Tips for Starting a New Plot of Crops This Summer

The transition from spring to summer marks the beginning of the gardening season. Of course, you can’t wait for the ground to thaw and simply bury the seeds. You need to do a few things to prepare a new plot of crops during the warmer months.

Fortunately, cultivating thriving crops is easy whether you’re a beginner or an experienced gardener. Don’t let prep work scare you. Follow these eight tips for starting a new vegetable garden this summer.


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Create a Plan

Before you plant anything, it’s essential to plan what crops you want to grow. Some fruits and vegetables — such as tomatoes, beans, summer squash, broccoli, and cucumbers — can withstand summer heat better than others.

You might also consider companion planting depending on how many crop types you intend to grow. For example, summer squash doesn’t grow best near potatoes, while corn and tomatoes should be grown separately. Companion planting aims to yield crops near each other with similar nutritional benefits. Some even provide natural pest control. 

Choose the Right Location

Once you know what crops to include, select the right location to accommodate the proper spacing and growing requirements. A vegetable garden needs at least six hours of full sunlight daily. Ensure no trees block the light from the late morning to the afternoon.

Conversely, if you live in a hot climate, too much sun and heat — such as when temperatures reach 85-90 degrees Fahrenheit — can harm your plants. Planting crops too closely to light walls could also pose problems, as the sunlight will reflect off it.

Also, be sure the area drains appropriately after heavy rains. Otherwise, your summer crops may drown or experience root rot.

Select Your Garden Type

You can grow crops in the ground or plant some in pots and raised garden beds. Many find crops grown in raised beds easier to maintain and yield surplus harvests. 

For instance, you don’t have to worry as much about soil erosion, quality, or compaction, as you have better control. There also tends to be improved moisture retention and extended warmth for longer growing seasons. Of course, container plants also require less maintenance and are beneficial for moving in and out of the sun. 

Test the Soil’s Nutrients and pH

The soil must have adequate nutrients and the correct pH acidity for crops to grow. Plants will have difficulty absorbing phosphorus and iron if the pH level is too high. You’ll want to test your soil once every three years — but especially before starting a new plot of crops — to ensure it’s healthy. This also helps you avoid adding too many chemical fertilizers. 

Although you can do an at-home soil quality test, it is usually less accurate than the ones you get from the cooperative extensions in your state. You typically pay a low fee for the testing equipment, which will tell you your soil’s pH and macro- and micro-nutrients. Your local extension can also provide essential resources and strategies to help your crops flourish. 

Fertilize or Compost

The soil quality test will tell you whether you need fertilizer to prepare your vegetable garden. A handheld sprayer is best for covering small crop areas, as you want to use only a little at a time, but trolley pumps are ideal if you have a lot of ground to cover.

Organic fertilizers may be more expensive than synthetic versions but are much safer for people, plants and animals. Likewise, mixing organic compost into the soil will give plants a necessary boost of essential nutrients and minerals.

Lay Mulch

You may think you’re supposed to lay mulch after you’ve planted your crops, but it’s perfectly fine to do so earlier. Mulching prevents weeds from sprouting, regulates soil temperature, and retains moisture. 

Mulch also ensures the nutrients stay in place and prevents puddling during rainstorms. Many beneficial insects also hide in the mulch and are suitable for your garden. Beneficial insects eat crop-damaging pests.

Ideally, you want to lay down 1-4 inches of mulch to protect your garden. However, it depends on your crops’ growth stage — use only a light layer when starting. Lighter mulch — like straw, pine needles, bark chips, grass clippings, and shells — is lightweight and won’t hinder germination. 

Irrigate the Soil

The correct amount of water is essential for healthy plants. Too much will cause nutrient leaching, while infrequent watering may cut off oxygen to the roots. Ultimately, the water needed depends on how deep the roots grow. Vegetable plant roots usually grow 6-12 inches deep, although some reach 24 inches. 

Stick a rod into the earth — once you’ve hit something hard, you can assume you’ve reached dry soil. Mark where the rod peeks from the surface and pull it out. Measure the length of the rod that was in the ground to determine the depth of wet soil. 

Gardeners may use water cans, hoses, or sprinkler systems to water their crops adequately. However, you might also use drip irrigation to save money on your water bills and maintain nutrient composition.

Plant Your Crops

Once you’ve chosen the right location and prepared your soil, you can plant seeds or seedlings. If you begin with seeds, always buy from a reliable source and read the packaging for the expiration date, planting specifications, and growing conditions. Some people prefer to plant the seeds in peat pots or starter trays initially, then transfer the crop when they’ve germinated.

You can also opt for seedlings, which you buy already sprouted a couple of inches. Beginner gardeners may find growing and maintaining crops from seedlings easier than seeds. There’s no right or wrong way to start your summer growing.

Refer to your initial gardening plan to see which companion crops to grow together. Also, be mindful of how deep you must plant seeds in the soil. 

Plant a Successful Garden This Summer

Even those without a green thumb can plant a beautiful garden and keep crops alive. It only takes a bit of preparation and persistence to grow a successful garden and fresh food supply for your household. Follow these tips to start your garden off on the right foot. This activity will quickly become your favorite pastime. 

Jack Shaw is a freelance writer specializing in home improvement, gardening, and caring for the outdoors. He’s the senior writer of Modded and has contributed his advice through sites like Green Living Journal, House 2 Home Organizing, Log Cabin Hub, and more. You can reach him via LinkedIn.