Summer Garden Maintenance Tips
Planters and window boxes are a great way to add color to homes in the city that have little or no yard space for a garden and can be a great complement to the landscaping in suburban homes as well. Changing the plants out several times a year allows for a great mix of the best and brightest for each new season. Think bright blooms in the early spring, tropical foliage in the summer, harvest themes in the fall, and preserved evergreens and berries all winter.
My partner and I started Enliven Planters (a seasonal planter subscription service that refills the planters and window boxes at clients' homes four times per year), to make beautiful container gardening accessible to as many people as possible. We are thrilled to service thousands of customers in and around the Philadelphia area and take pride in the fact that our arrangements are bringing joy to people one pot at a time. We hope we can also help inspire your own home gardening!
If you are looking to DIY your garden or keep it looking healthy this summer, here are five tips every gardener should try.
Paul’s 5 Tips for Summer Garden Creation (and maintenance)
1. Don't forget the foliage!
When planting for summer containers, don’t forget the foliage! Bold tropical foliage can really carry a summer container design. I often see new gardeners choosing only blooms in the mixes they put together. This looks great on day one, but once the heat of the summer kicks in or they forget to water/pinch back/fertilize, they end up with a monochromatic green weedy mess. By adding foliage texture and colors, you can add depth to your design and maintain interest even once blooms fade. One example is layering a finely textured peachy bloom over a fuzzy silvery-blue cascade of foliage.
2. Give your plants a pinch
This can be a bit scary for some home gardeners, but trimming back summer plants is ideal for maintaining stunning displays. New or less experienced gardeners have a hard time visualizing how large the plants they install in May will become by mid-summer.
Pinching back can forgive any mistakes and also encourage more vigorous growth and blooms. Cutting vigorously growing foliage to make way for more blooms will help keep your design stay balanced all summer long.
Most plants come with a bit of fertilizer in their pots. You can see it as the yellow and green granules on top of the pot. That fertilizer runs its course very quickly, typically within a week or two. Growers and retailers are incentivized to get a plant looking good for purchase but once you get it home, it’s up to you to keep it nourished.
We suggest adding a time-released bloom-boosting granular fertilizer to your potting soil. Over time, the water will leach the granules into the soil and feed the plants. When using any type of fertilizer, be sure to read the application instructions before use.
You can also complement the granular fertilizer with liquid fertilizer once a week. For an oversimplified analogy, the granular fertilizer is the slow-burning carbohydrates that provide energy throughout the season and the liquid fertilizer is like a sugary energy drink, a quick burst of energy that performs fast but depletes rapidly.
4. Don't overthink watering
Start with a schedule of 2-3 times per week, and adjust up or down based on your observations. Feeling the soil with your fingertips is the easiest way to monitor your watering needs, but many plant combinations have one plant that can act as the "canary in the coal mine." Find that one plant whose leaves or stems show signs of needing water first and follow their lead. Don't wait until all the plants look like they're on the brink of death to add water.
Take the time and soak the pot. I have 3 window boxes on the front of my home in the baking sun, but I only water them twice a week in the heat of the summer. Each time, I spend the extra time to soak each one thoroughly. (Beginners can sing the ABC's twice in their head for a small 12" pot as reference). The soil needs to soak the water up. Wet leaves or wet surface soil doesn't mean anything if the water doesn't have the chance to infiltrate the whole pot.
5. Start small
I always tell new clients two things: "less is more" and "dead plants are worse than no plants." If you're new to gardening, start small. Whether it’s the number of pots you have, house plants in the home, garden bed size, etc., start with a few and work your way up! One well-placed and well-cared-for container will do much more than 15 pots with plants that look like they need to be in the ICU. Starting small will give you the confidence you need to slowly add more plants to your collection.
Bonus Tip: Just have fun!
In the modern era, gardening is almost exclusively meant for enjoyment! Subsistence farming (when your family relies on the products of its farm for survival) is likely not the goal of your gardening endeavors. Keep it in perspective and allow your garden to bring you joy.
If you love to garden, grab a pair of our Houseplants patterned pajamas and wear them while you tend to your plants. Take plenty of pictures and share them with us. We love to see you in Printfresh pajamas and we really love to see what you’re growing.