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How to Plan a Flower Bed Garden for Beginners

If you are just dipping your toe in the gardening pool, planning your first flower bed garden can be intimidating! I have a few close people in my life who are incredible gardeners and I always seek out their advice when I have questions about my flower garden beds.

Tips for planning your flower beds this Spring | Building Bluebird #gardening #greenthumb #mulch #perennials

One of those experts that I call is Deb Unverferth. She has the most beautiful landscaping at her home and is always generous when it comes to sharing knowledge. I met up with Deb and we talked about her best tips for beginner gardeners when they start planning their flower beds.

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5 Gardening Tips When Planning Your Flower Bed

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1 | Plan Flower Bed Design & Layout

If you are building a flower bed from scratch or changing the layout, you want to come up with a design. This sounds overwhelming but it is really pretty simple. How big do you want the flower bed to be and how do you want the edge to be shaped?

Flower beds can have a curved edge or a simple straight edge. If you have a general idea of the types of plants you want to include in the flower bed, you should have a good idea of the size needed. Take into consideration the amount of space your plants will need as they mature and grow.

Beginner tips for planning and creating your flower bed garden | Building Bluebird

Deb prefers curved flower beds and uses the shadows of rounded treetops to decide on the shape. A garden hose is a great tool to try different flower bed designs. Once you have decided on a flower bed design, use spraypaint to trace the edge of the garden bed. A garden edger and flat shovel are good tools to create the shape of the flower bed.

Beginner tips for planning and creating your flower bed garden | Building Bluebird

Installing edging material helps to keep mulch in the flower bed and creates a clear delineation between the grass and garden.

Here are a few edging options available:

Tips for planning your flower beds this Spring | Building Bluebird #gardening #greenthumb #mulch #perennials

2 | How to Choose Plants

Deb and I both prefer to use native plants when filling our garden beds.

What is a native plant?

A plant that is a part of the balance of nature that has developed over hundreds or thousands of years in a particular region or ecosystem.

Native plants are generally easier to maintain, require less water and attract wildlife and pollinators. These plants tend to thrive in local climate and it saves money because you will use less water.

Tips for planning your flower beds this Spring | Building Bluebird #gardening #greenthumb #mulch #perennials

Here are a few of Deb’s favorite native plants to use in NW Ohio:

  • Hosta
  • Crab apple trees
  • Lilac bushes
  • Coneflowers
  • Spiria
  • Spruce trees
  • Pine trees

You will also want to consider perennial plants or annuals. Perennial plants grow back every year and annuals have to be replanted each year. I prefer to use primarily perennials in our flower garden and plant beautiful annuals in flower pots.

Tips for planning your flower beds this Spring | Building Bluebird #gardening #greenthumb #mulch #perennials

The great thing about perennials is that they can be transferred pretty easily and many of them can be divided into multiple plants. Most of the plants in our garden are perennials that friends and family divided from their own gardens.

Beginner tips for planning and creating your flower bed garden | Building Bluebird

3 | Where to Place Each Plant

Any plant that you purchase from a nursery or home improvement store will include a tag with instructions for care. This includes the hours of sunlight, watering, and how much to leave around a plant when it goes into the ground.

Sometimes when I look at their recommended spacing I think it is overkill, but it really is important when the plant matures after a few years and grows much larger. Here is our garden the first year we planted the garden.

Beginner tips for planning and creating your flower bed garden | Building Bluebird

And here is that same garden just a year later. The plants have grown so much!

Beginner tips for planning and creating your flower bed garden | Building Bluebird

If you have large bushes or shrubs you want to add to your flower bed, Deb recommends keeping larger bushes away from the windows. This placement will maximize sunshine coming into your home and will not obstruct your view of the garden from inside. Large shrubs and plants work great as anchors in the corner of a flower bed or between two windows.

Tips for planning your flower beds this Spring | Building Bluebird #gardening #greenthumb #mulch #perennials

4 | How to Water the Flower Bed

Installing drip lines throughout your flower bed is a great option for keeping your flowers watered.

Tips for planning your flower beds this Spring | Building Bluebird #gardening #greenthumb #mulch #perennials

My garden is made up primarily of native plants and I use a hose to water them every few days. Avoid watering your garden in the middle of the day when it is really hot. The water will evaporate more quickly and it can burn the leaves.

Beginner tips for planning and creating your flower bed garden | Building Bluebird

Every year we lay a fresh layer of mulch to keep the soil moist. I water our beds in the early morning or in the evening when the sun is low in the sky.

5 | Mulch Options

Mulch comes in a variety of different colors and you may not be sure which one to choose. Deb recommends using a color that doesn’t compete with the flowers – natural tones, like brown, that don’t have dye or pesticides.

Beginner tips for planning and creating your flower bed garden | Building Bluebird

When adding mulch to your flower bed, do not lay it down too thick. If there is too much mulch next to the side of your home, it can cause moisture issues. Deb’s general rule is to keep mulch off of the siding.

Beginner tips for planning and creating your flower bed garden | Building Bluebird

If you can, add a 3-inch barrier of rocks/pebbles between the house and mulched flower bed. Here are a few of the benefits when adding this rock barrier:

  • Prevents mulch/dirt from splashing on the house when it rains
  • Reduces fire risk – In Massachusetts, it is illegal to have mulch against apartment buildings because it is a fire risk (ex: dropping cigarette butt onto dry mulch)
  • Lowers the risk of pests penetrating the home

Deb’s Top Garden Nurseries in Toledo, OH


Tips for planning your flower beds this Spring | Building Bluebird #gardening #greenthumb #mulch #perennials

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