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How to Build Shrub Beds

Shrub beds add structured focal points to your landscape, providing a manicured and planned appearance to your yard. Building shrub beds is physically demanding work and takes some careful planning. You can build a shrub bed as a weekend project. When constructed and laid out properly, however, shrub beds will require minimal ongoing maintenance. There are three basic elements to building shrub beds: planning and design, preparing the soil and planting the shrubs.

Design the Shrub Beds

Lay a garden hose along the ground in the area where you want to build the shrub bed. Consider the scale of the shrub bed compared to the size of surrounding trees and buildings, as well as your house. Ensure that the shrub bed site gets the appropriate sunlight exposure for the types of shrubs you’ll plant.

Measure the shrub bed site’s dimensions. Sketch the shrub bed to scale on a piece of graph paper.

Mark on the graph paper where you will plant the various shrubs. Provide the appropriate spacing of the shrubs, placing the taller shrubs in the background of the shrub bed and the shorter ones in the foreground.

Replace the hose with landscaping flags or wooden stakes to mark the outline of your shrub bed. Match up the dimensions of the shrub bed to the plan you sketched on the graph paper.

Prepare the Shrub Bed

Edge the outline of the shrub bed using a lawn edger or a flat shovel. Insert the edger or shovel into the ground just below the sod level.

Lift up the grass sod to remove it from the shrub bed. You can use a flat shovel to accomplish this task, working a square-foot patch of sod at a time.

Break up the soil using a rototiller. You can use a pitchfork or a shovel if the shrub bed is relatively small, such as three or four square feet.

Spread a one- or two-inch layer of organic compost or aged manure over the tilled soil. Mix the compost or manure into the soil using the rototiller, pitchfork or shovel, working it into the top six to twelve inches of the soil.

Smooth out the prepared shrub bed using a garden rake. Set your shrubs in their planter containers in the bed and arrange them according to your sketch on the graph paper.

Plant and the Shrub Bed and Install a Border

Remove the larger shrubs from their planter containers and gently loosen the roots. Dig the planting holes for the larger shrubs, making holes that are the same depth as, and one and a half times wider than, the container.

Place the root balls of the larger shrubs into their planting holes. Backfill the soil and tamp it down to pack the soil well around the roots and eliminate any air pockets.

Remove the smaller shrubs from their planter containers and loosen their outer roots. Dig the planting holes for the smaller shrubs and plant them using the same method as you did for the larger shrubs.

Water the shrubs by soaking the shrub bed’s soil thoroughly down to the shrubs’ root level. Spread a two- to three-inch layer of organic mulch around the shrubs, covering the soil of the entire shrub bed.

Build a border around the shrub bed using plastic landscape edging, landscaping pavers, bricks or rocks. Follow the contoured outline of your shrub bed. If you’re using pavers, rocks or bricks, stack them no more than three layers high.


Try to make the shrub beds slightly curved instead of square or rectangular, as this is usually far more attractive.

Don’t be afraid to use several different kinds of shrubs in your shrub bed. Just be sure to research the types of shrubs that will acclimate and grow well in the area where you’ll build your shrub bed.

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