Assessing the Bed Foundation  

First, assess what you’re starting with in terms of soil, existing growth, and available space. Is the soil currently suitable for planting? Will it need to be tilled, fertilized, or prepared in some way prior to planting? Do you have existing plants—either flowers or shrubs—to work around? Do you want to keep the existing pants and/or shrubbery, or start from scratch? Utilizing existing plants and shrubbery can reduce overall cost and provide a nice foundation to work with provided it complements what you intend to plant.   

How to Clear an Overgrown Flower Bed

1. Pull Out the Weeds

To prepare your flower bed for new plants, you must clear and deeply cultivate the existing planted areas. To get control over short weeds, use a garden trowel – a shovel with a flat, pointed blade – to dig up the roots of the weed. Taller weeds can usually be pulled out by hand, and a trowel can help you free the roots from the ground. Make sure to clear out any leaves left behind, as they can further spread weed growth.

2. Clean Out Existing Plants

2. Clean Out Existing Plants

Once you’ve cleared out the weeds, roots and other debris, clean out old perennials. If you’re starting fresh in your new DIY flower bed, you can give the perennials away or dispose of them. If you’re not ready to say goodbye to your perennials, but it appears they’ve outgrown their space, dividing and replanting the sections in a new location will help them rejuvenate. You can save perennials to replant by dividing and potting them.

Follow up by using a weed killer on the newly cleared out soil. When you’re redoing your flower beds in the springtime, applying an herbicide after you’ve pulled weeds will set your garden up for success the rest of the year. Use caution when choosing a weed killer if you are planning to reseed your lawn, as it could interfere with grass growth in the surrounding area.

3. Prep the Ground

Once weeds and old plants have been cleaned out of the bed, rake through the soil to prepare your flower bed for composting. Soil should be smooth for the next steps, so it’s important to remove any rocks or gravel. If there are a lot of rocks in your soil, you may need a rototiller to remove them all. Learn more about how to remove rocks from soil and the tools you’ll need to do it.

4. Add a Layer of Compost

To enrich the soil and see more fruitful plant growth, lay a 2 to 3-inch layer of compost on the flower bed and turn into the soil with a shovel. Adding organic matter, such as compost, leaf mold, peat or manure, provides the soil with essential nutrients for your plants. Make sure you’re working with moist soil and turning over from about a foot deep.

For the truly sustainable gardener, learn how you can build your own homemade compost bin.

5. Remove Yard Waste to Start Fresh With Your New Flower Bed

When you’ve finished clearing your overgrown flower bed, you’ve likely accumulated a lot of yard waste from the weeds and plants you’ve torn out, as well as from excess soil and compost. You should haul all your landscape debris away from the newly cleared area in a wheelbarrow prior to building a new flower bed.

From a seasonal refresh to a complete garden overhaul, we’ll help you find the right yard waste disposal option for landscaping projects of all sizes.


4.  Clear out debris and dead leaves

Give your flower beds a fresh start. Spruce up the entire area, and remove any debris and leaves that are dirtying up your flower beds. Add any dead organic matter to the compost.

Also, cut any browned foliage on your perennials. This will make room for the new growth that’s about to push through. If winter temperatures have frozen and thawed your perennials, they may have popped up out of the ground. Push them back down into the soil so their roots are covered. Then, give them some water and a little extra mulch.

Building a New Flower Bed Step by Step

1. Add New Soil

Prior to planting your DIY flower bed, it’s important to lay a good foundation for the flowers to grow. If you visit a local garden supply store, a landscape expert may be able to recommend what kind of soil is right for your garden.

Lay down a layer of garden-specific soil about 6 inches deep and spread it across the bed, working it in with the compost you added earlier to help boost the nutrition and quality of the new soil. Once finished, give your bed 30 to 60 days to settle before planting.

Work with soil when it’s damp, but not wet. Digging soil that is too dry is difficult and can be harmful to the dirt, and soil that is too wet will clump when turned over.

2. Plant and Mulch the Flower Bed

Armed with our garden design tips from above, you can confidently bring your DIY flower bed sketch to life.

When arranging and planting your groups of flowers, consider how they’ll look from all angles around your home. This may include arranging them from shortest to tallest or putting color groups together. This is the step where you can really show off your landscape style and boost curb appeal.

If you’re replanting potted perennials, make sure to place them at the same soil depth they were at before. New plants should be placed at the same soil depth they had in their nursery containers. Any damaged roots or leaves should be trimmed before planting.

After planting, remember to water your plants until there are small puddles around their bases. Spread a thin layer of mulch throughout your flower bed to help retain soil moisture and prevent weed growth. However, mulch should never touch the plant stems, as it can kill them.

“I like using the stuff labeled ‘garden compost’ at our local yard products center. It’s black (instead of orange like bark dust), and feeds the soil as it breaks down, providing all the nutrition these shrubs will need.”

Jami Boys | An Oregon Cottage

3. Clean Up the Yard

As you wrap up your DIY flower bed project, determine how much yard waste you’ll be disposing of. The disposal solution you would need varies based on how large the job is, whether you’re redesigning a flower bed and removing dirt or removing multiple trees and shrubs from a big yard.

