Stop staring at that brown patch of dirt by your patio/fence/front door! You don’t have to have a green thumb or be a landscaping genius to create a beautiful flower bed you’ll enjoy year after year – you just need to take it step-by-step. Here's how to design a great-looking flower bed that won't require a ton of maintenance:
Step One: Get some ideas. Before you grab your garden gloves and shovel, sit down at your computer and design your garden virtually – through design tools such as this one and by looking up gardens on websites such as Pinterest. Jot down what you like – and if you think you'll forget, make a note of how tall the plant is.
Step Two: Survey your area. How's the soil there? Is it too sandy or high in silt? Does the area get full sun or partial shade? How easy will it be to water the area? And, does the area have good drainage? You may have to amend your soil, choose different plants based on soil and sun conditions, or correct any drainage issues.
Step Three: Double-check your planting zone! If you trust your local nursery, they can tell you what will grow in your area outdoors and what can't. Or, check this hardiness zone map. This is a very important step – don't skip it! My neighbors once spent an entire weekend planting hibiscus trees – in Atlanta. The first time the temperature dipped below freezing, all of their hard work vanished – replaced by holes in their yard where the poor trees used to be.
Step Four: Buy your plants. Make sure they are healthy-looking. A healthy plant will have nice, green leaves – no yellow ones. If you see yellow leaves, the plant may have insect issues, it wasn't fertilized properly, or it wasn't watered correctly. Lift the plant up gently from the container and check the roots. You don't want to see roots that are soft and black. Also, you want a plant with lots of healthy-looking buds. Be sure you select a good mixture of plants, including taller grasses and ground-level flowering plants. You want at least three of each plant (keep it an odd number – it is a design trick that really does work!).
Step Five: Find your anchor. Beautiful flower beds all have a common element -- a terrific focal point that will become the center of the garden. It can be a terrific old (rusty!) iron sculpture, a wooden bench, an arbor, or a water feature.
Step Six: Prepare the area. You'll want to dig up the area and remove all grass, tree roots, rocks, and weeds. Leave the soil loosened and add organic matter, such as compost or fertilizer. Smooth the area with a rake, removing any debris you may have missed. If you want, you can add a border around your flower bed to keep the grass from creeping back in.