How to Prepare Ground for Planting Flowers

Overview

Flower gardens have different soil requirements from lawns. Ground for use as a flower garden will need organic matter to lighten it and may need additions to correct pH and composition. Perennial garden soil must be prepared for permanent residents; soil for annual gardens can be re-invented each year. The best way to start is to have a soil test done at your local state university extension and get the agent's recommendations for your soil.

Step 1

Stretch a black plastic tarp over the garden site and let it "cook" for a two to three weeks to kill all vegetation. General herbicides containing glyphosate kill most grass and weeds, but you won't be able to plant anything for two weeks or more after using them.

Step 2

Cultivate the entire garden area to a depth of at least 6 inches and break the soil into pea-sized pieces. Pick out rocks and rake several times to remove weeds and dead plant roots. Level the soil evenly.

Step 3

Add at least 2 inches of a mixture of well-rotted compost with an equal measure of clean manure, humus or peat moss, depending on the soil's texture. Add more organic matter to a clay-heavy soil. Work the additions into the soil well. You should have at least 8 inches of rich garden loam when finished.

Step 4

Blend in a general garden fertilizer; about 2 lbs. of fertilizer (or equivalent organic source) for every 100 square feet of garden. Give fllowering plants more phosphorus than nitrogen (which is present in the organic addition anyway), so look for packages with an NPK number of 5-10-10 or 5-10-10.

Step 5

Correct deficiencies identified by soil tests. Add trace elements of copper and iron only in quantities specified in test summaries. A soil test also will specify how much compost and sand are needed to lighten a clay-heavy soil or how much manure and silt are needed to boost a sandy soil's loam.

Tips and Warnings

  • Don't add trace elements or pH corrections unless you have a prescription based on a soil test.

Things You'll Need

  • Garden spade
  • Garden rake
  • Cultivator or rotary tiller
  • Compost, manure and humus
  • Garden fertilizer (5-10-5 or 5-10-10)
  • Garden lime (gypsum) or sulfur
  • Black plastic tarp or drop cloth and bricks

References

  • North Carolina State University: Annual Flowers: Preparing the Soil
  • Cornell University:Perennials Site and Soil
  • Rose Magazine: Preparing Rose Garden Soil

Who Can Help

  • Utah State University: Preparing Garden Soil
Keywords: soil requirements, flower garden, soil preparation, prepare garden ground

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.