7 Essential Tips for Starting a Thriving Backyard Garden This Season

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How to Start a Garden in Your Backyard & Patio

If fall and winter beckon you to enjoy plenty of cozy nesting indoors, then spring and summer beg you to get outside and make the most of your backyard or patio. Have you started your garden yet? Now’s the time to get those hands in the dirt!

But before you start digging, spend even a penny at the nursery, or put any plants in the ground consider these tips to make sure you enjoy a bountiful summer garden.

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Get Familiar with Your Yard

Working with, not against, natural elements is key to a lush garden. Spend a week observing your yard and note how much, or how little, sun exposure you have and at what point in the day. Determine how much room you have to plant and make sure a hose will reach where you need it to– lugging buckets around all summer can quickly dash the relaxing benefits of gardening.

Choose Your Backyard Garden Type

Now that you understand your space, consider the type of garden that will work best. In-ground beds of low-maintenance perennials, raised beds of seasonal herbs and vegetables, or nice and neat border plantings all require different soil, sunlight and water. Be sure to consider how much time and energy you’ll have to maintain your garden.

Test and Amend Your Soil

The quality of your soil is important and it’s best to know what you’re working with before planting. This is especially true when planting directly into the ground or existing raised beds, and less of a concern when starting with fresh soil. Vegetable gardens are particularly sensitive to soil quality, and many gardeners have suffered from lack-luster lettuce or terrible tomatoes due to sad soil. A soil testing kit is a reliable way to assess your soil’s health. Based on the results, you may need to amend your soil to raise or lower the ph or introduce nutrients like nitrogen or calcium.

Maintain Your Backyard Garden

It’s rare that you can set-and-forget a garden. Have a plan and a few good tools for weeding throughout the season. Plan to lay mulch around plantings to help keep roots cool and moisture in the soil. Consider installing a drip system for easy watering. Depending on what you choose to plant, routine fertilizing can make a good garden great.


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No backyard? No problem. Patios and balconies are fantastic for container gardening.


Pick Your Pots and Containers

Select pots that are made of sturdy material with good drainage and that are the right size for what you will plant. Terra cotta and ceramic containers are readily available at home and garden stores and there are also plenty of attractive plastic, metal and fiberglass options that will withstand the elements. Consider different sizes, shapes and colors and have just as much fun choosing pots as picking what to plant in them.

Best Plants for Container Gardening

Shrubs and small trees are lovely in a container garden and can help add a little privacy, too. Herbs like thyme and rosemary are handy to snip for cooking, easy to grow and make great use of limited space. Annual flowers like Pansies and Marigolds are low maintenance, low cost and add pops of color. Or, pick perennials like Coneflower and Lupine and look forward to their return year after year. Your local nursery is teeming with varieties that are perfect for pots, so be sure to ask their staff to point out some new-to-you plants.

Maintain Your Patio Garden

When sunlight hits the side of a pot, soil temperature increases and moisture quickly evaporates, putting the plant's roots at risk of stress and damage. To keep your patio garden happy and healthy, give your potted plants a saturating drink in the morning before the weather heats up. It’s crucial to keep potted plants protected on the hottest and coldest days. In extreme weather, it’s not a bad idea to move your pots out of the elements. Particularly heavy pots placed on wheeled plant stands make them easy to temporarily relocate. 

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The Best Plants for Your Garden in the PNW

Not sure what to plant in your backyard and patio garden? Check out the USDA Plant Hardiness Map to identify which zone you live in and go from there. Options abound! Here’s a list of just some Pacific Northwest native and climate-adapted plants and flowers that are perfect picks for our region.

Small Trees

  • Cascara
  • Crape Myrtle
  • Japanese Maple
  • Vine Maple


  • Boxwood
  • Camelia
  • Cascade Oregon Grape
  • Dogwood
  • Evergreen Huckleberry
  • Golden Currant
  • Western Mock Orange


  • Deer Fern
  • Himalayan Maidenhair Fern
  • Sword Fern


  • Creeping Thyme
  • Star Creeper
  • Sweet Woodruff


  • Bleeding Heart
  • Broadleaf Lupine
  • Coneflower (Echinachea)
  • Dahlia
  • Hellebore
  • Hosta (Plantain Lily)
  • Peony
  • Rudbeckia (Black-eyed Susan)
  • Solomon’s Seal
  • Viola Odorata (Sweet Violet)
  • Yarrow

Whether you dive into the deep end, or just dip a toe in this season, tending to your backyard and patio garden is sure to enhance your relationship with your home and help get the most out of this spring and summer. Here’s to your budding green thumb!

*All selections subject to change depending on availability