The days are getting warmer, the snow is melting and the sounds of birds chirping fill the air. Spring is finally here! While the hot and sunny days of summer may seem far away, spring is the perfect time to start planning your summer garden. Planting and caring for a garden can be a lot of work, but it is so rewarding in the end. Imagine your shelves stocked up with produce grown right in your own backyard! It’s never too early to start planning, so follow along with these helpful tips and tricks.

Step One: Prepare your space.

If you’re starting a garden from scratch, the first step is removing the grass in the garden area by manual removal or applying layers of newspaper, compost and mulch. A key tip to a successful garden is caring for soil health. This can be managed by applying compost and working it into the soil.

Step Two: Select your plants.

Next, it’s time to select your plants. Plan accordingly for sunlight availability and how much space the plants need to grow. A great way to do this is by scaling the garden down and mapping it out on a piece of paper. If you live in an area with unwanted critters, you may want to consider building a fence to protect your plants from being destroyed.

Tender plants, such as cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers and many others, are vulnerable to the elements. These plants do not like the cold or shade, so make sure to plant them in the warmest, sunniest spot.

Roaming plants, such as those with vines, are hardier than tender plants, but need much more room to grow. Make sure there is enough room in the garden to spread their vines and grow their produce. If you’re running out of space in the garden but still want to add more, try vertical climbing plants. These plants need a structure to climb up as they mature but take up very little space horizontally. The structures also make great cover for plants needing more shade.

Step Three: Provide continuous care.

Once plants start to pop out of the ground, they will need lots of water to thrive. Depending on how much rainfall your area receives in the summer, you may want to consider an irrigation system. This may be as simple as watering with a garden hose and a sprinkler or running irrigation tubing through the rows of plants.

While watering plants on a regular basis helps them grow into a successful crop, it also grows an irritating weed crop. Staying on top of weeding ensures that your plants are not overtaken and stripped of nutrients. Make sure to pull out the whole root with the weed so it doesn’t have a chance to grow back. This can be done by using a weeding tool when the soil is wet.

Planning a summer garden may seem a little overwhelming, but hopefully these tips and tricks help you along. Don’t be afraid to start small and grow your garden as you grow your experience. This rewarding process offers many valuable skills and will help you get outdoors and connect with nature.