5 Simple steps to prepare a garden bed for planting
So, you’ve just moved into your new house and you want to make your first garden bed, but you’re not sure where to start? We have some simple steps that will have you growing lovely blooms in your new garden bed in no time.
Although it’s tempting to rush off to the nursery, and purchase all of your favourite plants, it’s really important to go through the following 5 steps before you start buying plants and digging holes:
Step 1- Location of the Garden Bed
Look carefully around your garden and decide what your main priority is for the new garden bed. Do you need a privacy screen along the fence, a decorative bed in the front garden, a veggie garden in the backyard, or something else? For a first-time garden bed, it’s best to place it where it gets sun for at least half of the day and is protected from strong winds.
Step 2- Get the soil right – improve its structure and fertility
This can’t be overemphasised – a bit of work at this stage will get your plants off to a really good start. An ideal soil is fertile, deep and moist, but well-drained with lots of organic matter. Very few soils fit these conditions so you will need to work on it to improve its quality.
Dig up a sample of soil in the area of the new garden bed. Is it a sticky clay (ie. does it hold together like plasticine when wet?), a sandy soil (does it have large particles and crumble easily?), or something in between? Clay soils are usually poorly drained and often crack when dry. You may need to install an underground drain to carry away excess water. Adding organic matter (such as well rotted composts or manures), gypsum or clay breaker can help improve its structure and fertility.
Sandy soils drain very quickly and are usually dry and lacking in nutrients. The best way to improve sandy soil is to add lots of composted organic matter (ie. composted kitchen and garden waste, manures).
If you are unsure about your soil, take a sample of it to your local nursery or garden centre so that they can advise you on how to improve it.
Step 3- Kill the weeds, then mulch
For a small bed, chip the weeds away with a hoe, making sure the roots are completely dug out.
Once the soil has been dug over and loosened and the organic material dug in, cover the bed with mulch. A mulch is a layer of material (e.g. compost, woodchips, lucerne hay, animal manure, seaweed, gravel) which is spread over the surface of the bed. A layer of around 5-10 cm will help to suppress weeds, retain moisture and improve soil fertility.
Step 4- Water management
Think about how you will water your garden bed. Hand watering is the obvious choice, but all too often this method leads to under watering, especially in dry periods. If you are busy and the garden might be neglected at times, consider adding wetting agents and/or water crystals to the soil or install a drip irrigation system.
Step 5- Choose the plants
There are many factors that need to be considered when choosing your plants, including your individual preferences, the cost of the plants, their eventual size and shape, their hardiness and the maintenance required to keep them in peak health. Look at books and magazines for ideas and visit nurseries to see what’s available (our What to Plant Where ebook has some great suggestions). The nursery staff will be able to advise you on a range of plants, which fit your needs.
If you would like to learn more about gardening at home, we have a Home Garden Expert Course.