Raised flower beds are great for any yard. They are aesthetically pleasing and generally require less upkeep. When you build your flower beds up, the soil is less compacted than the surrounding soil. This has a two-fold benefit: it allows your plant’s root system to expand much more freely and it gives them better drainage. Both are critical to beautiful, lush flower beds. It also allows you to use a better grade of soil than is probably available in your yard.
Before you begin to build your raised flower beds, you should research both the type of plants you want to grow and your particular growing environment. If you want to grow beautiful long stemmed roses, but your entire yard is shaded, you are going to be disappointed. Understanding the sun/shade requirements of your chosen plants is extremely important. Also look at the mature height and width of the plants you are considering. You don’t want to plant a hedge that matures at 15 feet tall underneath a window that is 4 feet off the ground. In just a few short years, your window will be useless because it will be completely blocked by the hedge. Plus, it becomes an excellent cover for a burglar trying to break into your house.
When you have decided where to put your raised bed and have a good idea of which plants you want to use, it is time to pick a border material. You’ll want to match the general look and feel of your house. For example, you wouldn’t want to use rough railroad ties around a very formal brick mansion. But not to worry, today you have a huge variety to choose from. A visit to a large nursery or garden center will give you numerous ideas.
After you choose a border material, you’ll need to measure your bed so you’ll buy the right amount. If your flower bed is not perfectly square or rectangular, use a garden hose to outline the proposed bed, then stretch the hose out in a straight line and measure it.
You can start one of two ways: Either break up and loosen the soil underneath the new bed or cover it completely with a weed barrier. There are many opinions on both methods and here’s mine: If the bed is going to be at least a foot deep, there is no need to use a weed barrier because most weeds can’t push through that much soil to reach the surface. If it is going to be less than a foot deep, I break up the soil underneath so that the roots of my plants can grow into the original soil easier. I think you defeat the purpose of having looser soil if your plant’s roots grown down 6 or 8 inches then hit a plastic roadblock.
After you decide which way you prefer to deal with the existing soil line, it is time to start placing the actual border. There are so many border materials and methods of placing them that I don’t have room to go into details here about each one, but most start with leveling area where the border will be.
You can fill your beds with a variety of things that will become your flower bed’s “soil”. Bagged potting mix is one option. If you have a large nursery or garden center nearby, and access to a truck or trailer, you can buy in bulk and save money. Topsoil is the most popular choice, but you can also mix topsoil and aged compost for an extremely fertile start for your plants.
Fill your raised bed about 3/4 full then water it thoroughly to settle the soil and fill in any voids. Add more soil to bring it back up to 3/4 full and water again. If possible, wait until the next day to actually install your plants so you aren’t digging in mud.
If you want to start your plants from seed, you can start the seedlings in your house, then transplant them in the flower bed. Flower germination kits can be bought at your local garden center. Or you can buy flowering plants directly from a nursery or garden center. Most people prefer this because they have already grown beyond their fragile state and are ready to be planted outside.
To plant, dig holes slightly larger than the pot the plant is growing in. You need to carefully pull the plants out of the pot, set it in the hole and pack the dirt back down around it. In addition, be sure to place the plant at the angle you want it to grow because it can be very difficult to change it’s growth direction later on. Each plant should come with a planting and care tag that will give you specifics about your new plant, including how far apart to space them. This is important so that they don’t crowd each other as they mature.
After all the flowers are planted, cover the exposed soil with a layer of mulch 2-3 inches deep. As with everything else in gardening, there are now many choices for mulch. You can use pine bark, pine needles, cypress or cedar. You can also get colored mulch that will add still more interest to your landscape. After the mulch is in place, you’ll need to water again. Don’t use a high pressure hose, as the water will displace the mulch and possibly your new plants. Put your hose nozzle on shower or use a sprinkler head that gives a gentle flow.
At this point, the difficult work is finished. You’ll need to water the plants daily for the first couple of weeks, then one to two times a week, depending on how much rain you get. When you water, be sure to completely soak the soil. This will make sure the roots grow deep into the earth and will allow the plants to have a sturdy base.
Fertilize periodically following the recommendations on your chosen fertilizer. If weeds should sprout, pluck them out on a regular basis and be sure to get the entire root so they don’t reproduce and take over your new flower bed. Depending on your plants, you may need to deadhead or prune occasionally. Tending to your raised flower bed can be a peaceful, stress relieving part of your life.
Experts say that landscaping increases the value of your home, but you can’t put a dollar amount on the way you feel when you come home to a beautifully blooming raised flower bed that you created yourself.