It’s discouraging to see your dreams of a pretty and productive garden turn into an overgrown mess. Maybe you didn’t have time to tend to it early in the season, or your plants just got away from you in a surge of warm weather. Whatever the reason, it’s not too late to get your garden back on track!
With a little work, you can have a beautiful, bountiful garden that will make you proud.
To restart your garden midseason, clear out any diseased or minimally productive plants. Prune back anything overgrown. Refresh the soil with a topdressing of compost, then fill in gaps with new seedlings or direct-sown seeds. Choose quick-maturing plants that will produce a crop before the end of summer.
Clearing out a messy garden bed often gives me a surge of new energy to keep up with the garden for the rest of the summer. It is knowing that this is my last opportunity to get a harvest before winter motivates me to work hard before it’s too late. I hope it’ll do the same for you!
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How to refresh your garden in midsummer
One of the most challenging things about gardening is its continuous process. You can’t just plant your seeds and then forget about them; you have to nurture your plants and help them grow until they’re ready to harvest. If you neglect your garden for too long, all your hard work will be for naught.
That doesn’t mean we all haven’t been there with a bed full of kale you swore you would eat or trailing nasturtiums that have wandered their way over the entire raised bed. Just me?
Here’s how to get yourself back on track. I’ll go into more detail about each step to help you troubleshoot along the way.
Key takeaways to reset your garden
- Take a close look at your plantings to plan what to pull out and what to leave behind. You’ll want to remove any plants that are no longer performing well. Be ruthless. If a plant isn’t doing what it should, get rid of it and try something else.
- This is a good time to thin out overcrowded beds and give your plants room to grow. More space between plants means more airflow, which helps prevent late-season diseases like powdery mildew from setting in. You can’t avoid that altogether, but you can delay it. Deadhead flowers to keep them blooming.
- Amend the soil and replant any significant gaps left behind to take advantage of the newfound bed space and squeeze in one more round of flowers or vegetables.
1. Evaluate what’s currently growing
The height of summer is a perfect time to evaluate your garden. The crops you planted in spring will have thrived or tanked. The days are long, so you have time to get things done, and if you start a new crop now, it will be harvest-ready by fall.
You might have planted something you thought you would love to have but ended up not using, so it’s taking up valuable real estate in your garden.
Anything that looks diseased or has been heavily damaged by pests is on the chopping block.
Weed-infested beds are another place that can benefit from a reset as you go through and make your plan of attack. Follow up with mulch to avoid it happening again (more on that in a moment).
2. Cut back overgrown plants
Trim back any plants that are taking up more space than they should. Not only will those plants be shading out their neighbors, airflow is critical in the summer heat, especially if you live in a humid area.
I give my zucchini plants a fresh cut at least twice per summer, cutting off any leaves that are old and starting to fade, as well as leaves that are smothering other plants. Squash is also vulnerable to powdery mildew, and removing old leaves and increasing airflow can buy the plants a little more time for healthy growth.
Another example is black-eyed Susan. By mid-summer, the plants have gotten tall and might even be flopping over from the weight of the flowerheads. I quick trim will tidy up the plant, encourage new stems to grow, and make it easier for me to see if I have any space in the garden to plant new summer seedlings before it’s too late.
These black-eyed Susans were in need of a trim. Within a few weeks, they were blooming once again, and instead of flopping over, the flowers were blooming on strong stems ready for cutting.
3. Deadhead flowers and pull faded flowers
Speaking of trimming back flowers, deadhead any dying or dead bloom you see. A drastic pruning will encourage your flowers to send out a new flush of flowering stems. It also tidies your garden looking tidy and prevents seed production, which can sap a plant’s energy and cut bloom production early.
Pull up any annuals that have started to fade and look weary. It’s not worth keeping them limping along if you can replant with something new that will put on fast growth during the warm days.
Annual flowers such as sunflowers that have already blooms can be trimmed down to the ground (leave the roots!), especially if you’re growing hybrid varieties that won’t produce viable seeds.
4. Provide midseason fertilizer
Fertilize your plants to give them a boost of nutrition midseason. An influx of nutrients will help them recover from any stress they may have been under and will encourage a new flush of growth(along with all that pruning) resulting in more flowers and fruit.
If you have poor plant growth or plants with yellow leaves, think about doing a quick soil test to test the levels of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium in your soil. These are the three macronutrients that support the best plant growth.
