Whether your property is large or small, you can enhance both its appearance and its usability by planting flowers and vegetables. If you have admired your neighbors’ yards or gardens you have seen pictured in magazines, it could be time for you to landscape your property with flower gardens and vegetable beds. If you begin on a small, simple scale, you can gradually increase the size of your landscaped areas as you find the time.
Walk around your property and evaluate the different areas in terms of the amount of sun each receives. Most vegetables need full sun, but some flowering plants prefer a shady environment and can add a splash of color to shady areas under large trees. If you don’t know whether your soil is sandy, loamy or clay, take a sample into a nursery and ask for expert advice. Make note of existing plants, such as any trees, that you like and want to keep.
Measure the areas of your garden that you want to landscape, keeping in mind that vegetables need full sun, but some flowers can tolerate a fair amount of shade. Map your measurements on a sheet of graph paper to give you an accurate view of the scope of your landscaping project. Don’t forget to include pathways as access points. Try to plan garden beds that will allow you to reach into the center without needing to step on the soil inside the bed--4 feet wide by 8 feet long is a practical size.
Make notes on your map to indicate what plant or plants you want to plant in each area. Taller plants, such as corn and delphiniums, work best toward the rear of a bed and at the north side so they do not hide or shade smaller plants. You can combine flowers with vegetables--some flowering plants are beneficial to vegetables because they attract beneficial insects, repel destructive ones and help the vegetables in other ways.
Weed or closely mow the areas that will become your garden beds and then lay down sheets of cardboard on top of the soil. You don't need to dig out unwanted lawn with this method because the cardboard will smother it.
Spread 2- to 3-inch layers of compost, topsoil, peat moss, chopped up plant parts, fallen leaves, grass clippings and other organic materials you have available. Anything will suffice, but be sure it is not diseased or full of insect pests. This method will result in a garden bed that is raised above the ground. You can build your beds several inches deep or more, depending on the type of plants you plan to grow. For example, small plants, such as pansies, need less root space than trees.