Caring for a Traditional In-Ground Garden

Build a long-lasting relationship with your in-ground garden by giving plants regular TLC.

You've planted your very first in-ground garden and it's off and growing. Cheers to you! Now that the heavy lifting is done, it's all about routine maintenance. Caring for your garden regularly will keep your plants and soil at their prime. Plus, you'll always catch your veggies or herbs at their freshest, and flowers at their most vibrant—which is part of the fun!

Don't worry, tending to an in-ground bed can be easy. Just set aside a few minutes each day to tackle these 6 essential steps.

1. Walk in your garden. Spend time admiring your garden. You've earned it! Look closely at your plants to track their progress. Check stems and leaves for steady growth and an even coloring. Press your fingers into the soil to see if it's dry. Peek under leaves for pests that could be trying to hide. If you spot a weed sneaking up from below, pull it! Make a list of anything you'll want to spend more time on later.

2. Water dry soil. Like us, plants won't last long without water. To check if they need a drink, move any mulch aside and press your fingers into the soil. If the top inch feels dry, give your garden a good soak, using a hose to concentrate water near the soil. A slow-and-low approach that fully saturates the base of your plants is a sure-fire way to get to the roots, too. Plus, on a hot day, water that's sprayed from above can evaporate before reaching our thirsty friends below.

Water in the morning, if you can, to help moisture settle deep into the soil before the sun is at its brightest. Try to avoid doing this task at night, because wet foliage can attract insects and diseases (another reason to direct water toward the roots). Plan to water once or twice a week—or more often in dry weather—but only when necessary. Have a look at our guide to watering your garden for a breakdown of different techniques.

3. Stay ahead of weeds. Weeds sneak into your garden and steal soil nutrients from your plants. Get rid of them before they have the chance! Pull weeds when they're small (it's easier) and make sure to grab all of the roots. After weeding, use Miracle-Gro® Garden Weed Preventer to keep new weeds from sprouting. Just sprinkle it directly onto the soil, mix it in according to the package instructions, and spread your mulch back into place. (Mulch helps keep weeds away, too—learn more in our article, Why You Should Mulch.)

4. Keep plants well-fed. Growing plants absorb nutrients from the soil, so you need to put back in what they take out. Every 3 months, sprinkle Miracle-Gro® Shake ‘n Feed® All Purpose Plant Food directly onto the soil, rake it in, and water according to the package instructions. You can also use homemade compost, but be sure it's fully decomposed for the best results. Essential soil nutrients promote strong root growth, which means beautiful plants, fuller foliage, and a bigger harvest.

5. Clean up the mess. Diseases and pests have a harder time hiding in a tidy garden. Remove spent plants, brown leaves, weeds, and other debris, like sticks and grass, which may accumulate over time. Keep mulch evenly spread and away from plant stems, and make sure your plants have enough room to breathe and grow. Good air circulation also prevents problems that can develop in a too-moist environment. And hey, we all like our space—even plants.

6. Banish bugs and pests. Look for bad guys and their signs, like spots, holes, broken stems, or chew marks. Insects often like to lurk on the undersides of leaves; pick off any bigger bugs by hand and hit tiny, nutrient-sucking aphids with a blast of water from the hose. With any pests, you want to take action. Try Ortho® Insect, Mite & Disease 3-in-1 spray to keep a problem from spreading. If you need help figuring out what might be going wrong, contact your local extension service for some friendly advice.

Now that you know how to care for your garden, you can give your plants all the love and attention they deserve. Before you know it, they'll give you a bumper-crop of vegetables and herbs to harvest, flowers to stop and smell, or perhaps a little bit of both!