A friend of mine will be moving soon and it got me thinking. When you move to a new place, you want to do things to make it your own, whether it is a new house or a previously owned house. You want it to be your HOME. One of the ways to do this is in the yard. New flower beds, vegetable beds or raised beds are great ways to put your own touch on your new yard. They are a lot of work, though, so you may want to start out small and make them larger a little at a time. This is especially true if you don’t have a rotor tiller. A tiller can make quick work of breaking the ground for a new bed, and they can be rented. But there are other options if you don’t own one. You could build a raised bed. Raised beds are wonderful if you have really bad soil or just are unable to break up the soil you have. In our area we have a lot of clay in our soil, and that makes it hard to break up…even with a tiller! So my vegetable garden is in a raised bed. Another option if you don’t have a tiller, is to make your bed a little at a time. I have started beds very small, with just a plant or two, and then increased the size of them over the years.
The first thing you need to do is decide where you want your bed, how big it will be and the shape. A great way to do this is to take your garden hose and use it to mark the edges of your bed. This way, it is easy to make changes in the shape. Once you have your shape you can mark the outline on the ground with a shovel or a hoe. Then you will want to check your new bed location several times during the day to determine how much sun it gets. This will help determine the plants you will put in there.
The next step is to prepare the soil. First the ground must be broken up, then you want to remove as much of the current growth as possible, especially if you are creating the bed in an area of grass or other heavy growth. Then, check with your local nurseries or county extension office for the best additives for your soil. With our clay soil, the biggest problem is making sure it does not compact back to the hard brick it was when you started your digging and adding enough nutrients for the plants to thrive. I use a mixture of top soil, composted manure and mushroom compost, in about equal amounts, and mix this in with the existing soil. This gives the soil a lot of nutrients, as well as keeping it loose enough for roots to develop. Once your soil is prepared, it helps to lay down a layer of weed fabric. This will help discourage those unwanted weeds from creeping back in.
Now you are ready to plant! If you are like me, you may just start sticking plants here and there and develop the look as you go. But, if you want, you can make a drawing and mark where you want your plants before you start the planting. This is good if you have a lot of plants with which to fill your bed. I like to start with a few plants and let the bed develop over time. That allows me to add plants that are given to me, as well as ones I find when I am shopping. It makes for a much more informal bed (like the one above), but that is the way I like it. If you want a formal bed, you will want to get plants of varying heights. If your bed is against a wall or fence, plant the tallest plants in the back and bring them down to the shortest in the front. If you can walk all the way around your bed, plant the tallest in the center and go out to the shortest around the edge. Follow the directions on the plants you have chosen for the spacing and choose plants that are compatible with the location of your bed (full sun, part sun or full shade).
For planting, cut an opening in your weed fabric and dig a hole in your prepared soil that is about twice the size of the plant’s pot. Carefully remove the plant from the container (unless it is growing in one of those wonderful biodegradable pots, then you just plant the pot and all!). Loosen the roots at the bottom of the plant, place it in the hole and fill the excess dirt back in. You want to be careful to make sure you do not bury the plant any deeper in the soil than it was in the pot. That could cause the plant to rot, on in the very least, not grow well. Then sprinkle with a good time release fertilizer.
Once the plants are in, you will want to add mulch to your bed. This will help retain moisture and deter weed growth. Then water your new bed using plenty of water, so that the moisture soaks down to the roots. You will want to water every couple of days for the first few weeks until the plants have become adjusted to their new homes and started making new roots. After that, watering will depend on the amount of rain, the temperature and the type plants you chose. Follow the directions that came with the plants.
New beds will be nice and neat, but not completely full when you first plant them. If you have planted a perennial bed, you might decide to fill in with annuals for a few years until your perennials mature and fill the bed on their own. This will give you a big, full and beautiful flower bed from the first year on!
What is your favorite perennial plant for your flower beds?