how to create a dream summer garden

How to Create a Dream Summer Garden

Prepare for a Summer Garden Now!

Living in California and already enjoyed a wonderful Spring garden? Enjoy because soon it’s time to get to work to create your dream summer garden a reality! Here’s are some tips from Annie’s Annuals and Perennials in Richmond.

  1. Pull weeds now!!! Remember every weed you let go to seed can equal 100 weeds by mid-summer. Yikes!
  2. Pull out spring-blooming annuals as soon as they have faded. I always save any dried seeds or seed pods for fall or early spring planting.
  3. Turn over the soil in the empty spaces a bit to prepare for planting and add a bit of compost. It loosens & aerates the soil, making it nice for a new plant’s roots to grow in. Adding a 1″ layer of good quality compost around established plantings (including shrubs), as well as your new plantings will really give them a boost and keep them much more healthy over the rest of the season. It really makes a big difference and if you don’t make your own compost, try to buy it at a landscaper’s supply or good independent nursery rather than the “box store” as these places often carry poor quality “compost” with a high ratio of wood products.
  4. Cut back spring-blooming perennials like Columbines, perennial Foxgloves, Penstemons & Delphiniums. Here in northern coastal California, Delphiniums & some Columbines will re-bloom during Summer. Cut Columbines to the ground & Delphiniums to about 4” tall. New growth will sprout up & even if they don’t bloom, the foliage will look healthy & pretty in your garden.
  5. Deadhead and cut back spring blooming perennials
  6.  Get ready to plant. See my list of favorite, easy to grow summer bloomers at the end of this article. Do be aware the care info is based on what we know from our experience and what folks have told us. I know you folks in hotter areas (like Sacramento) tend to plant most Summer bloomers in part sun to part shade. Also, plants listed as drought-tolerant do need some water for a while until they become established.
  7. Planting. What would your dream summer garden be without flowers? Always try to buy your plants small. Really. The smaller the better as long as the roots reach the bottom of the pot. Don’t buy plants in bloom unless it’s a party-type emergency. Plants already blooming in a container are stunted, have used up some of their bloom time & will never put on the show as a small, non-blooming plant will. The smaller plant will grow nice, fat roots, grow much faster, bloom much longer & will be much healthier. Resist the blooming plant and plant in groups. Just like the books say, it does look better when you plant in groups of 3-5-7, etc. If you’re on a budget, remember one blooming annual this year will give you 10 or more self-sown seedlings next year. A highlight or specimen plant may be planted singly, of course.
    blue German Catchfly
    blue German Catchfly
    perennial Verbascums
    perennial Verbascums

    To stretch out the bloom season when planting a group of one type of plant, I often plant several different sizes; from small seedlings to ones almost in bud. I place the taller ones so they don’t block the light to the smaller ones. Remove older plants as they fade so the smaller ones can put on an optimal show. When planting a perennial that will take some months to bloom, I plant shorter, fast-growing annuals around it to fill in space. is great for this purpose. Make sure they don’t block all the light to the perennial or the perennial will rot. Again, just like the books say, it’s good to include vertical plants to add height to your garden. They lift the eye, give a multi-layered look & definitely eliminate the “gas station garden” look. When in doubt, Verbascums are a fast and carefree choice. Besides, they reseed easily and provide free vertical accents every year. Also, perennial Verbascums will continuously form new flower spikes if spent ones are cut back. Sunflowers, Verbena Bonariensis & Polygonum orientale are a few more of my favorite vertical accent plants.  Lusciously dark foliaged Dahlia ‘Bishop’s Children’ adds contrast to the Summer border and mixes well with slower-growing perennials.

  1. Don’t forget the snail bait! Even if you were religious about putting down snail bait in Spring, you may still have some snails lurking about. Your new plants will need protection. Here at the nursery, I use Sluggo. It works better than any other snail bait I’ve tried & it’s non-toxic too!
  2. Keep an eye on watering. You don’t want all your good work to go “poof” during one of our hot spells. If you go on vacation, set up a watering system or hire a neighborhood teenager to come over & water.

Well, there you have it.  Annie’s Annuals and Perennials is always a good resource for plants and advice on how to create your dream summer garden.  There is one thing, however, we have not yet discussed. And that is lawn care. From this list, you can see that your garden will keep you rather busy in the foreseeable future. It is therefore a good idea to outsource your lawn mowing chores to a reliable mowing service near you. Shamrock Landscape is ready and available to keep your lawn looking good all year long.


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