How to build a natural flowerbed from scratch


I’ve written an article on how to build a raised flower bed by way of sleepers, but there are many of us that want a more natural feel to our gardens and want to use nothing more than top soil and compost. Well the good news is, you can still create a raised flowerbed (to some extent at least) with nothing more than a spade, wheel barrow, top soil and some plants. Here is my short guide showing you how to do it!

Start by marking the area where your new flowerbed will be

If you are looking to have a straight edged flower bed then start by hammering some pegs around the perimeter of the area before using builders string to tie around the pegs. With a spade or edging tool go along the string line until you have made a perfect line. If you are going for a more curved flowerbed then there is no need to use pegs or a builders string, just simply make it up as you go along, making any adjustments as you go. Once done, its time to remove any grass so that you are left with something that looks like this:

If you are having your new flower bed at ground level then you will need to keep digging…

If you’re going to raise your flowerbed then there is no need to dig as you will be using new top soil to raise the bed, giving soft ground for the roots to dig into. but if you are going to have your new flower bed at ground level then you will need to dig out approximately 6 inches to remove any hard earth, grass roots etc..

Once the area has been dug, simply fill with rich soil or compost before planting your new plants and flowers. You can see our article on picking the best plants for your flowerbed here.

If you want a raised flower bed then it’s time to add top soil

I would recommend using a rich top soil to pack the flowerbed up as this will be easier to compact and hold it’s own shape compared to compost which will stay soft. Although it is always good practice to use compost when planting your chosen plants and flowers. Once done, you should have something that looks like this:

As you can see, the flower bed is raised with no edging boards or sleepers, a completely natural looking flowerbed.

If you are going to be decorating your flower bed by way of bark, slate, pebbles or any other aggregate then this would be the time to start laying your membrane, before planting. It is easier to do cross slits in already laid membrane to plant than to lay your weed prevention fabric after your plants are in as this means lots of cutting.

Now it’s time to get planting…

Everyone has their own taste and views on practicality when it comes to their flowerbeds but I’ve written a full guide here. In short however, there are 3 different types of plants depending on their life cycle. Annual, biennial and perennial.

Annual plants in most cases will give you most colour in your flowerbed but it’s not all plain sailing. These plants germinate, bloom, set seed and die all in one year. Some annual flower examples include Marigold, Geranium, Vinca, Zinnia, begonia, Petunia, Primrose, Dianthus and the Pansy.

Perennial are great value for money as they can last for many years, often losing their flowers in the Winter but bloom again in Spring and Summer. If you can get perennial evergreen plants for your flower bed then even better as they will stay green all year round compared to herbaceous plants which die off in the Winter. Some perennial flower ideas include Hostas, False indigo, Daylily, Lupines, Hydrangeas, Yarrow and even ornamental grass.

I wouldn’t recommend biennial plants as they typically have a life span of 2 years, germinating and growing in the first year and giving flowers in the second year before dieing off, but that being said you really do get some of the most amazing flowers. This does mean however that your flower bed will go without colour for the first year, giving colour in the second and then replanting in the third! Although you could always replant yearly giving colour every year. Some biennial plants include Canterbury bells, Forget-me-nots, Foxglove, Hollyhock, Honesty and Sweet Williams.

On this particular flower bed we went for a mixture of annual and perennial plants which gave a good balance of giving colour in the Summer months without too much replanting and maintenance.

Finally it’s time to decorate your natural flowerbed

This is completely optional but remember a bare flower bed means that you will need to spend more time keeping on top of your flowerbed pulling weeds. If you want to keep maintenance to a minimum whilst keeping the flowerbed looking natural then I would recommend the use of bark. Don’t forget to put down a weed prevention fabric or membrane first though otherwise it will be completely pointless, there is a full guide here.

If you want to take a more decorative over natural approach then there are lots of aggregates available such as shingle, slate, pebbles and more.

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