Wednesday, February 16, 2022 / by Jeff Lovato
"Make your bed" is one of those statements that we each must have heard a million times as kids. As gardeners though, this simple phrase has a different meaning. "Make your bed" is all about preparing the soil for planting.
HOW TO START A FLOWER BED
The first step when planning to add a new flower bed or even if you are simply planting a tree or shrub is to check if there are any buried utility lines on your property. Most areas should have a number you can call to check locations for these lines. Check with your local government for the correct number to call. In addition to public utility lines, you will want to make sure you have identified any irrigation lines that might be buried on your property.
Define the outline of your flower bed
The best way to begin to prep this type of bed is to define the outline of the bed in the fall. It can sometimes be helpful to use a garden hose to determine the outline of the bed. A garden hose can be moved and reshaped until you find exactly the right shape and size for your bed.
Remove existing vegetation
When preparing a brand new bed you will need to kill the existing vegetation.
Turn the soil over
Once the existing vegetation is dead use a tiller, spade/shovel or garden fork to turn the bed over. With a brand new bed it may be difficult to get your tiller to break into the soil so turning the bed over first with a spade or shovel may be best.
When working the soil, you want the soil to be damp, but not wet. If the soil is too wet it will clump when you turn it over. If the soil is too dry it will be very difficult to dig and harmful to the soil. If you turn over a spade full of soil, it should break apart and look moist without sticking to your tools or dripping water.
A tiller will often turn the soil to a depth of 6 to 8 inches. It is good to get down at least 12 inches (the depth of a spade or shovel) when turning over a bed, another point in favor of the shovel. If you are really motivated turning over the soil to a depth of 18 inches is even better, although it is a lot of work. This is often called double digging.
Mix compost into the bed
Once you have turned over the soil, spread a layer of organic matter or compost 2 to 3 inches thick over the bed and then turn the soil over again to mix the compost into the soil. Adding compost will improve the soil by adding nutrition and improving soil structure.
Turning over the soil will expose weed seeds that were previously buried to light, causing germination. You can control the germination of these seeds by applying a thick mulch like pine needles or bark products over the bed or you can treat your bed with a weed-and-feed product to help deter germination. If you do treat with weed and feed, be sure to read the directions and apply correctly. Some weed and feed products can damage roots below the soil if applied incorrectly.
You can also wait until the weeds come up and simply pull them. This can be more time consuming than chemical applications, but it is organic in addition to being good exercise.
Irrigation, planting and mulch
Before planting, consider installing an automatic irrigation system. Drip tubing is great for flower beds since it delivers water right to the roots of the plants. Plus you won't have to drag a hose around to water by hand. Check out this Drip Irrigation/Sprinkler Systems Installer Company for your Lawn Sprinkler and Irrigation needs.
After you plant the bed you may still want to add a layer of compost to the top of the soil. A layer of mulch or compost on the top of the soil will help keep weeds from growing, makes for a neater look overall and will also help maintain moisture in the soil.
CREATING THE BEST SOIL FOR FLOWER BEDS
Preparing the soil in your beds doesn't have to be difficult, although it is great exercise. Adding organic matter is the one thing that all soils can benefit from whether your soil is sand or clay based. The addition of organic matter is beneficial, even if you are blessed with loam soil.
**The ideas and companies within this blog are suggestions, please contact a professional with questions and help on landscaping and gardening.
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