Creating a New Garden Bed

Good soil is the foundation of a garden bed

Good soil is the foundation of a garden bed

What do you do when you've run out of bed area to plant all the shrubs and flowers you want, or have moved into a new home without enough garden beds to make you happy? Make some new ones!

You will need

  • Four (4) bags of soil conditioner (finely ground pine bark) per 100 square feet of bed area

  • Quality topsoil (optional) at the rate of 1 cubic yard per 100 square feet of bed area

  • BioTone to add at time of planting (per package directions)


Delineate the bed shape by using a garden hose to create the bed outline. When you are satisfied, mark the bed shape using inverted marking paint. To eliminate any existing grass, spray the bed area with a quality herbicide like Roundup. Sometimes a second application may be necessary, depending on the type of grass.  Wait about a week before tilling. Before tilling, cut a smooth edge around the bed area using a flat spade or a bed-edger. The edge should be in the shape of a “V”, about 3-4 inches deep, tilted away from the lawn area. When you are ready to till the bed areas, simply spread the soil conditioner and topsoil (if you use it) evenly over the area to be tilled. Then till everything in at one time. Till thoroughly, but don't till around shallow-rooted trees such as dogwoods or Japanese maples, since root damage can lead to potential problems with your trees.

If you need to add topsoil to your bed areas choose sandy, loamy topsoil that will aid in good drainage. To build the bed up by three inches, add topsoil at a rate of one cubic yard per 100 square feet. Remember; do not pile soil against tree trunks or over naturally exposed tree roots. This can:

  • Lead to the development of disease

  • Induce rotting of both the outer and inner bark of the tree

  • Deprive the tree of food and water and eventually cause tree death

To create annual, vegetable and perennial bed areas follow the same technique outlined above for creating general bed areas, but for each 50 square feet of bed add: 

  • 2 bags of Espoma Planting Mix or Ocean Forest Potting Soil (one of the only “potting soils” suitable for amending planting beds)

  • one 50 pound bag of manure

  • Osmocote or Plant Tone fertilizer by directions on package

Additional Fertilization

Shrubs, trees, perennials, and annuals can be fed Tree and Shrub Fertilizer, Plant Tone, or a slow-release fertilizer. These slow-release fertilizers are better for your plants because they release nitrogen slowly over a period of several months. This creates healthier plants and a healthier environment, by preventing excess nitrogen from washing into our waterways.

Finishing Touches

Use mulch to achieve a finished look. If you use pine needle mulch, try this trick for a professional touch. Mulch the bed with pine needles, allowing the needles to extend over the “V” edge you made with the spade before tilling. After mulch has been spread, simply tuck the needles into the “V” with the spade. This technique will give you a neat, professional look.