Creating a flower bed is like an artist starting with a blank canvas. There are very few limits outside of the available sunlight to consider. Once you know either where you want to create a bed or know what kind of plants you wish to grow and find the right sun conditions, take just a few steps to prepare for planting.
Chose the place where you wish to develop a flower bed and take note of the changing sunlight throughout the day. Does the space get just early morning light, dappled light all day through trees and building shade, evening light or all day sun? Understanding the sun will help you develop the best type of bed for the conditions.
If you have your heart set on a perennial butterfly garden and you see that your space gets nearly a full day of shade, you'll know before you begin that your chance of success there is not good and can plan another space accordingly.
Sketch on grid paper a general design of the shape of your garden. Don't forget to include any structures like sheds or fences that might be near your bed. Don't worry about what kind of artist you are--this is simply for your own brainstorming.
Plan your flower bed's plant layout on the grid paper. Generally, plant taller flowers towards the back of the bed if bordering a fence or wall and plant them in the middle of the bed can be viewed from all sides. Descend in height, mixing colors, bloom shapes and leaf textures as desired.
Take your rope or garden hose to the planned site and stretch out your design from your grid. Rounded edges tend to be more visually appealing.
Cut a sample of soil with a hand trowel about three inches deep and take to your local cooperative extension office for a free testing. Purchase or gather amendments as they recommend from the test.
Remove sod by using a spade or renting a special sod removing tool and throwing clumps of grass into a wheelbarrow for disposal. Simply tilling will spread seed and make grass a continued problem in your bed.
Mix in compost, manure, fertilizer or other amendments as needed based on your test. Turn amendments into the soil, 12-18 inches deep, and then run a tiller through it until it is a powdery consistency. Your bed is now ready for planting.