When you want to start a new flower bed, why bother cutting out and removing the sod, then double-digging the soil (which only seems to serve to bring up low quality subsoil full of weed seeds and move it to the surface)? Just use the “laidback gardener” technique: it gives you much better results (a garden with rich soil and no weeds) and it’s sooo much easier to put in than the traditional method.
Here’s how to do it:
- Trace the outline of the new bed by placing a garden hose on the ground and moving it around until you get the shape you want (usually a somewhat wavy edge is more attractive than a straight one).
- Install lawn edging along the outline to prevent creeping weeds, especially lawn grasses, from moving back into the new flower bed. This is, in fact, the most tedious step, but you need to do it right if you don’t want the old lawn invading your brand-new flower bed!
- Soak sections of newspaper in a bucket of water. No, newspaper is not toxic! These days, even the color sections are produced with vegetable-based inks and are considered fully acceptable in organic gardening circles.
- Cover the entire surface of the new bed with a layer of 7 to 10 sheets of damp newspaper. It isn’t necessary, or even useful, to remove the sod beforehand, because the paper will form a barrier that will cut off all its light, therefore killing the sod and turning it into compost.
- Cover the newspaper barrier with 8 inches (20 cm) of top quality, weed-free garden soil. If you use quality soil, you won’t need to add fertilizer or compost.
- Plant perennials, annuals, shrubs, etc. at the appropriate spacing (about their mature diameter minus 15%). You want the plants to touch each other at maturity, otherwise you’ll leave bare spots… and weeds just love open ground!
- Cover the soil between the plants with 7 to 10 cm of fine mulch (shredded leaves, ramial chipped wood or forest mulch, for example). Avoid cedar mulch as it’s toxic to beneficial soil organisms and even slightly toxic to young plants!
You’re already done: break out the champagne!
Weed seeds are carried by the wind and birds and thus will soon start to arrive in the new garden, but if you mulch the soil, they won’t be able to germinate, as they can’t do so in thick mulch. As a result, you’ll be starting in a bed not only free of undesirable plants, but that will remain so as long as you keep topping up the mulch as it decomposes. Also, mulch helps keep soil slightly moist, prevents it from becoming compacted and enriches it as it decomposes.
Altogether this means that not only did your flower bed only take a few hours to install, but will require much less work in the long term than the traditional back-breaking, blister-causing double-dig flower garden. In fact, the only maintenance you’ll really need to do the first year is to water during periods of drought!
What are you waiting for? Start installing the garden of your dreams today!