How to build a flower bed – The secrets to success

Well put-up flower bed will be something where your flowers thrive for years and years to come. It’ll bring you a lot of joy and will be something you can show to your neighbors with pride.

Planning is the most important part to success in creating delightful flower bed. Without proper preparations you might end up with muddy pit which will be doom for all of your pretty flowers. All your hard work will waste and you’ll be back at the starting point.

So let’s think through couple of things before you head to a nursery and in the end it will save you time, plants and biceps. After reading this article, you’ll know how to build a flower bed, which isn’t just beautiful to watch but also easy to take care.

Choose a good locationFlower bed in sun

When you wish to have flower bed with beautiful blooming flowers in any color you dream of, you need to pic a spot in a sunny site.

Flowering plants require a lot of direct sun light to bloom and grow to their best outcome. Full sun plants need at least 6 hours of direct sun every day, in most cases more sun means more blossoms.

You can also place a flower bed in partial sun where it’ll get 3-6 hours sun or under shade with 2-4 hour direct sunlight daily but you will be limited with the number of flowering plants.

Then again, flower bed with more green foliage can be as beautiful as flowers with playing different shades of green and big variety in texture.

Not too close to solid structures

Flower bed is meant to be a compliment to your house, which will increase its value. Plantings placed too close to your house foundation, septic systems or rain water drainage piping can eventually seriously damage or destroy them and leave you with tens of thousands of dollars renovation bills.

Big trees root system will break concrete foundation as well as asphalt driveway. Shrubs and perennial roots will clog rain water piping around your house in a couple of decades.

And planting around your house foundation will keep it constantly moist and in the worst case leaving your house indoor air with musty smell like in ground cellar. Make sure your plantings won’t be in harm to any existing structures.

Plants require regular water

Think in advance that your flower bed has an easy access for watering. Plants and specially flowering plants needs a lot of water in heat and particularly during the first year when their root system is not yet very wide or deep.

If you’re like me and lacking convenience of a sprinkler system, it will be easy in early point to lay in the ground a soaker hose or drip type system for watering. It’ll be lot more efficient and time saving than watering individually with hose.

Most plants don’t like standing water

Flowers need sun and water to thrive but too much water can kill them. Actually many plants dislike being placed in standing water conditions and heavy winter rains or slowly melting snow can drown or rot them.

So pay attention when choosing a place for you flower bed, what are the moisture conditions around the year in that particular spot.

Too wet areas might need a french drain around them to redirects surface water and groundwater away from that area. With more soil, you can build a raised bed with faster drainage for those wet winter months when plants don’t really need any water for growing.

Ponder about the viewing direction

To get the most out of your amazing flower bed, you should figure out from which direction you are going to view it.

Best places for observing would be from your patio or deck where you already spend a lot of time in the summer. Kitchen window is also a wonderful place to enjoy your creation, you stop there multiple times a day bringing dishes or washing them.

Flower beds located on the side of your house will probably bring most joy only for bypassing people if you don’t place a garden bench in front of it.

And the Right size

It is usually good idea to make a bigger flower bed than small. Advantages with bigger one is that;

  • It will be easier to take care one big bed than several small ones.
  • With bed large enough, you can create lairs, placing taller ones on the back and shorter ones on the front.
  • Flowers look better in bigger groups.
  • Plants thrive on in groups and get protection from each other.
  • You can consider planting at least one flowering shrub or a small tree in it.

Tip Place big flat stones in the middle of a bigger flower beds for stepping. You can care inner parts with ease, without compacting soil allover.flower bed with statue

Design a signature look

Focal point will make your flower bed stand out more and it will have something where the eyes are drawn to. It will add interest also in winter months when there is less vegetation.

Accent can be something as simple as higher evergreen shrub or a small tree. Or placing a boulder in the middle can be as beautiful as any statue, use your imagination. You can buy one or make something by yourself.

Water features are extremely beautiful as focal points and are easiest to place if they’re planned in early stage.

Decide edging for your bed

It will give it more finished look. Edging keeps grass from growing into the planting bed and makes mowing around it easier. Garden suppliers and hardware stores have multiple different options available for edging or you can use nature stones around it, or just simply cut the edges couple times in the summer to maintain dapper look.

I’ve seen landscape companies selling railway ties for edgings and garden purposes. Did you know that railroad ties contain chemical preservatives which are banned for residential use, and they are potentially harmful to humans and plants.

if you start at fall
plant garden bed in spring

Save yourself from extra digging and begin your process in fall with making a raised bed. You can get rid of existing vegetation on top of soil simply by;

  • First mow long grass as short as possible and leave clippings just laying on the ground.
  • Spread newspapers layers tightly or a cardboard. Water between and thoroughly. This will stop grasses or weeds from growing and will begin to break it down.
  • On top of that add 2 inch layer of composted horse manure. Manure contains micro-organism which speed up the process of decompose and it’s weight will press the paper tightly against vegetation and keeps them moist.
  • Add at least 4 inch layer of compost so you have enough good soil for your plants to grow.
  • Cover the whole beauty with 2-3 inch of mulch, tarp or any sun blocking layer from all sides to keep the moisture inside and prevent new weed seeds to germinate on top.

Water the whole thing and make sure it stays moist to next spring until newspapers and all weeds with roots has decomposed. Don’t let the pile dry up or decomposition stops and freezing will also slow the process.

After about 3-4 months you can dig little holes and check that newspapers and grasses has turned into nutritious soil for your flowers to grow and when this has happened your flower bed is ready for planting. In warmer areas right away and in colder areas, right after the ground has melted and warmed up.

Tip 10 inch high raised bed will not only save your plants from wet feet, it also looks more impressive and professional.

Beginning at fall will give you plenty of time to plan over winter your dream flower bed layout and do research for the most beautiful and best suitable plants for your growing conditions.

My favorite things during the winter months are scrolling through nurtures online catalogs, planning a new flower beds and dreaming about the coming summer.

beginning right after winter

Another optimal timing is early spring, when soil is free from frost.

At this point all planted plants have enough time to develop deep and extensive root system before summer to survive better over heats.

Starting in the spring will give you some good exercise with shoveling;

  • Remove the existing top layer of sod by cutting 10″ by 10″ chunks with shovel and twisting upward. This will remove most of the roots. Remember that all the parts of weed roots need to be removed or you will be propagating weeds from cuttings if root pieces get mixed in the soil.
  • Amend your soil with mixing or tilling compost to it at least 12″ deep
  • Add a good layer of compost and mulch on top of that to keep moisture in.
  • Plant your favorite flowers.tulip flower bed

Removed sod pieces you can replant if you have an area in need of grass. If not, you can pile them and cover tightly with tarp or plastic. Add some kind of manure between layers and in about a year it’s all is turned into nutritious soil for your next flower bed project.

starting during the growing season

You can save some time and back with using weedkiller to get rid of existing vegetation or turf. Weedkillers work only on green and already growing leaves. Weather needs to be calm, sunny and warm for them to be able to kill the plant properly. Follow the product instructions.

Spray the flower bed area and wait for about a week until all the vegetation has died. Spray an other round if needed. After that you can rototill or turn the soil with shovel. Leave or remove existing vegetation depending how long it is and after that amend the soil with compost.

If you lack patience like me and don’t want to wait for cooler season, let me tell you a story.

One summer I decided to plant my hydrangea bedding in sunny June and I was watering it every two days for the next 6 weeks!

Crazy me, like I didn’t have anything better to do in that beautiful summer. After 6 weeks watering hydrangeas were better rooted and were happy with watering only once week for the rest of the summer.

I could have avoided this with planting earlier in the spring when the weather was cooler and we still had some rain to naturally water them while they were still getting established. That’s why I find spring and fall most practical points to start building a flower bed. I learned it’s wise try to take all the help nature can provide you.

make sure you have right amount of soil

I recommend you do some calculating before purchasing your soil. It surprises me always, how much my project needs it in the end.

Let’s use for example a 12 feet x 7 feet bed, with 8″ height of compost. This would be a nice size flower bed, where you have enough space for layers and variety.

For this you would need 2 cubic yards of compost soil, what will be 54, 1 cubic feet bags of garden soil in hardware store.

Yes… 54 bags!

In my area, price for 54 bags from hardware store or 2 cubic yards from local soil supplier, is the same. Except from local supplier, delivery is included so you would save some strength.

When you purchase all this from a hardware store, you haul and load it all by yourself. If you do the pick up by yourself from your local soil supplier with your own or rented trailer, you can do some serious savings towards your plant purchase.

Planning, working and patienceflower bed design

Here we had a lot of things to consider and several ways to how to proceed with your project.

Well done planning ahead and some patience will bring you a long way on the road of creating your dream flower bed.

Remember gardening is more like marathon than a sprint, things don’t happen overnight and it takes often years for your plants to reach their glory.

And the time spent with the foundation of your flower bed won’t never be wasted, flowers in it, will be a reflection of the quality of it’s groundwork.

 

2 comments / Add your comment below

  1. I love the information you have here. But I have one question, that I think you may have already answered. But I nee to kill out a plant that has taken over my flower – real pain. But I have a tree in this bed that I do not want to harm. Can I still use a weed killer without harming the tree??

    1. Hi Becky!
      I feel you, weeds can be a real pain! Luckily you can safely use weed killer in your flower bed because it’ll affect only the plant you use it to. To protect the tree from spills, you can lay down some news paper to cover it. Best way to use weed killer to certain plant is to apply it with a small brush directly to the green, healthy leaves of the weed you wish to kill.
      Thank you for sharing a comment and happy gardening!
      Mari

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