How to Make a Flower Bed Lawn


Small yards in front of English Industrial Revolution-era cottages were filled with gardens that provided vegetables for the table and flower beds for a bit of beauty in an increasingly gritty urban world. "Classical" Italian or French gardens surround walks and terraces with lush growth and container plantings; Zen gardens use rocks and gravel to represent streams flowing through flowering shrubs and trees. Modern "natural" lawn-gardens feature wildflowers and other native plants. Whatever your choice, converting a lawn into a flower bed is a project for the gardener who would rather weed than mow.

Step 1

Identify a focal point of the garden, usually a front door to the house in a front-yard garden, and lay out paths and other features like patios or water features to draw attention to the focal point, either by leading to it or placement near it. Once your flower beds are full, these "hardscape" features will create the voids in the garden that draw the eye to the focal point, be it a door, picture window or porch.

Step 2

Lay out beds and cultivate the soil to a depth of 6 to 8 inches. Amend with at least 2 inches of compost mixed with an equal amount of manure or humus. Clean out every blade of grass and weed. Lay a sheet of black plastic over the space for two months to kill grass and weeds underneath, or kill everything with a nonselective herbicide containing glyphosate. Chemicals provide no short cut; most require letting the ground lie fallow while the poisons dissipate through the soil. Both methods require cleanup of the plant material that remains.

Step 3

Level the soil with a rake and grade it so that excess water drains in the direction of storm drains or drainage swales that may run along property lines. Raise beds and terrace hills to retain water rather than shed it; the goal should be to use as much rain as possible for the plants. Plant moisture-loving plants in damp places for a "rain garden."

Step 4

Plant trees and shrubs in your garden-lawn, too. They will provide background for plantings and shade for shade-loving plants and seating areas. Build raised beds as long as you like with landscape timber or cast stones. Make them narrow enough so that everything planted in the beds can be easily reached. In areas where beds are at ground level, add access paths for grooming and maintenance. Mulch paths with wood chips or shells over a layer of drainage gravel.

Step 5

Arrange plants in groups of three, with tall plants in the centers of beds so that each bed can be appreciated from inside the garden as well as from the front porch or street. Plant beds with native plants when possible; they require less fertilizer and water than "immigrants." Mulch garden beds with an inch or two of compost or shredded bark to aid in weed control and insulate roots.

Tips and Warnings

  • Avoid invasive plants like purple loosestrife, which may choke out plants in your flower beds and invade your neighbor's lawn.

Things You'll Need

  • Garden spade, fork and cultivator
  • Compost and manure or humus
  • Mulch
  • Gravel
  • Plants
  • Stones, landscape timbers or cast stones for walks, walls and raised beds
  • Hardscape accents: arbors, fences, benches, bridges, lanterns


  • Texas A & M Oktober Gartenfest: Designing the Country Cottage Garden
  • Landscape Guide: Principals of Plant Arrangements

Who Can Help

  • Landscaping Ideas: Front Yard Ideas
  • Purdue University North Central: Shakespeare's Garden
  • Monrovia: Cottage Garden Style
  • Alabama Master Gardeners: Rain Garden Design for Home Owners
Keywords: flower beds, cottage garden, garden styles, flower bed lawn

About this Author

Chicago native Laura Reynolds has been writing for 40 years. She attended American University (D.C.), Northern Illinois University and University of Illinois Chicago and has a B.S. in communications (theater). Originally a secondary school communications and history teacher, she's written one book and edited several others. She has 30 years of experience as a local official, including service as a municipal judge.