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How to landscape a garden bed

Landscaping a garden can be a big job, but it’s also a really fun one too. You can decide on new layouts, play about with various plants, introduce focal points such as statues or patio areas, and more. If you’re planting up a new garden bed, there are a few things to think about, and below, we’ve provided some useful information around the topic of landscaping a garden bed, choosing your shrubs and planting it up.

How to prepare a landscape bed

When building your tower, it’s important to ensure that there’s a clear space to allow you to build it easily and safely. Any areas that are accessible by members of the public should be cordoned off to create a safe zone. This zone should either have a three-metre radius or be one metre greater than the height of the tower as a minimum. For instance, a tower that has a platform height of 1.2 metres should have a clear radius of at least 2.2 metres.

Landscaping a garden bed
How to landscape a garden bed - Outline its new shape

Outline its new shape

The most important part of landscaping a border is shaping the bed itself. You need to think about the size you want the border to be, what shape you’d like, how you will cut into it, what kind of edging you’ll have, and more.

The easiest way to determine the size and shape of your new border is using a garden hose. It’s long and flexible enough to allow you to map out in the grass where your new border will go, and you can arrange the shape as many times as you want until you’re happy.

For narrow, neat borders that will contain a few small plants, you should typically consider a depth of around 50cm to 100cm. If you want borders with very large plants in, a depth of 1.5m to 2m may be more suitable. Try out a few different depths and shapes using the garden hose.

Once you’ve made your decision, you’ll need to cut into the grass to make way for the border. It’s easiest to do this using a turf cutter, particularly if your border is going to have a straight line. This petrol device will lift the top layer of grass, revealing the soil underneath. If you’ve never used one before, our guide on how to use a turf cutter should help you out.

For curved garden borders, you may find it easier to get the perfect shape using a spade or shovel. You can cut into the grass and gently lift it away.

Remove any weeds

There’s unlikely to be any weeds where you’ve just lifted away the grass, but the rest of the border might have some lurking around. You should do your best to remove as many weeds as possible before planting anything. Hiring a rotavator could make this job much easier. Not only will this remove any weeds, but also churns up the soil, making it less compact and easier to plant in.

How to landscape a garden bed - Remove any weeds
How to landscape a garden bed - Add fresh compost

Add fresh compost

Once the border has its shape and lacks any weeds, it’s time to add plenty of fresh nutrients to the ground prior to planting any shrubs to make sure they thrive. By putting down a layer of fresh compost that contains a mixture of carbon and nitrogen, light won’t be able to get in and will prevent new weeds from growing, for a while anyway.

There are lots of different types of compost you can buy, and the type you need will generally depend on what you want to plant. It’s best to get peat-free, multipurpose compost where possible.

You can use the rotavator to mix this compost in with your soil, or simply add a layer on the top and let it sink naturally over time.

Landscaping a garden bed

Once your garden bed has been prepped, it’s time to start thinking about getting some plants in. But there are a lot of considerations at this stage too, such as sunny/shady plants, colour schemes, plants you like and don’t like, where they will go, and more.

Choosing your plants

When landscaping a garden or a singular border from scratch, the world is your oyster. You can choose any plants you like and plant them in any way you choose. However, there are some considerations you should think about too.

Not all plants like a very sunny border, and not all plants like to be in shade for most of the day. When planting up a new border, spend some time watching how much sun it gets on an average day and use this information to choose your shrubs.

You may wish to stick to a certain colour scheme too, either oranges and reds or pinks and purples. Perhaps you want to use contrasting colours, such as purple and yellow. A garden that uses many of the same colours has a certain feeling of cohesion, so try to stick to the same colours that are repeated in the space.

How to landscape a garden bed - Choosing your plants
How to landscape a garden bed - understanding your garden

Understanding your garden

As well as thinking about sun and shade and colour schemes, it’s important to think about what your garden is predominantly made of. Soil can be made from various materials and is usually described as either sand, loam or clay. Loam is the best type of soil as it retains some water while also providing good drainage. This is because it is a mixture of sand, clay and silt. Clay soil doesn’t drain very easily, so plants that don’t like sitting in moist ground won’t appreciate a clay border. Sandy soil tends to be low in nutrients and can dry out in the warmer months, so you’ll likely spend more time watering your plants.

The soil in your garden will also have a certain pH. It could be more acidic, more alkaline or neutral. You can buy pH testers to find this information out and use it to determine which plants may thrive and which may struggle.

Plants that like acidic soil include azaleas, rhododendrons, camellias, hydrangeas and nasturtiums. Plants that like alkaline soil include campanula, ceanothus, geraniums and lavender.

Arranging and planting

It’s likely that the list of plants that suit your garden becomes quite narrow when you take into account colour, light requirements and soil requirements. But sometimes, this makes things easier because you can use these plants throughout your space, creating a feeling of repetition that can help to make your garden feel bigger.

When it comes to planting them up, it’s a good idea to buy all the plants you need, taking into account their maximum width to work out how many plants your border needs and how far apart you need to space them.

Take some time to play around with layouts and placements, trying out a few different looks before planting. Taller plants should go at the back with shorter plants at the front.

The best way to plant your shrubs is by digging a hole that’s large enough for the pot they’re in to fit in. Then, remove the pot by wiggling it a little, separate the roots at the base of the plant and place it in the hole, being sure to push the compost/soil into the hole and compress it slightly. Give the plant a good water and repeat this process for all your shrubs.

How to landscape a garden bed - Arranging and planting
Can you landscape in the winter?

Can you landscape in the winter?

Landscaping, whether hard or soft, can be done at any time of year, however, it’s more suited to certain times of the year over others.

Hard landscaping, such as building new walls or installing a new patio, can be done in winter, but the rain can cause the job to be delayed. When it comes to soft landscaping in the winter, it’s likely best left until spring. Spring and autumn are generally the best seasons to plant in, as the shrubs are generally dormant. This means they’ll have enough time to establish before blooming in the summer or facing a frosty winter.

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