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Spring and Summer Gardening: Building Better Flowerbeds

Summer Gardening

Have you had a yen to put in a new flower bed? Digging your own bed is a fun and healthy project that is easy to do, can be accomplished in a short span of time, and will help burn off some of those extra calories that you’ve been wanting to shed. Furthermore, there is a sense of pride and accomplishment when a task like this is completed. You just can’t help but feel good about yourself. Curious about how to get started? Here are 5 easy steps towards flowerbed success:

Step One: Plan the Perfect Place

Planning is essential in any landscaping project – it’s far better to take some time and think about what you want to do, rather than make hasty decisions and then have to repair a bunch of mistakes later. If you’re feeling rushed, sit back, take a deep breath and remember that there are no deadlines here – a garden is a place for you to relax and enjoy yourself. That goes for the building end of it too.

Now, the first step is to consider the type of flowerbed that you want to put in and where you would like it to go. An area that receives full sun for about 6 hours, every day, would be your ideal growing condition if you’re looking for the biggest variety of plants to choose from. For best results, you will want to plant your space, rather than digging a bed for pre-chosen flowers – you can find a color and a flower for almost any situation, but you can’t always find the ideal spot for any flower.

Step Two: Map It Out

Once you’ve decided your space, you will want to map it out. Are you putting in a geometric-styled square or rectangular bed, or is it something more relaxed and softly curving? Straight lines can be mapped out by driving stakes in at the different points of your bed, and then running string between the different stakes. For a curved bed, try using your garden hose to outline the desired shape, and then use some powdered chalk, light-colored spray paint, or even baking soda to mark out your border on the grass. Think you’re ready to dig now? Almost, but not quite.

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Before you ever put a shovel to the earth, be sure to stop, take a few moments to grab a cool drink, and enjoy the view. Far too often, people will start to dig a flowerbed and later discover that it doesn’t look as good as they thought it would. This is usually due to the fact that they didn’t bother to look at the flowerbed from different angles. For the best flowerbed, you will want to check it from all angles, and from various points in your yard. If you’re designing a flowerbed that will be visible from your kitchen table, then have a seat at the table, look out at your current outline, and try to envision what it will look like, from that vantage, once you put your flowers in. The extra time, spent walking around your yard and looking from all the different angles, will make the world of difference in your flowerbed.

Step Three: Just a Little Off the Top

Now’s the time to dig up your flowerbed. To help keep the rest of your lawn nice and neat, toss down an old tarp and stretch it out the length of your bed, so you can toss your soil onto it and not have to worry about raking it out of the lawn later. As with any project, a little extra time prepping your area will make your job so much easier.

If you have the right tools, the ideal thing to do is to cut your sod, rather than just digging holes. Cutting it into strips that are about the size of your blade, extract the sod from the inside of your outline, and lay it out on the tarp. Even if you don’t need it to patch in any areas, it will come in very handy later.

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Step Four: Dig It Down

Digging your soil thoroughly is an important step, particularly if you have a very hard or clay-based soil. While any flowerbed will benefit from it, digging up a problem bed will help to aerate it and make it a more hospitable place for your plants. This is also an excellent opportunity to add in some store-bought potting soil, bone meal, or organic fertilizer into your soil.

The best method of digging down your soil and properly aerating it, is to dig down about six inches and place the extracted soil on the tarp. Some people even choose to utilize their sod and place it in the bed, upside down, and then putting the dirt back in over top of it. Not only will this help with sunken-bed syndrome, but it also ensures that your plants have access to the topsoil that might have otherwise been lost. This is a matter of personal preference, so feel free to do it as you wish.

Instead of using the sod, some people choose to lay down a layer of gravel if they need help with drainage, or one might want to put in a layer of thick black plastic, in order to help control weeds. Whichever your preference, once that is done, you can then replace all the dirt you just dug out. Make sure that you break up any clumps and remove any roots or weeds as you go, leaving behind only the rich soil that you intend to keep. Feel free to add the extras to your soil as you dig it up, mixing the store-bought potting soil or bone meal into the turned earth thoroughly. Some people find a specially-designed aerating tool handy at this point, or you may choose just to use your shovel. Either way, make sure you dig and dig again, until your soil is the desired condition – most plants thrive in well-aerated environments, especially if they have good drainage. You can’t go wrong and over-dig your bed, so be sure to do a good job.

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Step Five: The Final Touches

By now, your flowerbed is starting to look like your ideal creation. At this point, you will want to spread roughly 3 inches of organic matter over the top of your flowerbed. If you have poor soil and need to adjust the pH, this is the time that you will want to add some lime or sulfur to the mix- be sure to follow the directions.

Turn over your soil one last time and then lightly rake it, to remove any small stones, bits of root, or any other foreign objects that you won’t want in your flowerbed. Smooth the top of your flowerbed with the rake, making it look smooth and ready to plant. Be sure to pick up after yourself and then you’re all set to plant!