Building a Summer Garden with No Experience

Hey friendship,

Over the past weekend, I officially started my summer garden.  I’m in zone 5. Typically in Zone 5, you need to plant after the last freeze, which is after May 15 (most of the time, you can’t always predict crazy midwest weather), but everything I read said hold off till after Memorial day.  It’s been steady 100’s where I’m at so I thought it was time to get it started.

Here’s an important disclaimer –

I am not a gardener.  But in spirit of this blog and trying new things, I wanted to try this out. I suffer from a non-unique problem that when I plant things, I expect them to look amazing right away.  They don’t.  Therefore, I do not at this time have an amazing before and after.  I want to make an update to this blog later on in the future and show you if things went well or totally wrong.  So consider this your inside scoop from a mediocre, rule-breaking gardener with no talent, but loads of misplaced confidence and ambition.

Pre-apologize to anyone who thought this was a self-help blog based on the title.  I meant I had personally had no experience. Nonetheless, here it goes.


I have a retaining wall, that’s… well, just ugly.  We have overgrown grass, random junk in the yard, and weeds every which way. Here’s a shot of what I was working with.

You see here we have lots of random wood, cinder block, a random rusty firepit.  Oh, and a dog fight over a stick going on.  In case you were wondering who ended up winning…

My girl Zoey came out on top.


Sorry for getting off track.  Back to Project Summer Garden.

We ended up digging all the grass out above the retaining wall.  And by grass, I mean clover.  So much clover there. We put a cover of weed blocker over the dug out grass since there is such a weed problem.  I didn’t want a ton of weeds popping up after so much time was spent digging them out.  Then, we had some extra patio pavers from a project from last summer to line the garden.  This was the hardest part because that pile of untouched pavers had so many spiders.  And not the little kind.  The big kind, that are weird colors like mustard and off-white.  Are we sure those are non-mutant spiders? I threw the pavers across the yard to shake the spiders off (mediocre gardener tip).

After lining the garden with spider-free pavers, a layer of brown mulch was laid down.  It took us about 7 bags for this small area.

Then I cut open the weed blocker where I wanted plants with a box cutter (mediocre gardener tip).  Hindsight – I wish I dug and planted the plants before laying the mulch.  I’d recommend that, then you don’t have a bunch of excess dirt over your freshly laid mulch. Then we had some random rocks to throw in to give it that classy, adult, “I know what I’m doing” look.

The end result was as followed:

What did I plant?

The million dollar question.  What did this little no knowledge gardener gave a shot her first round of real gardening?  Well, I’ll tell you.

  • Raven Grass Erianthus
  • Prairie Dropseed Sporobolus Native Prairie Grass (2)
  • Green Leaf Pink (8) – these are those cheap flowers at every store ever
  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Lavender (from a seed pack)

I’m confident there’s someone who knows what they are doing and they are literally gagging at my list.

How did I pick?  I went into the store and thought “wow, that’s pretty and grows tall so you won’t see my grass from the patio if we don’t feel like cutting it.”  Minus, the vegetables. Our neighbor had extra vegetables and offered them so I took them because I have trouble saying no and they can see into our yard so I had to plant them.


That’s it, there you have it, my summer garden.  I’ll keep you posted maybe mid-summer and god willing, maybe I’ll have a nice picture worth showing.  Or maybe an awful one,  but it’ll still be a learning experience.  Do you have a summer garden you’re working on?  I’d love to hear about it.

All the love and regards,


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