Summer Gardening Tips and Design Ideas

Written By: Jen Chinburg

If you have your own yard, access to a community plot or an outdoor space of any kind, summer gardening is an excellent hobby that anyone can enjoy. Gardening gets us out in nature, working with our hands, growing our own food and is technically a form of exercise.

Even renters or those with small living spaces can maintain windowsill or kitchen herb gardens, which offer the dual benefit of bringing the outside in and providing fresh cooking ingredients. And if you grow enough vegetables, you can even save a little on your grocery bill!

Here, we offer tips and inspiration for maintaining your own summer garden, no matter where you live.

Gardening Ideas to Suit All Spaces

You can grow a garden anywhere — in large, open yards, on patios and porches, on hillsides, in small backyard plots, windowsills and even the kitchen counter. As you plan out your own garden, the key is to choose plants that will thrive in the space you have.

All gardeners should keep the following in mind to get the most out of their plantings:

  • Make sure plants receive the appropriate amount of light. Some plants grow just fine in the shade, while others need at least several hours of direct sunlight per day. If a sunny window is hard to come by, some indoor plants do well with a grow light.
  • There is such a thing as too much water. Many plants require soil that is always slightly moist, whereas others (like succulents) enjoy mostly dry soil and minimal water. Be aware that water with certain minerals in it can be harmful to plants.
  • If you have pets, make sure they won’t encounter any poisonous or toxic plants inside or outside.
  • If space is limited, get creative! Try hanging baskets, tower gardens or climbing structures to encourage vertical growth.

Large Garden Ideas

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the space and possibilities that come with having a large garden. This is where planning ahead can be a lifesaver; consider working with a garden or landscape designer who can recommend plantings and arrangements that maximize the space.

Here are some ideas that can turn a large garden area into an oasis:

  • Make the most of your available space and add visual interest with plantings of different levels. Trees, bushes and climbing vines draw the eye upward, while low shrubs and groundcovers can fill in the space between flowering plants.
  • Water features like fountains, pools and bird baths infuse a garden with extra texture and movement. They can also attract birds and be home to certain species of freshwater fish.
  • Fire pits are an excellent addition to large outdoor gardens. They serve as gathering places and help extend the hours of use after the sun goes down. Fire pits can be portable or built into the garden.
  • Outdoor appliances like grills and pizza ovens are another great way to expand the use of the garden. Add a table and chairs and you’ve got an al fresco dining room.
  • Raised beds are a great solution for garden spaces with inhospitable or limited soil. They can also provide a way to organize plantings, designating a space for produce or certain types of flowers.

When planning a large garden, maintenance should be top of mind. With lots of spaces comes lots of responsibility. You’ll need to water, weed, prune and protect your plantings, so make sure you have the time and help you need to keep your garden in good shape throughout the year.

Small Garden Ideas and Inspiration

You don’t need to have a large home or even own a home to be a gardener. Renters and those with small homes can still make the most of their porches, patios, windowsills and shared yards.

Here are some creative ways you can bring life to small garden spaces:

  • Use sunny windows to your advantage. Many houseplants thrive when placed near a south- or west-facing window or in a room that gets a lot of natural light. Wide windowsills, small side tables and plant stands provide flat surfaces for plant pots that don’t take up much room.
  • Don’t limit yourself to horizontal surfaces. Hang planter baskets from ceiling hooks, curtain rods, fences and porch or stair railings. You can also make a “green wall” out of a shoe organizer or recycled bottles.
  • If you have limited or no outdoor space, window boxes can enliven your home’s exterior and attract birds and pollinators.
  • Foldable or expandable outdoor furniture is great for small or shared garden spaces. When not in use, simply fold it and store it, or leave it for neighbors to enjoy.

Above all, don’t overthink it! There are plants that can grow in almost any environment, no matter how much or little space they have. For more houseplant care tips and recommendations, see our blog post The 18 Best Low-Maintenance Indoor Plants.

Summer Gardening Tips

The first step to growing a successful garden is to plant what you like! This extends to flowers, trees, shrubs, vines, ground cover and produce. has a handy month-to-month guide for New England gardeners, while the Farmer’s Almanac provides a calendar specifically for produce, laying out a planting schedule for spring and fall.

Some rules of thumb for maximum garden enjoyment:

  • If you don’t like to spend too much time pruning, weeding, raking or watering, don’t plant high-maintenance species that require daily care or make a mess of your yard.
  • Don’t plant fruits or vegetables you don’t like eating, since they will just end up rotting on the vine (literally, in the case of tomatoes or grapes).
  • If your goal is to attract pollinators like bees and hummingbirds, research which blossom colors and shapes they are most drawn to.

