6 Summer Gardening Tips from Local New England Experts

Gardening is a wonderful way to spend more time outdoors this summer — all while reaping the fruits of your labor through pretty floral arrangements, farm-fresh goodies, and swoon-worthy landscaping. Looking to freshen up your green thumb this season? We spoke with several local New England garden pros to get their expert opinion on all the best practices when it comes to this beloved pastime. 

From soil mixes to mastering the container garden, this week on the Vibrant Health blog, we’re dishing out all the best insider secrets on making the most of your garden this summer!

Summer Gardening Tips & Tricks from the Pros 

1. Start with Healthy & Fertile Soil

2. Stick to Low Maintenance Plants

3. Opt for In-Season Summer Produce

4. Make Your Container Garden Stand Out

5. Follow Proper Pruning Techniques

6. Add Native Plants to the Mix 

1. Start with Healthy & Fertile Soil 

Soil is the foundation of any garden, which is why you don’t want to take shortcuts when it comes to the variety you use. Brandi Renaud, owner of Field to Table farm stand in Thompson, CT, said something she read years ago has stuck with her, and that is: “You have to feed your food for your food to feed you!” Her go-to soil mix for a flourishing garden? One-third of sand, one-third of local topsoil, and one-third of compost. Brandi’s bounty includes a variety of farm goodies — such as fresh veggies, dandelion honey (from locally foraged dandelions), and her vegan strawberry chia seed jam. 

Emily G. Round, Owner, and Operator of Grounded Flower Farm in Beverly, MA, agrees that healthy plants start with healthy soil — and recommends taking it a step further if you can by getting your soil tested. After all, it can make or break your garden. “Soil lacking in certain nutrients can stunt plant growth, make plants more susceptible to disease and pests, and reduce plant yields,” Emily said. 

2. Stick to Low Maintenance Plants

Gardening doesn’t have to be a burden. Choose plants that bring you joy and are relatively low-maintenance. When it comes to annuals (flowers that grow for one season), Emily’s go-to are Zinnias for their ease and versatility. “They come in so many gorgeous colors; hummingbirds love them, monarchs love them, and bees love them,” she said. “They also make a great cutting flower, so you can bring some inside to enjoy too.” Plus, adding fresh flowers is a wonderful way to liven up your table settings for summer gatherings!

And if you really want a low-maintenance garden, stick to easy-to-please plants such as perennials, which will return the following season again. In fact, the month of June is Perennial Gardening Month, as it’s an ideal time to plant them due to warmer soil. 

3. Opt for In-Season Summer Produce 

When it comes to a flourishing fruit and veggie garden, be sure to plant your crops at the right time. Cucumbers, tomatoes, snap peas, greens and herbs do well in the warmer weather, so early summer is an ideal time for planting. 

Here is our go-to summer produce picks to pack in your picnic basket this season! 

4. Make Your Container Garden Stand Out 

Container gardens — which include a variety of plants in a pot of your choice — can be a great place to start for the home gardener. Jill Kelley of family-owned Paul’s & Sandy’s Too of East Hampton loves container gardens for their simplicity. However, she said that when it comes to creating an eye-catching design, there’s a nifty formula some garden pros swear by. “You’ll want to make sure to include a thriller, a filler, and a spiller,” Jill said. What she means by that is adding some dimension to your pot by including a taller “thriller” plant (such as ornamental grass), smaller flowers to act as fillers, and finally, a “spiller” plant such as hanging annuals. 

And if you’re struggling with what plants to choose, you can take some of the pressure off by simply thinking of it as a learning experiment. Jill’s sister, Co-Owner Karen Clark, reminds us that every plant you purchase is a lesson. “You’re not just purchasing the plant; you’re purchasing the lesson that comes with the plant,” Karen said. Think of it as an investment in expanding your gardening knowledge! 

5. Follow Proper Pruning Techniques 

Once your garden is thriving, you’ll want to be sure to follow proper pruning techniques to keep it that way — and extend the life of your plants. This includes trimming away dead or overgrown branches and stems to make room for new growth. 

Katrina Eddy, Owner of North Shore Enhancement, said proper pruning is key. “Pruning too late or too early will ruin your blooms, whether it’s a second or third round of blooms in the same season, or it may ruin the blooms for the next year,” she said. Pruning helps ensure all that hard work pays off…and you don’t have to start from square one! 

6. Add Native Plants to the Mix  

We get it: spending time watering the plants can be timely — and costly! If you’re trying to save on water this summer (while also being kind to the environment), Cheryl Rafuse, Owner, and Head Gardener at Plant Magic Gardens recommends opting for native plants. “They’re well-adapted to your area and, after they’re established, require much less watering,” Cheryl said. One of her favorites? Goldenrod. “There’s a native goldenrod for almost every area in the U.S, and each one is a stunning shock of yellow — perfect for livening up a late summer garden,” she added. 

Megan Morrill, owner of Flower Power Gardens out of Boston, agrees that native plants are a summer garden must — as they also support native bees and butterflies. “Even small changes can make a big impact on increasing biodiversity in your yard!” Megan said. Win, win! 

Want more summer fun? Here are our favorite seasonal grilling tips and recipes

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