How to plan a garden bed

Lusting over the flowerbed of your dreams? Time to turn it into a reality. Here’s some handy advice on planning, designing and planting a brand new garden border.

To plan a garden bed, think about sun and soil

Before you get carried away mood boarding, take a step back and consider how much light your bed will get each day.

‘Full sun’ generally means a spot which gets more than six hours of direct sun a day. ‘Part shade’ gets four to six hours and ‘shady’ refers to an area in the sun for zero to four hours. Don’t panic if your bed gets limited sun. There are plenty of incredible plants that love nothing more than a shade-drenched border.

You’ll also need to figure out what kind of soil you’ve got. It could be clay, loam or sand and either acid, alkaline or neutral. Different plants like different soil types and will simply *not* tolerate others, so it’s good to be aware of any possible pitfalls before you start planning.

how-to-plan-a-garden-bed
how-to-plan-a-garden-bed

Settle on size and shape

You might be refreshing some existing flowerbeds or starting from scratch and creating your own.

Either way, you’ll want to think about the size and shape. Skinny borders are great for small spaces…but deep ones can have lots of plants packed into them. Some people prefer formal straight edges and others are into more informal, wafty curves.

If you have a lawn, use a string line to mark out the edge. Once you’re happy with the layout, grab a spade to start cutting and removing the turf.

Raised beds are also a great choice, especially if you’ll be gardening with kids or you have trouble stooping.

how-to-plan-a-garden-bed
how-to-plan-a-garden-bed

Choose your plants

Here’s where the real fun starts. Flick through catalogues freely, scroll websites and head out to garden centres and gardens to gather inspo. Start a Pinterest board to get a feel for the plants you like, that will thrive in your space.

It’s a good idea to go for a few shrubs or a tree or two to give a bed some structure. Tall outdoor plants should go towards the back (or in the middle of island beds), with smaller gems in front and fillers in-between. Consider plants for year-round interest too, so your garden isn’t just a one-season wonder. Add some bulbs for spring and leafy stalwarts with evergreen foliage.

Once you’ve got some ideas, draw a mini garden plan so you know what you’re doing (or look as if you do, at least).

Instead of buying one of everything and bunging the whole lot in willy-nilly, it’s a wise move to create some planting patterns to create more distinctive swathes of colour and texture.

Aim to plant multiples of certain plants to make them really stand out. Top tip: the *pros* always tend to go for odd numbers and plant in 3’s or 5’s (rather than 2’s or 4’s) to give their beds a more natural look.

how-to-plan-a-garden-bed
how-to-plan-a-garden-bed

Improve the soil

While you’re busy planning the greatest flower border the world has ever seen, do a little work to improve the soil in your bed.

Depending on the plants you choose, you might need to change the makeup slightly (by adding lime to acidic soil, for example) or add some goodness to the ground.

If in doubt, go for an organic mulch or dig in some peat-free compost or well-rotted manure to increase the quality of the soil while you decide what to put in it.

Gather everything together

Surround yourself with the kit you need to make your project happen. Raid the local garden centre or do a big outdoor plant delivery. Make sure your garden tool set is well stocked.

Planning on adding some flair? If you’re hell-bent on including a water feature in the centre of your bed, fixing trellis to the wall behind or going large on garden ornaments, make sure you have those to hand, too. Ideally, they’d be put in place before you start planting.

Bring it to life

Before you sink your new plants into the soil, lay them out in place in their pots to make sure you’re happy with the arrangement and get an idea of how it’ll look.

Don’t fall at the first hurdle. Remember to leave the recommended space around each plant - even if you’re growing a few of the same type together - to give them room to grow.

When you’re sure you’ve got everything just so, it’s time to grab some gardening tools and get those babies in the ground. Fill up the watering can and give them a good long drink to make them feel at home.

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