The best time to water your plants is first thing in the morning or after the sun goes down, when the water has time to soak into the soil before evaporating. Morning is an ideal time to weed, harvest produce or flowers and check for bugs and other pests before it gets too warm out.

New Englanders know that summer weather can be a mixed bag. We can enjoy cool mornings and pleasant ocean breezes alongside blazing sun, torrential downpours and substantial humidity. Summer is peak gardening season, but it’s important to time out your working hours and stay safe in the heat.

No matter the time of day, summer gardening can be extremely rewarding and fulfilling. Follow these tips to keep yourself and your plants safe and comfortable:

  • Stay hydrated! Even light physical exertion can lead to overheating and dehydration, especially when the temperature soars. Keep a water bottle nearby, and wear a hat and sunscreen to protect yourself from sunburn and heatstroke.
  • Re-water plants in the evenings after particularly hot, dry days.
  • To protect yourself from stinging or biting pests, wear bug spray or other insect repellent, tall socks, work gloves and long sleeves.

Indoor Windowsill Garden Ideas

Indoor gardens are both attractive and practical. Houseplants and herb gardens soften the spaces they’re in, add a touch of color and provide oxygen. By following some easy plant care tips, your indoor garden will be a year-round success.

Placement: In general, houseplants do well in south- or west-facing windows, where they receive the most natural light (just make sure to move them if cold winter air seeps in). Plants should be placed in areas where they don’t pose a tripping hazard or topple risk, and where pets or young children can’t get at them. Certain plants can be toxic to pets, so read up on the warnings if you have animals in the house.

Light: All plants require sunlight to grow and photosynthesize, but the amount of light depends on the species. Some plants suffer in direct sunlight, so be sure to read their care instructions before leaving them on the brightest windowsill in the house. For homes that don’t receive much natural light, or for plants that grow in the winter, supplemental LED or grow lights are sometimes necessary.

Water: Likewise, plants need water to grow and thrive. Read each plant’s care instructions to ensure you don’t water it too much or too little, and be aware if your water has any harmful minerals in it. In general, plants need their soil to drain, so make sure their container has holes in the bottom, and place the entire container on a dish so that excess water doesn’t seep over any surfaces in your home.

In addition to herbs like oregano, mint and parsley, these are the vegetables that grow best indoors:

  • Green onions
  • Greens (lettuce, spinach, arugula)
  • Tomatoes
  • Chilies
  • Bell pepper
  • Carrots
  • Garlic
  • Bean sprouts
  • Microgreens
  • Radishes
  • Pea shoots
  • Herbs

Porch and Patio Garden Ideas

A porch, patio or balcony is essentially an extension of your home — so why not put a garden there! All are excellent spots for standing planters, windowboxes, hanging baskets, and even climbing vines. If space is limited, consider planters that hang outside or above the space, to provide more room for movement or relaxation.

Some important things to consider as you plan your porch or patio garden:

Drainage: Be sure the water has somewhere to go when you water your balcony, porch planters or patio plants. You don’t want water to pool on the floor or ground and create messy puddles, and if your balcony is above someone else’s, you don’t want to shower them through the decking every time you’re tending your garden. Place dishes or containers below planters that drain to catch excess water.

Bugs and birds: Since these spaces are often open to the elements, it’s important to protect your plants from anything that might like to snack on them. Removable mesh covers work well for planters, and some porches and balconies can be screened in. Additionally, you don’t want to be bothered by bugs while you’re trying to enjoy your patio garden, so netting benefits more than just the plants.

Seacoast Gardening Resources

With the right mix of creativity, preparation and dedication, anyone can plant and maintain a home garden. There is no shortage of invaluable resources out there — from books to podcasts, magazines to your local nursery, great summer gardening advice and inspiration isn’t hard to find. Below are some companies local to the Seacoast region who provide the best gardening products, services and guidance around.


Churchill’s Garden Center | Exeter, NH

New Hampshire Hostas | South Hampton, NH

Newton Greenhouse | Newton, NH

Rolling Green Nursery | Greenland, NH

Stratham Circle Nursery | Stratham, NH

Wentworth Greenhouses | Rollinsford, NH

Soil and Compost

Black Earth Compost: Serving northeastern Massachusetts with pickup and delivery.

Seacoast Farms: Compost, topsoil and mulch for commercial and residential projects.

Landscaping and Design

Artisan Grounds Landscaping: Design and maintenance services for the Seacoast and Southern Maine.

McDermott Landscape Design: Boutique garden and landscape design with a focus on perennial plantings.

Who are your favorite landscape professionals?

Looking for a fresh new space to call home and make your own? Whether you are looking to build new, buy or rent, Chinburg creates spaces to accommodate all lifestyles. We love to see what our residential community members create.