How to Create Garden Beds

Overview

Garden beds are a reflection of the gardener's personality. They can be practical, ornamental or a combination of the two. Whatever the design, garden beds support more plants, and plants grow deep roots in the improved, loose soil of properly prepared beds. Create a garden bed and enjoy bigger blooms and better vegetables.

Step 1

Select the planting site based on available sunlight and soil conditions. Keep in mind the requirements of the future plants; do not choose a shady site for sun-loving vegetables. Avoid creating beds over the root zones of trees or shrubs.

Step 2

Mark the bed's boundaries using twine or garden hose. Adjust the line until you reach the desired shape. Cornell University Extension suggests 2- to 3-foot-wide borders for small yards, while traditional, layered perennial beds should be 6 to 8 feet wide. If the new bed is currently lawn, spray the new bed area thoroughly with a full-spectrum herbicide 24 to 48 hours before digging.

Step 3

Edge along the line using a flat spade or shovel. Dig 6 to 8 inches into the central area to loosen the ground, using a pickax if the soil is extremely hard. Rake the soil, starting at the edges of the bed, into a central mound 8 inches high. Add additional topsoil if necessary.

Step 4

Add edging or borders to the bed, if desired, to prevent erosion. Build wooden frames with screws or bolts, fastening the planks to corner posts. Avoid using nails; wooden boards nailed to each other split and crack.

Step 5

Work 3 inches of compost into the soil, suggests the University of Connecticut, and smooth the top of the bed with a rake. Make beds higher than needed; the soil eventually settles to half the original height. Add 2 to 3 inches of mulch.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not create garden beds around existing trees or shrubs. The mounded soil smothers the surface roots and encourages rot. Do not use treated wood or railroad ties for edging. The boards contain copper and other chemicals that leach into the soil.

Things You'll Need

  • Twine
  • Gloves
  • Shovel
  • Herbicide (if necessary)
  • Pickax (if necessary)
  • Rake
  • Edging and fasteners (if desired)

References

  • Cornell University: Flower Garden Design Basics
  • Garden Mosaics: Raised Beds
  • University of Connecticut Cooperative Extension: Preparing New Garden Beds

Who Can Help

  • University of Illinois Extension: The Green Line
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About this Author

Kimberly Fuller has been a writer for 15 years, and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Utah. She has written successful grants for local schools as well as articles for Demand Studios, Constant Content and other online sites.