Spring is here which means it's time to get your hands in the dirt and start a simple flower garden!
It wasn't very long ago I was searching for posts like this to help encourage me. I thought I had a black thumb. I couldn't keep any plants alive and I wasn't entirely sure why. It felt like gardening was this thing that required talent and skill, and it does, but at the same time, it doesn't. I believe that anyone can start and be successful with a garden if they follow a few simple rules. And use this secret I'm going to reveal to you today. So, let's dig into how to start a simple flower garden for beginners!
Every year as far back as I can remember I have longed for a garden. As a child, you could often find me nurturing some seeds or a few small plants I'd managed to grow. At a point, my dad created me a raised bed so I could grow my own garden. I never had huge success and I hadn't much knowledge, but I had a lot of desire. After seeing the movie A Secret Garden I'm fairly certain it becomes every child's dream to have a paradise hidden away. That dream hasn't left me.
A couple of years ago I was planning yet another garden. I had dreams of beautiful flowers in front of my house. But I had no real success in years past so I wasn't really optimistic. It seems like I had these dreams, but didn't quite know how to accomplish them. It isn't that I don't like hard work or that I wasn't willing to put in the time. Although I often did get distracted as the original excitement wore off.
The foundation of a garden is the most important piece and it has been the one that always eluded me. Good rich soil is the bed in which your plant roots will find food or starve to death. This brings me to my #1 tip.
How do you prepare a flower bed before planting?
What kind of garden do you want? It is best to start small and work up each year and add on space and more plants as you get your feet up under you. Decide what area you want to place your garden in and start prepping it.
What you need to do to prep might change depending on where you want it and what kind of garden you want. Before you buy seeds or starts, get your garden beds set up. The main way to start to prep the soil is to clear the land. When I started alongside my driveway I cut my line all the way down with a flat head shovel. Then I dug out the entire space and eliminated the grass entirely.
I supplemented the area with top soil and a good organic compost.
However, if you want to get ahead of a garden before the season is upon you you can prep by putting down leaves, compost, and even cardboard boxes. This will encourage worms to start aerating the soil and fertilizing it with worm castings (worm poop).
#1 Decide what kind of garden you will want, where it will be placed, and begin prepping the area.
I chose to completely clear the grass in a section because I have invasive grass that likes to take over. Clearing it gives you a weed-free start and keeps it as pollinator/earth-friendly as possible. Plus, this way I was able to eliminate most of the grubs.
When Should I Start A flower bed?
This actually depends entirely on what plants you want to plant. Some seeds require cold stratification, many native seeds require this. Cold stratification is a process of treating seeds to simulate natural conditions. Cold hardy seeds may need that cold time and experience before germination can occur. This is why you may have difficulty growing particular seeds. In nature, these seeds would lay in the soil during all the snowy months which they actually require to successfully germinate in the spring. For more info on Cold Stratification, you can visit here.
Many bulbs require being planted in the fall for this very reason. So, the best way to know when to start is to either decide which plants you want and research them or decide when you want a garden and go find starts when your last frost date has passed and plant them.
#2 Decide what plants you'd like to use with a few considerations.
Native plants are the easiest plants to grow in any area for a couple of reasons, 1. They are already completely suited for whatever soil you have in your area, so you don't need to be particular about changing the minerals or having your soil tested. 2. They are perfect for your local pollinators and the entire ecological environment. 3. They're suited for the weather you will have! Already fit for your gardening zone. This is my secret piece of advice that many people don't talk about! The more you fill your garden with Native Plants the easier your gardening journey will be.
The best way to start a simple flower garden for beginners is to pick perennials for your main plants. In my humble opinion, if I'm going to go to all of this trouble and hard work I want to ensure it lasts for years. Annuals will only last a single season, unless they are self-seeding plants like zinnias (there are a few that self-seed which means there is a chance they will continue to come up yearly).
Starting plants from seeds is great and inexpensive, but I have found that I am almost never on time with the season and I almost always miss it because I procrastinate. So, if you're a procrastinator like I am, go buy some inexpensive annuals & perennials at your local nursery to start. Then start some from seeds for later in the season. But in the meantime, your hard work will appear as if it has paid off with those beautiful flowers to enjoy.
