While vegetable gardens get a lot of attention, there’s something so special about flower beds! They add life to your yard and can even help preserve and protect essential pollinators. Flower gardens significantly enhance your landscape, bringing a burst of colorful blooms throughout the season. However, planning and planting your first bed can be intimidating if you don’t know where to start.
I remember my initial attempt at gardening like it was yesterday. My bed consisted of a small patch of dirt and a few petunias plugged into the barren soil. It certainly wasn’t anything special but it brought me so much joy! And your garden can as well! Now, after many lessons learned and decades of trial and error, I’m here to share my essential tips to help you succeed with your very first flower garden.
Decide on a location
First, decide on a location. You’ll want to choose a spot that gets plenty of sun. Most flowers will need at least 6 hours of sunlight per day to thrive, so the more direct sun your bed receives, the better! You’ll also want to make sure you pick a spot relatively close to a water source or hose spigot since you’ll be watering your flower garden regularly.
Ideas for flower bed location:
- Around a mailbox
- Along a fence line
- In the corner of a yard
- Beside a walkway
- Underneath trees (to add shade)
Plan your shape
Remember, there are no straight lines in nature! Instead of trying to create a perfectly symmetrical bed with a straight edge, try adding a gentle curve or making a circular bed around a tree or mailbox. Straight beds can look elegant along a sidewalk or fence but don’t trap your creativity with rigid lines and include multiple bed shapes for the most organic look.
Use a piece of twine or lay out rocks along your desired area before you start edging. This will help you visualize the size and shape of your bed.
Edge your area
Unless you are planting flowers in established beds, you’ll need to outline your area and create an edge. You can do this with an edging tool, mattock, or by digging out the border with a shovel. Be sure to create an edge that is at least four inches deep. This will help keep weeds away from your garden and keep your border well-defined.
Later, you can go back over your edge with edging material such as rocks, bricks, rubber edging, or another type of border material of your choosing. This helps create a clean, decorative border between your lawn and your garden.
Kill the grass
To create a flower bed over a lawn, you’ll need to kill the grass before planting. While there are many methods you can utilize, the most effective involves laying down layers of cardboard in your garden area.
Lay out inkless cardboard without tape or plastic over the grass. Be sure to overlap the cardboard so that no grass or weeds can get through. Then water the cardboard, making sure to drench it well. This will help the cardboard smother the grass. The cardboard should be left in place. As you add organic material and plants, it will decompose over time.
Add organic matter
Now it’s time to enrich your soil! Start by adding organic material such as compost, peat moss, or manure. This will help give the soil nutrients and structure so that your plants can thrive. You may need to mix in some potting soil if you don’t have enough organic material on hand. Your soil should be about 6 inches deep.
Choose your plants
This is the fun part! When selecting your plants, be sure to choose flowers that are native and thrive in your area. Do some research ahead of time to determine what flowers you like, and ask your local nursery for recommendations.
You’ll want to look for varieties with a long bloom period so you get more bang for your buck. Also, don’t forget to include some companion plants such as herbs, grasses, or shrubs for a well-rounded garden.
Try to get a mix of tall and short plants as well as some creeping ground cover. This will help add texture and depth to your garden. You should also include perennials as well as annuals. Perennials come back each year and will provide a great base that you can build on. Annuals add great pops of color and can help you customize your garden any way you wish.
Note: Avoid planting herbs like mint in your flower garden, as it will spread and take over your whole bed. Do your research to ensure that you avoid selecting any potentially invasive plants.
Plant your flowers and watch them grow!
Once you’ve picked out the perfect plants, it’s time to get planting! It’s best to start with taller plants in the back of the bed and then move on to shorter varieties as you go. Just be sure to space your plants out according to the directions.
You might need to pierce through the cardboard and grass to plant certain larger plants. Use a mattock or sharp shovel to help you break through the layers and remove the grass below.
Mulch and water
After planting, you’ll want to mulch your bed. Mulching helps keep weeds away and keeps moisture in the soil. Spread a layer of organic mulch over the top of your flower bed (at least 2 inches deep).
Be sure to check on your flowers often and water them as needed. Unless you get regular rain, you should water your flowers every day (sometimes twice a day) through the growing season.
What if you don’t have space for an in-ground flower bed?
Don’t worry! You can still have a beautiful flower garden. Planting in containers or raised beds is another great option for adding color and character to your yard. Container gardens require less space, are easier to manage, and yield beautiful blooms for you to enjoy!
Have fun planting your first flower bed
Creating a beautiful flower garden doesn’t have to be intimidating or complicated. With the right planning, preparation, and patience, you can successfully create your very own flower bed! Just remember to start with a plan and take it one step at a time. Enjoy the process and watch your garden produce beautiful blooms every season!