Grow your Own Veggies & Herbs this Summer in 4 Steps (Part 2)

Note: This series focuses on growing vegetables and herbs for summer harvest. Many of the concepts, tips, and tricks can be used to help you grow other crops or grow things during a different season too but will require some additional research.

Welcome back to our series on growing your own veggies and herbs! We’re sharing tips and insights from Helen’s 20 years of growing plants and flowers.We’ve broken it down into 4 easy(ish) steps: PLAN, PREP, PLANT, and PRESERVE and today we’re covering the PREP stage.

Hopefully you’ve had some time to determine your plan for your summer garden and are ready for the prep stage! If you haven’t already made your plan, head over to our last post (click here) to learn about how to make your gardening plan!

Step Two: Prep

Now that you have a plan, it’s time to start prepping and gathering supplies.

If you’re planning on starting from seeds, you will want to have your seed-starting supplies ready in the next couple of weeks because it takes a lot more time for seeds to grow than if you’re using purchased starts.

If your garden will be planted entirely from purchased starts, you’ll want to have supplies and space prepped and ready by late April. Some crops may be able to be planted out sooner, but most summer crops (tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, basil, etc) shouldn’t be transplanted outdoors until mid May for best results. We will cover timelines and recommended planting times in our post next week.

Prepare your Ground/ Raised Beds/ Containers

It’s time to prep that space where your garden will eventually grow! 


If you’re using containers, make sure they are clean before adding soil! If you’re using recycled or reused containers, clean and scrub with soap and water then soak in 1 part bleach to 9 parts water for 10 minutes to kill any bacteria that could harm your garden! You will also want to double check for proper drainage! More is better!!

Raised Beds

If your raised beds are brand new, all you’ll need to do is add soil! Look for a well draining soil that’s ideal for vegetables and herbs. We also recommend you add some slow release fertilizer and mix it in the top 6-8” of soil to give your garden a strong start.

If you have used your raised beds in the past, you will want to consider adding some nutrients back into the soil! Here is a great article about how to do that:

In-Ground Gardening

To have a successful garden, you will need proper soil! Depending on the space, your garden spot for planting in the ground may need some work. Check out this article for how to prep your garden soil:

Garden Layout & Companion Planting

You have the space picked out, now spend some time considering where you will grow your different crops. Check out this website for a list of plants that work well together to ensure your garden has the best results:

Tidy up Surrounding Areas

Since it’s a little too early to start seeds or plant out your starts, you may have a little gardening downtime! Use this time to tidy up your yard and surrounding areas. Pull those pesky weeds, lay down the fresh bark dust, and clean off the patio furniture. Then, when it’s time to start gardening all those other tasks are done and you can focus on your plants!

Buy, Borrow, or Find Supplies

What supplies you’ll need will greatly vary depending on what your plan looks like as well as what you already have.


Here are some things every garden will need, regardless of your plan:

    Hose or Watering Can (or prep your watering system)

    Nozzle attachment with different settings for hose (make sure it has a shower & mist setting)

    Soil (Helen’s Choice: 5-F Potting Soil from Pro-Grow in Wilsonville)

    Slow Release Fertilizer (Helen’s Choice: Osmocote Slow Release Fertilizer)

    Liquid Fertilizer (like miracle-gro blue powder, etc)

    Garden Trowel/Small Shovel (for planting and transplanting)

    Somewhere to plant your garden (raised bed, ground, containers, etc)

    Labels (Keep track what varieties you have)

    Seeds or Starts

Seed Starting Supplies

Seed Starting Supplies

If you’re planning to start your garden from seeds, there will be additional supplies you’ll need.

  1. You will need something to start your seeds in. This can be basically anything that can hold soil, but it MUST have drainage holes so if you use something that doesn’t already have them, use a drill/skewer to add them. Adding more drainage holes is better than less. 

P.S You will want to cover your starts with clear plastic until they sprout, so if you have a container that has a clear, plastic lid that’s a total bonus!