How do you lay out a flower garden?
This can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make it. The simplest way to lay out a flower garden is to assess the space you have, measure it out, then draw it on graph paper to scale (one square per foot of space).
Keep each individual plant in mind when you're planning so your tallest plants go in the back and the short plants go in the front. Also keep in mind spacing. To start it will look very bare, but when you feed your plants and as the season progresses they will definitely fill out! Simply look on the back of your seed packets to see their potential height and plan accordingly.
I'm a think on my feet type of person and because of this I've had to relocate several plants over time because I did not realize how big they were going to get. This is fine in most cases, though a bit inconvenient. However, there are a few plants that don't relocate well, require you to wait until they're dormant (winter months), or will just die if you try to move them. So, planning definitely has it's advantages!
#3 Think of this as a big experiment. Try things and see what works and what doesn't.
It's ok if you put a plant in and decide it's in the wrong place, they can be transplanted. So, don't let that keep you from making decisions. I had to move my Yarrow this year after my roses shot up and started to completely crowd them out. It's ok, it was quick and easy. I will eventually have to transplant my rosemary as well. A garden is an evolving thing. You're allowed to change your mind, also.
But don't do extra work for yourself if you don't have to there are some things that aren't so easy to transplant, like trees. Or things like peppermint that spreads quickly and should probably only be planted in planters. But at this point, you don't have to be worried about plant height placement unless you want to.
My first year I chose to plant bag roses, the ones you find for cheap at the end of the season. I purchased most of my roses for less than $5 a bag (some were $2) in the clearance section of Walmart and Home Depot. I also purchased several almost dead plants from Lowe's. The great thing about almost dead plants is you get a chance to either bring them back to life or know if they died it wasn't your fault. $1 is cheap enough I didn't feel bad taking a chance and it gave me great experience learning how to bring them back from death. I am happy to report all of the almost dead plants I purchased on clearance survived and are back this year thriving.
How do you make a flower bed from scratch?
Four easy steps:
1. Pick a space. Think about sunlight, shade, and any water or drainage issues you may have. Take the time to watch the area throughout the day and take note.
2. Clear the space. It is easiest to do this in the fall when the plants have died away mostly. Then once you've got it mostly cut down lay cardboard down over the entire area and weigh it down with rocks. The cardboard will break down and also encourage worms to work on your soil during the winter.
3. Consider your soil (does it need testing for nutrient deficiencies?) If it does this is a great time to put down compost and let it sit and soak in. You'll have much less chance of harming plants if you happen to put too much compost on. Mix it in to your current soil and cover up the bed for winter (cardboard or leaves, or both).
4. Pick plants for success (Native flowers and plants will be the easiest to grow, the hardiest, and the most beneficial for local pollinators). Or go to your local nursery and speak to someone there. Some of the easiest plants to grow will be popularly grown and sold. Pick something that won't discourage you by being particular, or outright dying.
#4 Have fun. Pick the flowers & plants that speak to you.
The bright & colorful or aromatic ones are the ones I am always drawn to. I do keep into consideration a few things however when picking which plants I purchase, is it edible? Is it poisonous? I have 5 kids and 3 cats so I never want to purchase something that could potentially endanger a life. There are some very beautiful flowers that are toxic like Columbine. I would rather choose useful plants that are edible, pollinator-friendly, native varieties, or aromatic before I would choose something just because of their beauty.
My flower garden isn't just for flowers either. A simple flower garden for beginners might just as well be a simple herb garden for beginners. I didn't realize how easy herbs are to grow! Rosemary, thyme, oregano, and peppermint will compliment your garden, are edible, hardy in most zones, and will help keep pests away!
The best piece of advice I can give you is to just get started.
Don't procrastinate for years like I did because you are intimidated by the process. You can get started on a flower garden for beginners right now, today, and have a beautiful piece of art waiting for you every time you go outside this summer.
If you like this post check out this post where I talk about How to Homestead from Scratch When You're Limited!
Thanks for stopping by!