Backyard Flowers

How to Prepare a Flower Bed for Planting: Complete Guide

In this guide we walk you through how to create a new flower bed and prepare it for planting your flowers.

If you don’t have a flowerbed in your garden, that’s okay. This post gives you everything you need to know about designing and building a fantastic flowerbed for your yard.

You don’t need advanced tools or horticultural skills the build a great flowerbed. Soil preparation is the key to building your new flowerbed for the summer. We’ll go over the fundamentals involved with soil building in this article. By the time you finish digesting this information, you’ll have all the knowledge you need.

The reason why soil is so critical to your garden’s success is it’s the part of the flowerbed that comes in contact with the roots of your plants. Plants need sun, air, water, and soil to survive. However, it’s not like the plants are absorbing dirt through the roots. Instead, they leach nutrients contained in the ground as they release during watering.

Soil contains “water-soluble” nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium, all of which are essential for the health and growth of your plants. If your plant’s roots are happy and healthy, it leads to strong plant development and higher flowering yields.

If the roots don’t have sufficient nutrition, it ends up slowing plant growth or causing the plant to wither and die. Let’s unpack everything you need to know about building a flowerbed in your yard this summer.

Building a Brand New Bed

When you’re thinking about building a flowerbed, you have options. You can make one from scratch, create a raised bed, or add amendments to existing soil to build it into a bed suitable for accommodating plant growth.

We’ll look at building a new bed in this example. To start your new flowerbed, you’ll need to prepare the ground in the fall for the following growing season.

When building a new bed, the first thing to do is to scout your yard for the perfect location. Most flowers require as much sunlight as possible during the day. Therefore, you need to plan your new flower bed in a sunny spot in your yard.

Your flowerbed should receive between eight to 12-hours of sunlight each day. You’ll also need to ensure that it’s in a spot in your yard where water will drain away. Building the bed in the base of a valley is a bad idea. Water won’t run away from the flowerbed, and it will waterlog the soil.

How to Make a Flower Bed
How to Make a Flower Bed: Complete Guide

If waterlogging occurs, it starts to cause root rot in your plants, killing your flowers. Ensure that you build your new bed on a slight gradient so that the soil naturally runs away. If your yard doesn’t offer you this setup, you’ll need to think about building a raised bed instead.

The second step in the process of building a flowerbed is to ensure you’re not digging into underground waterlines or powerlines. If you strike water or power lines while digging, you could end up with a shocking experience. Not only could you injure yourself, but you’ll need to hire an electrician or plumber to repair the damage.

Check with your local municipality, and they’ll send you information on the wring and plumbing around your property. After you get the go-ahead for your flowerbed, you can start with creating the outline. Take your garden hose and lay it out in the shape of your new flowerbed to get a mockup of the design.

After mocking it up, it’s time to kill the existing vegetation in the allotted area.  If you’re using a space with harder ground and weeds, you can use a machete, saw, or pruners to clear the vegetation.

If you’re building the flowerbed on a grassy area, lay down some newspaper (straight newspaper, not the glossy stuff) over the grass. Lay five to six pieces over each other to block out the sunlight and choke off the air supply to the roots of the grass or vegetation.

Leave your designated flowerbed area alone until the following spring. The newspaper breaks down into organic mulch for your garden. Don’t worry about the ink in the newspaper damaging the ground.

Preparing Existing Flower Beds

If you already have a flowerbed in your yard, but it hasn’t grown anything in years, you can turn it into a productive piece of land with a few easy tips. (You can also follow this method after removing the newspaper from your new flowerbed in the early springtime).

In the late fall, turn some organic mulch and compost into the soil. These amendments add more nutrients, specifically nitrogen, to the ground. You’ll want to work the soil when it’s moist, not dry. If you live in an area where the ground freezes over the winter, you’ll need to wait until the spring when it thaws before adding further amendments.

Soak the soil in the early morning to reduce evaporation, and give it until the afternoon to soak into the ground. Take your gardening fork, and start turning the soil. Dig to a depth of eight to 12-inches, it’s hard work, but the results are worth the trouble.

Digging the Flowerbed

You’re looking for a soil consistency that balls in the hands but breaks apart easily if you give it a gentle tap with a gardening trowel. Avoid working overly wet soil; it clumps and compacts, removing the air while making it challenging for roots to penetrate and find nutrients.

Spread your mulch and compost on the surface, and turn it into the soil gently. If you complete this task in the fall, then you don’t have to repeat it in the spring. It’s always better to work the soil and build it in the fall.

This strategy gives the earth the chance to “rest” over the wintertime.

It also ensures the even distribution and maturation of nutrients in the soil over the winter. The result is a higher quality soil the following growing season.

Working with Different Soil Types

When you’re building your new flowerbed, you’ll need to assess the condition of the soil before adding your amendments. If the soil is sandy, you’ll need to add topsail and other light, loamy soils to the flowerbed. Sandy soils don’t hold nutrients. When your water, the sand drains quickly, leaving your plants starving for nutrition.

If your soil is full of clay, it’s going to waterlog easily, prevent draining, and stop root penetration from accessing nutrition for the plant. You’ll need to work in substrates like loamy topsoils and peat into the ground to improve the aeration and prevent clumping of the soil.

Regardless of whether you have clay or sandy soils as your base, it may take a few seasons of steadily adding new amendments in the spring and fall to improve the soil’s condition. You’ll notice that each flowering season brings you higher quality plants and bigger yields.

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How to Build Raised Flowerbeds

If you’re building a flowerbed in a valley or have utility lines running through your property, designing and constructing a raised flowerbed is a great way to circumvent these issues. There are a few ways to complete this task.

The idea is to build a raised wall around 15-inches high, off the ground. You can do this using wooden boards or with rocks. Pulling apart old pallets is a great way to source reclaimed wood for your raised bed. However, you’ll need to ensure you treat it and sterilize it to prevent bugs or pathogens from entering your soil.

A rock wall is a great choice, but it’s heavy moving the rocks around, and you might find them challenging to source, depending on your location. Lay the stones or build the wooden walls in your desired configuration.

Lay a 2-inch layer of desiccated granite at the base of the flowerbed, ensuring it covers the entire area. This strategy prevents weeds and grass from growing into your new flowerbed. Contact your local nursery and order topsoil and compost for your new bed. When it arrives, you’ll either hire the nursery to fill your bed or do it yourself.

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Designing Your Beds with Flowers

  • When designing your flowerbed, plant low-growing annual plants around the border. Impatiens, lobelia, and sweet alyssum are good examples.
  • Use flowers like snapdragons, zinnias, and marigolds after the border plants
  • Fill the center of the flowerbed with taller plants like hollyhocks, sunflowers, and cosmos.

Your flower design depends on the positioning of your flowerbed. If you have a 360-degree walkaround of the bed, then keep the taller flowers to the center. If the bed is up against the edge of your property, plant the taller flower towards the rear.

Another good example would be including a center row of medium and tall plants, buffered by a border of cascading blooms like ivy geranium, bacopa, calibrachoa, and moss rose.

Wrapping Up

Building a flowerbed requires some planning, and it’s better to complete the task in the fall than in the springtime. Giving the soil time to rest ensures you get a higher-yielding flowerbed in the summer.

Hollie is a life-long gardener, having started helping her Dad work on their yard when she was just 5. Since then she has gone on to develop a passion for growing vegetables & fruit in her garden. She has an affinity with nature and loves to share her knowledge gained over a lifetime with readers online. Hollie has written for a number of publications and is now the resident garden blogger here at GardenBeast. Contact her at hollie@gardenbeast.com or follow on twitter https://twitter.com/greenholliec

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