crops to keep birds from having a free meal at the plant buffet.

a rabbit with a flower in its mouth on the grass

Feed your plants

Even after your plants are well established, most need a little boost now and then to keep up energy for production. Around midseason, provide your plants with some fertilizer to help them out. 

Turn your harvest into a meal plan

Growing a garden can take a lot of work and money, so you don’t want your resulting harvest to go to waste. The best way to use up fresh vegetables is to plan for their arrival. You can add the tops of radishes, beets and carrots to pesto, which can be eaten fresh or frozen/canned for later. Plan to use your lettuce promptly after harvest with myriad salad options that can incorporate your carrots, beets, snow peas, broccoli, strawberries and more. The point is, as your garden produces various foods, create an upcoming meal plan to match. 

a spread of various vegetables including squash, pumpkin, tomato and greens

Protect wood products

Summer is also the time to restain fencing and decking. Apply a fresh coat of paint or stain to furniture and the garden bench.

Invite pollinators to the party

Pollinators such as bees, butterflies, birds and bats can really benefit your yard, so as summer progresses, cater to their needs. Build and install bat, butterfly, bird and bee houses. Keep the bird feeders and baths clean and supplied. Finally, plan your seasonal garden flowers around those that attract your feathered and winged friends to the party. 

a bee on a yellow flower, surrounded by other yellow flowers

Start a compost pile

Anytime is a great time to start a compost pile. Still, the heat of summer can help the stratified material break down faster than it would during other seasons. 

Set up rain barrels

Even if you have rare summer rains, getting rain barrels set up now will give you ample water when the rains return. You can then use this to water plants, the lawn or even the animals. Check your state’s rainwater harvesting laws before getting started, though.

Preserve your harvest

Finally, preserving food is a quintessential part of summer. Rows of canning jars, a freezer full of fresh crops and the dehydrator working overtime all represent the fruits of your labor.

a shelf full of jam jars

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