For the absolute freshest, tastiest vegetables and herbs, you can't beat having them straight from your own garden. Whether you're planting a full garden with rows of cucumbers and tomatoes, or just a few pots of herbs on the balcony, this guide to summer vegetable gardening will get you started in the right direction.

1.) Deciding When To Plant.

The most important thing is to plant late enough in the season that your new plants don't face the risk of freezing. The date will vary depending on the climate where you live. Find out the average date of the latest frost in the springtime, and then you can plant soon after that. A local nursery may also be able to give you a guide to summer vegetable gardening with planting dates for your town.

Newly planted seedlings can have a tough time if it is very windy or hot. Try to find a day for planting when the temperature is moderate and there is little wind, in order to give your garden the best start possible.

2.) Prepare The Growing Area.

Before you start planting anything, you need to prepare the area and get the soil ready for the garden.  Pull and remove any weeds. Weeds take water and nutrients away from the vegetables in your garden, so you don't want them around. 

Next, loosen up the soil with a shovel or a gardening fork, and add some organic material like compost to the top layer. You can also add a layer of mulch on top of the soil to help retain moisture on hot summer days.

3.) Selecting Vegetables.

For summer gardening, you want to choose the vegetables that do best in warm weather. Good options are tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, bell peppers, squash, carrots, eggplant, zucchini, and beets. If you have enough space, corn is also a good choice for summer. It is best to avoid the cool weather crops like broccoli, spinach and peas, which do not thrive well in summer heat.

4.) Organizing Your Garden.

When you are deciding what to plant where in your garden, think about the garden's orientation to the sun. If you get most of your sun from the south, then it is a good idea to place the tallest vegetables such as corn and beans at the north end of the garden. For vegetable gardening, the idea is to place tall crops where they won't cast a shadow over the shorter vegetables. Plant the next tallest crops next to those, and work your way down to the shortest vegetables.

5.) Selecting Herbs.

Like the vegetables, some herbs grow better in warm summer temperatures than others. For summer gardening, good herb selections are basil, parsley, chives, thyme, dill, sage, and fennel. Herbs can be a great addition to your vegetable garden. You can use delicious fresh herbs on their own, and they are an ideal complement to your fresh summer vegetables. For instance, fresh basil is perfect with tomatoes right off the vine.

6.) Keep It Watered.

As soon as you have finished planting, water your plants immediately, giving them a deep, thorough watering. This will help to get the soil settled in place around the roots. After that, water them whenever the top inch or so of soil is dry. Avoid overwatering, which can cause stunted growth, or even kill the plants. For vegetable gardening, it is best to water plants around the roots, rather than spraying water on the leaves.