Pending the soil test results, you can then add some fertilizer or amendments to give your plants a boost.
In general, use a fertilizer that is high in nitrogen for green, leafy plants and one that is high in phosphorus for flowering plants. For established fruiting plants such as tomatoes or peppers, give them an all-purpose fertilizer to best support them.
Here are a couple of my favorites, especially Tiger Bloom for midseason in my flower beds:
My favorite garden fertilizers
Although healthy soil is the best food for your garden, sometimes it takes a while to build it up. In the meantime, I use a couple of high-quality fertilizers.
Tiger Bloom is perfect for the flower garden because it’s a phosphorous-heavy liquid fertilizer that encourages flower production.
Dr. Earth All Purpose Fertilizer is a balanced fertilizer that I can use to feed my flowers and vegetables at the same time if everything in the garden needs a boost.
Scratch a little fertilizer into the soil around each plant, taking care not to damage roots in the process, then water it in.
You can also use foliar feeding, which is to spray a nutrient-rich solution directly onto the leaves of your plants. This method is especially effective for plants that are struggling and need an immediate boost.
5. Sow new seeds and transplant seedlings
Sow new seeds for fall crops such as lettuce, kale, and spinach. These will be ready to harvest just as the weather cools down, giving you a fresh crop of greens to enjoy well into autumn.
If you can find seedlings at the nursery, this is a great time to pick up trays of plants that perform best in cool weather and produce quickly. Here are my favorites:
6. (Re)apply mulch
By now, the summer sun has heated the soil to a high enough temperature to keep heat-loving crops like tomatoes and peppers happy. A layer of mulch will help keep those temperatures stable and the water consistently moist.
Suppose you’ve pulled out plants and have bare spots in the garden yet to fill with seedlings. In that case, mulch is critical to protect the soil and prevent weeds from sprouting in the optimal conditions provided by summer weather and regular watering.
Organic matter such as wood chips or grass clippings should be easy to source, but if not, a bale of straw will go far. As fall approaches, save bags of leaves to use next season.
Here are a few other ideas for finding mulch for your garden: Best (Free!) Organic Mulches For The Home Garden
7. Avoid making the same mistakes again
A garden flip can be a lot of work, but it’s also a great way to refresh your space and try something new. Just don’t make the same mistakes as last time. This time, try making a loose schedule or plan so you can keep on top of things and avoid being overwhelmed.
Include the basics like watering and weeding if that’s all you have time for. Add in tasks like deadheading, trimming, and mulching if you can. If you can’t, rest easy knowing your garden is well-watered and not competing with weeds for space.
A plan will help you stay on track and make the most of your garden. Unless you planted mint. In which case, you’ll have to reset that bed again in no time.
Should you start the garden over completely?
If your garden is completely overwhelming and you’d rather just start fresh, that’s a great option to avoid burnout. You can cut back all of your existing plants, amend the soil, and replant. This is a lot of work, but it will give you a completely blank slate to work with, which is inspiring to many gardeners (myself included).
To do a garden flip, first clean out your beds by cutting all the plant stems at soil level. Leaving the roots behind will help build organic matter and save you the work of tilling the ground.
If any of the plants were diseased, make sure to dispose of them properly, so you don’t risk infecting your new plants. Next, amend the soil with compost, manure, or other organic matter to refresh the bed, similar to what I described earlier in this article.
A soil test kit can be invaluable to avoid some of the same mistakes, especially if poor soil fertility is why your garden struggled the first time around.
Here’s a great walk-through from Kevin at Epic Gardening of how to use a soil test kit.
Once your beds are prepped, it’s time to start planting. You can either replant the same crops or try something new. If you want to switch things up, consider planting a fall crop such as lettuce, kale, or spinach, as I mentioned before. These will be ready to harvest just as the weather cools.
Some flowers will still thrive from a midsummer planting, such as calendula, pansies, nasturtiums, and single-stem sunflowers. Get them in the ground quickly since none of these will survive a hard frost, except maybe the pansies.
So there you have it; a few things to do in your garden during the summer months. Take advantage of the warm weather and long days to enjoy your space outside. And don’t forget to keep an eye on those weeds!
Need more resources for your newly organized garden? Here are a few of my most useful articles, no matter season or state of my garden: