Flower beds are often used as beautiful focal points on the front lawns of many homes.
People associate gardening with a lot of work and while flower beds will always require some maintenance, planning ahead can help to limit just how much.
Now that spring has finally sprung you may be thinking about how you are going to spruce up your property this year. Adding a flower bed to your front yard or even in the back is a great, quick way to add some colour and liven things up a bit. Don’t worry, if you don’t know how to make a flower bed I’m going to share almost all of my secrets with you today.
Think about the amount of maintenance it will require after the garden is installed and are you willing to commit to the upkeep. Why waste the money if you can’t maintain your flower beds?
How much time are you able or willing to devote to maintaining the landscape of your home?
The perfect shape for your flower bed
After deciding on the location of your new flower bed you are going to have to decide what shape you would like it to be. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder as they say, while the ease of cutting your lawn is in the hands of the person digging your flower beds.
Flower beds that have sharp angles can make it difficult to get a lawn mower in those areas to cut the surrounding grass. Yes you could just do it with a weed whacker but the extra work can be avoided by constructing flower beds that have smooth, gradual curves.
See my wonderful artistic drawings above and hopefully you will understand what I mean. Drawing is not my forte but they are better than the dinosaur I painted once that my daughter thought was a camel…..
To dig or not to dig?
Remember if you plan to dig deep always “Call before you Dig” for locates just so you aren’t severing any cables or utility wires on your property.
Before pulling out the shovels you may want to consider installing a garden that requires no digging. Unless you are installing a flower bed on a brand new property that does not have an existing lawn you are most likely going to be making your flower bed where there is grass.
This grass can be removed using a shovel but that can require a lot of digging and hard work. To save your back you may want to consider laying down newspaper to smother out the grass in this area.
First cut the grass in the area relatively short followed by laying down the newspaper. Make sure that the newspaper is good and wet once you have it in place as it will help to speed up the decomposition process.
Next you build up your flower bed on top of the newspaper layer using some good quality garden soil and some nitrogen rich compost. Some people will recommend letting the flower bed sit to decompose for a couple of weeks while others will say they have been successful planting right away. I can’t see any harm being done if planted right away.
The only digging you may do is making an edge around the flower bed. Having an edge around any flower bed helps to keep mulch from getting in your grass and makes a nice clean distinction between your lawn and your flower bed. Avoid digging too deep of an edge so it doesn’t become a collect-all for leaves and other debris. I would say 2 inches deep is enough.
If you are embarking on a DIY project and think that the job will be too big for you to do all the work by hand you may want to consider renting some larger machinery. Unless you are planning on starting up your own landscaping business buying a roto-tiller or a back hoe will likely not be used to enough to justify the cost of buying one.
While the money may not be in your budget to buy one, renting the equipment you will need can save you a lot of your precious time. Many places will rent out tools, even such things as hedge trimmers, by the hour or even a few days as long as you need it. Big box stores like Home Depot for example have a rental service for tools so make some phone calls to find the best prices.
If you choose to rent larger equipment be prepared to pay delivery charges if you are unable to get access to a truck or a suitable vehicle with a trailer hitch to pick it up yourself.
Landscape fabric is commonly used in flower beds as a method of weed prevention. Weeds are not able to grow up through the fabric but the roots can grow down through the fabric if the seeds germinate above the fabric layer. A combination of using landscape fabric and sufficient layer of mulch will be a strong defense against keeping weeds out of your flower beds.
Mulch is an effective tool for keeping the weeds out of your flower bed if enough of it is applied. While your chances of being completely weed free are slim to none, a layer of mulch 2 inches deep will certainly reduce the amount that pop up and the time required to remove them. Mulch also helps to moderate the soil temperature and to retain moisture, reducing the number of times watering your flower bed may be required.
I have seen on a few different properties where the landscape fabric was placed directly under the layer of mulch, this is not the best idea as the mulch is most likely going to slide off or be blown away in the wind. It is best that the landscape fabric be placed a few inches below the soil surface.
I prefer to lay down the landscape fabric before planting and making slits with a knife in an X pattern where I want to plant my flowers.By doing this you avoid removing whole pieces of the fabric you just put down.
I also like to wait to put down the mulch until after planting as I don’t like to mess it up and have to move it around after just making it all look nice.
What is the look you are trying to achieve?
There are two types of flower beds to keep in mind when planning the overall theme of your landscape, one being formal and the other informal.
Formal flower beds
Formal flower beds typically require more maintenance as they tend to have more straight lines and geometric shapes so pruning of the shrubs in the bed is required more often to maintain the uniform look throughout.
Formal plantings often include hedges of shrubs like boxwoods and yews that are planted in a row to form a border or often used to create designs. The row of shrubs then gets pruned as one large hedge instead of individually shaping each shrub.
Informal flower beds
An informal bed is exactly what it sounds like it would be. Generally in an informal flower bed there is still some structure to the design of your garden but lines are not as defined as in a formal bed.
The plants are left to grow as their natural growth habit would be but are pruned back slightly just to maintain their size and to promote new growth.
Whether you have a formal garden or prefer more informal flower beds, designing and planning are keys to planting your flowers to show them at their best. Mixing and matching colors, plant heights and blooming periods ensure that the arrangements of flowers in your garden provide interest and natural beauty throughout the growing season.
Flowers and plants in a formal bed are usually limited to a few different types while many different textures, sizes and colours of plants are used to create the relaxed look of an informal flower bed.
To be able to capture the beauty of all the plants in the flower beds you should always plant the ones that will have a taller mature height at the back of the bed with the shortest planted in the front.
Some plants may be taller than others but you should always read the tag when purchasing them, you want to check what the maximum height of the plant will be. Many slow growing plants will eventually grow to be much taller.
Also check what the maximum width could potentially be and allow enough spacing between plants to avoid having an overgrown garden with plants crowding each other out.
Avoid planting too many plants
While it may be tempting to add more plants to your flower bed because it looks bare, keep in mind that those plants, especially the shrubs, grasses and perennials are going to grow so you may need to have a little patience while it fills in.
Buying a shrub at a nursery or garden centre that is a year old will always cost less than buying a 3-year-old shrub, as they have spent less time being tended to by the growers. If you chose the cheaper route and buy smaller shrubs, patience is a must.
If having colourful blooms in your flower beds throughout spring, summer and fall is something important to you then do some research when choosing your plants to ensure that you will always have some plants in bloom.
Once all the hard work is done what are you doing to do to keep your new flower bed looking great? Making and planting a flower bed is just the beginning, someone has to take care of it.
There are some essential tools that you will want to have on hand that will make maintaining your flower beds easier and more manageable. Buying good tools may cost you a little more than the local department store special but are much less likely to break than cheaper brands.
I like to save up my Canadian Tire money that I earn buying my gas to bring down the cost of my gardening tools.
Here’s a list of garden tools you may want to have accessible at home for your garden.
- Buckets or containers for weeds and other debris. I often use an empty recycling bin or a large outdoor garbage can. The bigger the container the heavier it may be to move so be careful that the material you are putting in it isn’t making it too heavy.
- A trowel or hand shovel is not only useful for planting but also for removing weeds.
- A garden (hard) rake is great for spreading and leveling mulch and soil. For coarser materials like mulch use the rake with the tines facing down and for soil using the flat side of the rake on the ground with the tines facing upwards.
- Plastic Rake is not only helpful for raking up wet leaves on your lawn and out of your flower beds but can also be used as a tool for doing a quick cleanup of the edges around your flower beds.
- A shovel is always handy to have in a garden if you need to dig a big hole or can be used to turn over soil when adding compost.
- Spade or Edger can be used to dig an edge around your flower beds
- Pruning shears are helpful when cutting back shrubs and perennials. A good set of pruners is worth investing in, they should be comfortable for you to use and not cause a lot of strain on your hands.
- Scissors are useful when cutting back grasses and other light foliage such as day lilies in the fall. You are able to cut off bigger handfuls with scissors than pruning shears.
- A wheelbarrow is very helpful when moving materials around your property and can again save your back.
- Knee pads may be helpful if sore knees may be an issue for you
While you will always have a few heavy cleanups every year with the changing of the seasons in your garden there are some simple things your can do that take little time if done often.
As flowers die off in your flower beds removing the dead flowers will not only help to improve the look of the garden but since the flowers may form seeds they can be scattered throughout your flower beds if they are left to fall off on their own. You may end up having more plants than you desire if you don’t cut them off before they start to produce their seeds.
Many perennial flowers will stop blooming if any seeds have formed. By cutting off the flowers before seeds are produced it may encourage the plant to continue blooming. Scissors and pruning shears can be used to cut off the flowers and in many cases just your hands is not to take them off.
Raking out edges
Raking out the edges of your flower beds will not only help to keep the mulch in your flower bed instead of into your lawn but can also help to maintain a nice clean, grass and weed free edge. A couple of minutes every week can prevent having to re-edge your flower beds throughout the year.
Flower beds are great way to improve the visual appearance of your home and add some colour to your days but if not probably cared for they can easily become an eye sore and wasted effort. If you want flower beds be prepared for some work as it is inevitable.
- Do you plan a flower bed budget each year?
- What kind of flower beds do you have?
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