Building a New Flower Bed


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Just wanting to know the best way to build a flower bed from scratch, with mulch on top. My top soil isn't the best. And, after about 2 shovel fulls of dirt, I'm already hitting red clay. :( Thanks.
 
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Just wanting to know the best way to build a flower bed from scratch, with mulch on top. My top soil isn't the best. And, after about 2 shovel fulls of dirt, I'm already hitting red clay. :( Thanks.
Clay in and of itself isn't necessarily bad. Most clay type soils have a lot of needed minerals in them. What they don't have is a lot of organic material and you will need quite a bit to have a good garden. You said two shovels of dirt until you hit the clay. To me that means over a foot of topsoil and many of us don't even have that. A flower garden will grow very well in that much soil but to make it really good all you have to do is to incorporate a good compost into the soil. Dig as deep as you can, even into the clay and with your shovel turn the soil over and mix a LOT of compost into it. At this time also incorporate a good organic fertilizer and water the bed thoroughly. Next, after it has somewhat dried out on top break up any large clods and rake it smooth. Next, plant your seeds or transplants. When large enough place the mulch around the plants
 
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I thought it was much more difficult than that. I thought I had to remove the grass first. Then dig so deep and lay down fabric for the weeds. Then get me some good soil and then lay edging for the mulch. What type of compost are you referring ? Thanks.
 
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I thought it was much more difficult than that. I thought I had to remove the grass first. Then dig so deep and lay down fabric for the weeds. Then get me some good soil and then lay edging for the mulch. What type of compost are you referring ? Thanks.
Didn't know about the grass so that makes a big difference. You will have to get rid of the grass and there are two ways to do it. One, using chemicals and two, solarizing. Some folks will dig up the area, smooth it out and put weed cloth on top of the ground and then cut slits in the cloth and plant their plants and put mulch all over the cloth. If you do it that way I will guarantee you will be working your tail off in 2 or 3 years trying to remove the cloth along with all the weeds of whose seeds have blown in and sprouted. There is no such thing as weed free except concrete and even that is not 100%. Depending on the type of grass you have will depend on how much work is involved in removing it if you do it manually. I have never seen the removal of lawn grass manually to be successful. There will always be runners and little pieces that will resprout. I hate to admit it but using chemicals like Grass B Gone is the easiest and quickest. If you solarize it will take probably 3 months depending where you live. As for digging up the soil and putting weed cloth down, save your money as you will have weeds no matter what. The secret to maintaining a weed free garden is to not let any weeds grow. Heavy mulch will help but is not a cure. As for as the compost goes it is all great unless it is full of chemicals like the Scotts and Miracal Grow types. If you use organic products from the start, in the long run it will be a healthier garden. Less diseases and insects to put up with plus safer for your family and pets.
 
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I used to double dig in the sod. Now I use card board laid over my proposed area and covered in mulch and let sit for two seasons or less (depends on moisture). You don't stir up old weed seeds and can cut the cardboard to plant if you are too impatient to wait for the cardboard to start to decompose under the mulch. I did a 30 foot by 100 foot section of my yard using this method three years ago. Have only this year had to do some minor weeding from weed seeds that have blown in or dropped by birds. Make sure you layer the cardboard leaving no gaps. It even smothers dandelions. I am in love with this method.

I understand that it works so well because it doesn't disturb the microcosm that makes up good soil structure and naturally lets the sod become part of that structure.

What is so wonderful about this method that nature does the tilling. Much of the area that I did this in was an abandoned street that had a lot of the area in old compacted gravel. My only problem was determining where the paths were and where I wanted the beds. Here is what the old weed patch looks like now without using the shovel. It is my woodland garden with Los of hostas, hellebores, ferns, lilies, fox glove and a little lambs ears for the bees. Life couldn't be easier.
image.jpg
 

Pat

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What do you cover the cardboard with for the two seasons that you are allowing the cardboard to decompose so that it is not unslightly?
 
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Pat, Any weed and seed free mulch will work. I use composted bark because it is cheap in my region. I don't live in a windy area so it only takes enough bark to hide the cardboard and is the cosmetics of this project to keep it looking presentable. You don't need the mulch, but I don't like looking at cardboard. During the winter one good windy storm dropped enough fir needles from the neighbors trees to cover the cardboard so I didn't have to. I did a section at a time when I converted this large area because I was bringing home free cardboard from work.

It is really important that the cardboard layer has no gaps or "thin" spots. Quack grass will find any holes. I think this works so well because you aren't exposing any dormant seeds in the soil by turning the soil. I read somewhere that poppy seeds can be dormant for 100 years and still be viable.
 
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You need to get some manure for your flower bed. Prepare the bed by removing all weeds and raising it a bit by adding more soil and manure. If there is no rain then you need to sprinkle over some water. You can add fertiliser thereafter. Get the the flower seeds from the store and plant as per instructions.
 
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You can mark out where you want your flower bed then lay down about 6 or 7 layers of news paper over it, it will kill the grass after about 2 weeks, then just turn your soil over add composted manure to it, the news paper will turn to compost.
 

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