A few ideas…

    Egg Cartons

Plastic Seedling Trays

Peat Seedling Trays/Containers

    Clean, Recycled Food Containers (cream cheese/yogurt, etc)

    Clean, Recycled Cans

    Foil Cupcake Trays

    Clean Plastic Lettuce/Greens Containers 

    Clean, Clear, Plastic to-go containers

    Milk Jugs

    2.5 inch plastic pots

2. You will need something to cover your starts with until they sprout. This helps them create their own little greenhouse of warmth! Make sure it is waterproof and clear!

    A few ideas…

    Plastic Wrap

    Plastic Dome Lid 

    Milk Jug Cut Down

    Plastic Bottle with bottom cut off

    Clear Vinyl

    Clear Shower Curtain


3. Seedling Soil! This is NOT the same thing as potting soil as potting soil is not considered sterile and could harbor diseases. You’ll want to look for something that says something about seedling mix or seed starting soil on the packaging. This should be available at any garden center or online. Of course, you’ll still need potting soil for transplanting them into your garden or containers, but don’t use potting soil to start your seedlings.

4. Something to mist your starts with! While seeds are germinating or just starting to sprout, a strong stream of water could break or displace the sprout. Make sure you have a mist setting on your hose or use a spray bottle to keep your seedlings wet until they are bigger and stronger.

5. A heat mat to help your seeds germinate. While you can start seeds without this, it is going to give your seeds the best chance of germinating successfully so we believe it is essential to starting your seeds. If this just isn’t in the budget right now, ensure you will be starting your seeds somewhere that will stay consistently warm like near a heat vent or heat source.

6. SEEDS!!!!! Perhaps the most important part of starting your seeds is having seeds! There are so many options when it comes to seed shopping – both online and in-person. Your local garden center or feed store is sure to have many options, but you may have better luck with a specific variety of options by buying online. Locally, we love Burns Feed Store for our seeds and online we love territorial seed (an Oregon company!)

7. A light source! Once your seeds sprout, a light source is crucial for their growth!

Natural light is an option but is only recommended if you have a greenhouse (that should be heated for best results) or a south facing window that isn’t drafty. Using a window will mean you need to rotate your seeds regularly to keep them from getting leggy, too.

Your seed starts will do best with some help from a light set up. While you can certainly purchase a fancy light setup, you only really need a fluorescent shop light to keep your starts happy. We recommend you purchase a setup that holds two tubes and use one “warm” light and one “cool” light to replicate the expensive grow lights out there. You will want it to be over the top of the seeds once they have sprouted.

8. Once you’ve started your seeds in a container, they will start to get much bigger even though it may not be time to transplant them into the garden. We recommend you have some bigger pots to move the seedlings into so they do not get root-bound in the containers you started them in. We recommend either 4” pots or a 1 gallon container.

For example, we start our seeds in a seed tray and transplant them into a 4” container where they stay until we plant them in the garden or into their final home.

9. Finally, you’ll need space and a surface to put your seed starts on. This can be a table, shelf, or even the floor. Keep in mind you’ll be misting the plants regularly and soil is messy so make sure anywhere you put it will be OK if it gets wet or dirty or put something protective over the surface. 

What's next?

Slowly but surely the pieces are coming together and before you know it you’ll be gardening! If you still have questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out to us! We are so excited about your gardening adventure and we know you are going to love your summer harvest.

Keep your eyes peeled for our next post! We are already working on it – it will cover the PLANT step. We will cover the nitty gritty about how and when to plant your seeds or your starts (which is one of the most exciting parts of gardening).

Additional Resources

Seeds/Starts/Supplies (We like that territorial seed is a local Oregon business!) (100% organic if that’s important to you)

Local Feed & Garden Stores (Burns Feed Store is our pick – they also have starts!)

Local Garden Centers 

Boring Bark (Landscaping and garden materials – plus they have perennials and shrubs)

Hardware Stores 


Other Links

Seed Starting System 

Low Cost Seed Starting Supplies

Build your own Seed Starting Station

Soil Calculator for Raised Beds & Containers

Still needing some inspiration? Check out these pre-planned garden layouts

Limited on space? “Square foot gardening” utilizes a 4ft x 4ft square divided into a grid to maximize output with limited space!

Click HERE to learn more…

Questions? Let us know!

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