For a small seasonal refresh and weed removal, you can likely bag up the debris and use your city’s curbside service. If you’ve done a landscaping overhaul after clearing your overgrown flower beds, you may consider renting a dumpster to remove your yard waste. This allows you to clean up at your own pace, while getting rid of all your yard debris at once when the project is complete.

Step 6: Composting Adjusting Irrigation Tubes

The soil is smoothed out again & the drip irrigation tubes adjusted if necessary.

2” of compost is spread on top. This is a natural way to feed plants & conserve moisture. In this garden, it also hides the irrigation tubes.

mulch faqs

Q. What is the purpose of using mulch in the garden? Q. What makes good mulch? Q. What do you use for mulch in your.. Read More

Materials for no dig flower bed

  • Rolled cardboard, recycled cardboard or lots of newspaper
  • hose with nozzle
  • tape measure (to measure your space and calculate mulch and compost amounts)
  • spade shovel
  • garden gloves
  • compost
  • mulch

Not such a bad list of materials, right? Notice I didn’t include landscaping fabric. This method is way better than using that crap anyway. But… mostly I didn’t include it because you CAN’T use it for this method. The fabrics don’t allow for organic matter decomposition into the soil. And, that’s how we make a great, nutrient rich garden bed.

So, if you’re currently using landscaping fabric… your soil is probably in rough shape underneath it. And most weed seeds drop from above via birds and the wind so you’ll still have weeds. Try this awesome method instead.

Step 4: Plants Are Laid Out

The plants are laid out. I like to plant in blocks of color – it’s more restful on the eyes. The walkway bed is done in shades of pink & rose while the fairy bed is done in reds. Both are accented & tied together with accents of blue lobelia.

Wrapping Up

Well, that’s the easiest way that I’ve learned in my many years of gardening to make a new bed from scratch. It’s really a lot less labor-intensive than having to remove all of the grass, then tilling up the soil, then tilling in the compost, then ending up with a ton of weeds. This process used to be so frustrating for me and actually stopped me from enjoying gardening. But now… I’m throwing newspapers all over the place and starting beds without much effort at all.

What’s been your experience with no digger flower gardening? Do you have any tips or tricks to share that I didn’t include in this post? I’d love to hear about them!



The second type of bed is an existing bed that has

The second type of bed is an existing bed that has nothing in it. In other words, you are replanting the same area you used last year. With this type of bed, you can treat it similarly to the brand new bed, but it shouldn’t be necessary to layer the newspapers to kill existing vegetation.

Add compost to the bed

In either fall or spring or in both seasons, put a 2 to 3 inch layer of compost on the bed and then turn the compost into the soil. The single best thing you can do for your soil is to consistently add organic material. This will enrich the soil and help you grow better plants.

Once again, you only want to work the soil when it is moist, not wet or dry. To check your soil moisture content pick up a handful of soil and squeeze it.

  • If you squeeze out water the soil is too wet to work.
  • If the soil stays in a ball in your hand and then breaks apart when tapped, it is perfect.
  • If the soil is too dry to form a ball, it is too dry to work.

If you work soil when it is too wet, you will cause it to clump and become compacted. If you work soil when it is too dry, you harm the soil structure. Working soil when it is moist will help maintain good air porosity and soil structure.

Double dig to 12 inches

After you add the compost layer, you will want to turn the compost into the soil. As before, you can use a tiller, shovel or garden fork to do this. I prefer to use a shovel so I can get at least 12 inches deep. Double digging will again be optimum, but any incorporation of organic matter will be beneficial.

Apply a layer of mulch to the top of the soil

After turning this compost into the soil, you may want to put another layer on top of the soil to act as mulch. If you add organic matter in the fall, it isn’t necessary to add more in the spring. However, if you have poor soil adding compost twice a year can help improve the soil much more quickly. Remember that this organic matter gets used up each year and needs to be replenished to keep plants performing their best.

Rules of Thumb for Existing Garden Beds that are Empty:

  1. Add 2-3 inches of compost and turn it into the bed.
  2. Work the soil when it is moist, but not wet.
  3. Turn the soil over to a depth of at least 12 inches.
  4. Top dress with another layer of compost to keep down weeds and preserve moisture.

Giving Your Beds an Edgy Look 

After you’ve prepped the flower beds, think about edging around the bed to frame your beautiful work. Edging is a great way to separate the flower beds from the yard and make them stand out. Some grass varieties will spread if given the chance. So edging is often more than just an esthetic detail, it can also help prevent grass from overtaking your flower beds. To learn more about proper edging techniques, read, ‘How to Edge a Flower Bed‘. Choose either a simple shallow trench that you dig between your flower bed and lawn, or bricks, plastic edging, or wood to frame the beds. Each choice has its pros and cons, offers a slightly different look, but all serve the same purpose to keep flower beds looking good. 

15.  Add mulch

After doing your early planting and planning out where the rest of your plants will go, add a thick layer of mulch to your flower beds. If you wait too long to do this step, you may be leaving room for weeds to crop up, and you don’t want that!



Just like that, your flower beds are ready for spring! Enjoy the warming weather and the beautiful blooms that come with this fruitful season.


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