Creating a Successful Summer Garden

Creating a Successful Summer Garden LightQuiet evenings in January are the perfect opportunity to plan the summer garden. Pondering the details of days ahead is key to making this year’s garden a beautiful and productive one. Imagine, where will you grow? Whether you picture raised beds, planted rows or a container garden, you should take measurements and assess the site. Does it receive enough sunlight? Has the soil been tested and amended to provide nutrients to your plants? What is your plan for watering?

Then ask: what will you grow? Find inspiration and begin a garden journal. Map out your growing space, list your favorite plants and determine what works for you. Will your family eat what you plant? Will you plant an extra row for the hungry? Is the garden accessible to all who want to participate? I use a garden journal to map it out, help me remember what works and what does not, record ideas for the future and to note the beauty of a moment in the garden. A garden journal is a great tool, a record of your hard work, a labor of love and a work of art. For those who prefer digital to paper, use a garden planner website or app. Some calculate the number of plants you need!

Once you have started journaling, you will realize how easy it is to make a list of desired plants. New gardeners, remember to start small. We all dream of big, beautiful and bountiful gardens, but it is important to be practical, take it easy, have fun and discover what works. Ask yourself a few questions. Are you choosing plant varieties that grow well here? Are you hoping to attract birds, wildlife or pollinators? Borage is a favorite plant of mine to attract bees. Its star-shaped, sky-blue blossoms keep the bees coming, it is edible and it self-seeds.

Learn about your plants. Do they need sun or shade? How much water? When should they be started as seedlings? Will they need frost protection? Can they handle heat and wind? When do you harvest? Are you planning to save your seeds? If so, make sure you choose heirloom plants.

Many gardeners like to start plants from seed while others prefer transplants. Either way, you will need to set up a calendar with important dates to remember like garden task timelines; seed or plant purchasing, planting and harvest dates; and successive planting plans. You will want to consider your many options on gardening techniques as well. Will you grow naturally? Research your options for an informed decision and a complete calendar.

Most importantly, enjoy the experience and make it fun. There is no limit to what can be created with a garden journal, some inspiration and a great imagination on a cold winter night. Need help? Call us or come out to our free gardening classes, 6-8 p.m. on Tuesdays in February and March at Bartley Ranch Regional Park.

Pamela Van Hoozer is a Certified Master Gardener Volunteer with University of Cooperative Extension. For questions about gardening and landscaping in Nevada, contact a Master Gardener at or 775-336-0265, or visit