Flower Gardening Basics

Overview

Flower gardens provide color and texture to the landscape of a property. Taking the time to prepare and plan transforms a garden into a year-round showcase of flowers. According to Do It Green Minnesota, flower gardening isn't difficult, in fact it is a rewarding hobby for the entire family. Taking the time to understand the basics of flower gardening improves the success of the garden.

Prepare the Garden Bed

Step 1

Locate a sunny, level site. Beginning gardeners often experience the best results when planting flowers that require a lot of sunlight, also called a full-sun garden.

Step 2

Decide how large a garden you start with. Remember, you can always expand as you go. Starting too large is often the number-one reason gardeners become frustrated with gardening efforts. Begin small and work your way up to a larger garden.

Step 3

Mark the borders of the garden. For a garden with straight sides, drive wooden stakes into the ground at the corners, stringing twine from stake to stake. Round gardens and curves can be established with a garden water hose.

Step 4

Remove any grass from the garden area using a sharp spade.

Step 5

Turn the dirt using a hoe or shovel. Large flowerbeds may be easier to work using a tiller. Remove rocks and other debris from the soil.

Step 6

Take a sample of the soil to the local County Extension Office. The test will tell you the pH level of the soil, the nitrogen levels, phosphorous levels and potassium levels. The ideal pH for the average flower bed is between 5.2 and 7.8. Certain plants prefer more acidic soils, such as rhododendrons and azaleas. Organic matter, such as compost, will increase soil drainage, aeration and nutrient maintenance.

Step 7

Amend the soil using fertilizers and organic materials based upon the results of the soil test. Keep in mind that nitrogen builds foliage and phosphorus builds roots, bulbs and flowers, while potassium develops healthy stems. In general, the amount of nitrogen should be less or equal to phosphorus, according to the University of Connecticut. Supplement the soil with a 10-10-10 or a 5-10-5 basic fertilizer, if needed.

Step 8

Place plastic edging, pavers, landscape timbers or other bordering materials around the edges of the flower bed to create a border. While a border isn't necessary, it does decrease the spread of grass and weeds into the flower bed.

Design the Flower Garden

Step 1

Look through garden magazines or at online sources to determine the garden style that appeals to you and complements the surrounding area. For example, a formal flower garden features symmetrical plantings with clearly established boundaries. In comparison, a cottage-style garden mixes plants of varying heights that are seemingly tucked here and there without a preset plan.

Step 2

Choose types of flowers that fit the space, growing conditions and design of the flower garden. Think through the seasons, picking plants that bloom during different seasons. This adds interest and extends the beauty of the garden throughout the year.

Step 3

Lay out a basic design for the garden on paper. It doesn't have to be an absolute plan, but it will help when shopping if you have a general idea of how many plants you will need. Don't feel pressured to completely fill the entire garden at once. Fill in the garden as time and money permits.

Step 4

Purchase plants from a nursery, mail-order catalog or other retailer.

Step 5

Set plants around in the garden where you want them to go. Step back and make adjustments, moving plants around as you see fit. This allows you to get an idea of what the overall look of the garden will be.

Planting

Step 1

Use a shovel or hand spade to remove the soil in the spot where you want to place the plant.

Step 2

Moisten the soil in the hole using a watering can or garden hose.

Step 3

Remove the plant from the growing container by tipping it over and gently dumping it out into your hand. Do not grab the leaves or stem to remove it from the container, as this can damage the plant.

Step 4

Place the plant in the hole so that it sits level with the surrounding ground. Fill in with dirt, packing it down to remove any excess air. Continue the process until all plants are in the ground.

Step 5

Apply a 3-inch layer of mulch to the garden area to hold in moisture and delay weed growth. Water the garden thoroughly.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not pile mulch directly up against the stems of plants. Too much nitrogen can result in lots of pretty green growth and very few flowers.

Things You'll Need

  • Basic gardening tools
  • Water hose
  • Stakes and twine
  • Soil test kit
  • Tiller
  • Border materials
  • Flowering plants
  • Seeds

References

  • Portage County, Wisconsin: Soil Testing
  • University of Connecticut: Soil Nutrient Analysis Laboratory
  • Do It Green Minnesota: Gardening Mini-Manual
  • Cornell University: Flower Garden Design Basics

Who Can Help

  • Gardening-guides: Seven Basic Garden Tips
  • Plants & Gardening Tips: Flower Gardening Basics
Keywords: flower garden basics, starting a garden, growing flowers

About this Author

Lillian Teague is a professional writer and editor with more than 10 years' experience in taking hard-to-understand subjects and making them easily understood. She's written thousands of articles for newspaper, periodicals and the Internet. Published work includes VA publications, MMS publications, USAF's The Mobility Forum, Wheretostay.com, Rateempire.com, 1Loansusa.com and many others.