How to Plant a Garden Border

Flower and shrub borders provide color, scent, and seasonal interest, making them an essential part of the garden.

From: DK Books - Garden SXS
Summer Border Provides Color, Scent, and Interest

Summer Border Provides Color, Scent, and Interest

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Materials Needed:

  • plants of choice
  • garden hose
  • half-moon edger
  • spade
  • fork
  • manure or garden compost
  • sand or gravel
  • soil rake

Step 1: Mark Area

Mark Out Shape for New Garden Bed with Hose

Mark Out Shape for New Garden Bed with Hose

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Decide where in the yard you want your border and mark out its shape. For a curved edge, use a garden hose. Make sure the border is not too narrow and that its shape fits well within the overall layout of the garden. 

Step 2: Cut Garden Shape

Slice Through Grass Along Curve of Garden Hose

Slice Through Grass Along Curve of Garden Hose

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Using a half-moon edger or a small spade, carefully slice through the grass, following the contours of the hose. Make sure the cuts line up properly and push the full depth of the cutter into the ground. 

Step 3: Strip Off Sod

Slide Blade of Spade Underneath Sod to Remove

Slide Blade of Spade Underneath Sod to Remove

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

With a spade, begin stripping off the sod. Cut it into manageable-sized squares from above, then slide the blade of the spade under the roots of the grass. Try to avoid removing an excessively deep layer of soil. 

Step 4: Save Sod

Stack Sod to Be Used Somewhere Else in Yard

Stack Sod to Be Used Somewhere Else in Yard

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Stack the sod in a spare corner of the yard, grass side down. The soil in this sod is nutrient-rich and should be reused. After several months, the grass will die off and the pile can be cut up, sifted, and dug into the borders.

Step 5: Clear Debris

Remove Weeds and Prepare Soil for Sod

Remove Weeds and Prepare Soil for Sod

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Dig over the exposed soil with a fork, pushing the tines down to their full depth. Remove old roots, large stones, and debris that you unearth, and break up large clods of soil. Work the soil until it has a crumbly texture. 

Step 6: Spread Compost

Add Organic Matter

Add Organic Matter

©2008, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2008, Dorling Kindersley Limited

With a spade, spread about 2 inches (5 cm) of organic matter, such as well-rotted farmyard manure or garden compost, over the surface of the border. Turn the compost into the soil, and mix it in evenly. 

Step 7: Spread Sand or Gravel

Gravel Mulch Preserves Moisture in Summer

Gravel Mulch Preserves Moisture in Summer

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

If the soil is heavy or poorly drained, spread a 3-inch (8-cm) layer of coarse sand or gravel over it, and dig this into the top 6 inches (15 cm) of soil with a spade. This will help open up drainage channels through the soil in the root zone.

Step 8: Remove Remaining Debris

Rake Seed Into Soil to Just Cover It

Rake Seed Into Soil to Just Cover It

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Using a soil rake, remove any remaining stones, roots, or debris that may have worked their way up to the surface. Then, with the flat back of the rake, carefully level off any mounds and hollows. 

Step 9: Add Edge

Add Bedding Edge as Decorative Garden Touch

Add Bedding Edge as Decorative Garden Touch

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

To stop soil from spilling out onto the lawn, consider adding edging to the front of the border before planting. Use a level to make sure the edging is level. 

Step 10: Arrange Plants

Young Plants from Nurseries Grow in Seedling Pots

Young Plants from Nurseries Grow in Seedling Pots

©2012, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2012, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Set out the plants, still in their pots, on the ground, adjusting their positions until you are happy. Pay attention to their eventual size, flower and foliage color, and season of interest to achieve your desired effect.

Next Up

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Forget your spice cabinet, and grow your very own herbs with this step-by-step planting guide.

Grow Guide: Edging Gives Definition to Your Garden

Choose brick, English or metal edging for a neat border and a lawn barrier.

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This old-fashioned addition to the home or garden is tough to beat.