While it may just be ‘dirt’ to some, soil is home to your plants. With spring hurriedly approaching, preparing your flower beds correctly is vital to a successful growing season.
Well-prepared beds are key to many aspects of a bountiful garden such as soil nutrients, drainage and deterring pests and disease.
There are two ways to begin making your bed – one requires digging and tilling, the other does not. Although it’s not hard to tell which is easier, choosing the method which is right for you is largely dependent upon patience!
The following steps remain the same no matter which preparation technique you choose:
Size + Shape:
- Visualize what your ideal bed would look like, and the variety of plants you plan to grow
- Think about spacing, and the aesthetic style
- A good size for beginners is 3-5 feet wide by 10 feet long – this is small enough to maintain, yet large enough for diversity
Location, location, location:
- Landscape, light/water source, and critters in your region are all factors to consider when deciding upon a location for your new bed
- A sunny environment is preferred for many flowering plants, and level ground is always easier to work with
- Ensure the bed will be within reach for easy watering, and be mindful of what types of insects or animals may want to feed on your plants
- Placing a bed along a rock wall, log pile or wooded area could be risky and invite chipmunks, deer, moles and other critters over for lunch!
Selection + Placement:
- You’ll want to choose your plant selection based off how much time is required to care for them and the overall look you want to achieve
- Consider how plants will bloom and try to stagger growing cycles
- Draw a ‘map’ of your garden to help determine where plants will be placed
- Taller plants should be placed in the back or middle so they can be seen all the way around
- Plants that require constant attention (fertilizing, pruning, watering) should be placed where they are easily accessible
Creating a New Bed By Digging
- Remove grass and other vegetation. The more thoroughly you do this, the less weeding you’ll have to do later. Nisaku makes a great variety of shovels and other tools to help you achieve this
- Lay 2-3 inches of organic matter over the bed. This can be manure, leaf mold created yourself (learn more here!) or compost
- Till to a depth of 8 inches and then rake over evenly. See our top tiller picks here and our favorite stainless steel rakes here
Creating a No-Dig Flower Bed
This method is great if you aren’t in a rush to plant and don’t mind a pile of organic matter cluttering your landscape for a bit. This project is best to start in early spring or fall. In either case, it will take an entire season for the bed to be ready for planting.
- Cut the existing lawn at your mowers lowest setting. We recommend Sun Joe cordless and electric models because they are efficient and affordable. See both types here
- Smother roots and weeds with a layer of newspaper (about 10-15 sheets thick)
- Spread a layer of organic matter (8-12 inches). This can be manure, leaf mold created yourself or compost. Some Sun Joe leaf blowers have a vacuum and mulching function that creates mulch from recycled leaf waste! Check them out here
If you are doing this in the fall, allow your pile to settle over the winter until spring.
If you plan to do this job in early spring, wait until next year before you start planting.
As the mound rests, worms and micro-organisms will naturally enrich your soil. When the time is right and the waiting is over, you can plant right into the pile without digging – your bed will be slightly raised.