A great looking garden starts with a healthy, well made bed.  All too often we create our flower beds without much thought or do not tend to them much after they are created.

How Do I Create a Garden Bed?

If you are starting from scratch it is important to plan well before you pick up a shovel. Consider some basic design principles first, and then you can consider how you will “make the bed.”

Basic Design Principles
Point of View-will you be enjoying your garden from your deck? Kitchen window? Or as you drive up to your home?  How you want to view your garden will determine the position of your garden. 

Physical Environments-Before planting anything always consider the environment.  How is the soil & drainage?  What about sun exposure (or lack of)?  Are there existing elements you need to work around such as fences, decks/patios, and existing plants?  The environment of where you want to place your garden will be influenced by these elements.  Choose a layout and plants that best suits the environment.

Design of Display-Most beds are of an informal design, usually the shape of a kidney bean; an ideal choice for a stand-alone bed.  For a bed that will be used more in function of screening or defining a property border a boomerang shape may be better.  To get a better idea how the bed shape will look, use this little tip:

Create a line:  When trying to design a layout of your garden bed, use your garden hose as an outline.  Shape the hose into the curves or line that you wish, take a step back and see what you think. If you don’t like it, you can change it without it being permanent.  Once you have a shape you like, use a half-moon edger or flat spade to cut the edge along your hose line.

Build a Bed

After an outline of the bed has been edged out, it is ideal to kill the grass within that outline.  Use Fertilome Killzall or other herbicide labeled to kill grass.  This will help keep grass from growing up into your flowerbed.  An alternative would be to till the area and work the grass back into the soil; it would be a good time to use Altum’s Soil Amendment to work into the soil if you choose this method.  After the area has been prepared, you can then add a nutrient rich soil on the top creating a mounded bed.

How Do I get a Nutrient Rich Soil?
Most of us in Indiana have a subsoil that is very heavy clay; thick, moist, hard to work with, almost inhabitable substance.  There are two ways to improve upon your soil without having to remove your clay soil.  It you choose to till your ground, working in Altum’s Soil Amendment (a compost/forest fines mix) at about a 50/50 ratio will give your ground a “cushion” of organic matter helpful to plant roots.  Another choice is Altum’s NEW Topsoil Plus, a mix of pulverized topsoil and compost.  This is ideal for creating new mounded beds of a larger size.

Why Do I want a Mounded Bed?
For most of us, our yards are cornfield flat and our soil is mostly clay.   A mounded bed helps to ensure good drainage for your plants, as well as gives your landscape some interest with elevation.  The height of the mound is up to you; consider larger mounds for larger plantings.

After the Bed is Created:
Once the bed has been created, with soil mounded, it is time to plant.  Follow this good tip before planting:

Place before Planting: after you have selected a design and have purchased the plants, place the plants in the garden where you have planned for them to go.  Sometimes what looks good on paper doesn’t turn out to be the same when seeing it in the garden.  By playing with placement before planting, you’ll be much happier with the results.

Top Dressing the Bed

What You Should Know About Mulch
It is important that you use bark mulch like Altum’s Hardwood or Forest Fines Mulches.  Bark mulch is quality mulch that breaks down into the soil over time adding nutrients to the soil.  Inferior, cheap mulches are usually made of wood refuse, like old pallets, and will not break down nor add any nutrients to your soil, and could possibly harm your plants!

How to mulch
If you are starting fresh, it is ideal to mulch your plants at least 3” deep.  A rule of thumb is 1 cubic yard of mulch will cover a 10’ x 10’ (100 sq. ft.) 3” deep.  This layer of mulch will help conserve moisture and keep down weeds.  Even in the winter it is essential to have a good layer of mulch.  Add mulch to your beds both in spring and fall.  When using bark mulch it will break down slightly from season to season so a fresh layer is ideal to keep up the level of protection on your plants as well as keeping you beds looking fresh.

Example of how a plant should be mulched:
Too many times in the garden, we see “volcano” mulch piles around trees, sometimes reaching 5-6-7” up the trunk!  Mulch should not be pushed up and around the base of a tree, because it can suffocate it.  It is more ideal to mulch only 2-3” deep creating a well effect around the trunk.  This applies to other plants as well.

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