By Ken Lain, the mountain gardener
Creating a flowerbed of an exciting variety of flowers to deliver blooms all season long.
May is the month of flowers, so I couldn’t resist a column about flowers and creating the perfect flowerbed. It’s easier than you may think to create a garden plot overflowing with season-long bloomers.
The first planning step is to take a stroll through your landscape to find a suitable location for a flowerbed. Get a feeling for the shape and size of the yard to determine where you’ll be putting the bed. Take note of available light, nearby structures, the location of any underground utility lines, and the nearest water source. Also keep in mind that flowers hold their blooms longer in an east- or west-facing garden.
Use a garden hose, spray paint, or my favorite, baking flour, to mark out the potential shape of the new flowerbed. When building a raised bed, determine the type and amount of edging material. Once you’ve decided on the location, type, and shape of the bed, you are ready to prepare the soil.
Most mountain soils are a horrible mixture of clay and rocks. Consequently, the bulk of your gardening dollars and physical energy will be spent prepping the soil. It is difficult to get enough composted mulch into a new garden plot, but a 2-3 inch layer turned to one shovel’s depth is a good start.
While turning the soil for this new bed, work in three more amendments in addition to the mulch. Use my specially designed ‘All Purpose Plant Food’ 7-4-4, some ‘Super Phosphate’, and ‘Soil Activator’ to really give new plants a good start. The food will bulk up the plants, the phosphate will increase blossom size and fragrance, and ‘Soil Activator’ ensures extensive root development.
For really hard soil consider incorporating ‘Aqua Boost Crystals’. These extremely absorbent polymer crystals swell as they load up with water, which keeps plants moist through the heat of summer. As they release moisture to your flowers they create air pockets that help your plants’ roots to breathe and root deeply. A few of these crystals, while substantially increasing a plant’s root mass, also can cut water consumption by 50%.
If the soil in your potential garden is just too hard to dig, consider using raised beds. In many mountain gardens a raised bed is aesthetically appealing and makes for greater ease in planting, weeding, and tending. For proper root development raised beds should accommodate a soil depth of at least one foot.
Now the fun begins! Visit the garden center and put together just the right flower colors, heights, blooms, and textures for a garden filled with year-round blooms. Choose plants that are healthy and green. Don’t choose plants with fading blooms or browning leaves, and, when possible, select plants with flower buds still showing. Perennials need to be at least two years old before they bloom, so try to purchase mature plants of these varieties.
With plants in hand, get out your shovel and hand trowels, and head for the garden site. Before you dig, place each plant on the garden’s surface where it might be planted; move the plants around until each one looks its best. Once placement is decided, you’re ready to plant.
Once planted, mulch your flowerbed with shredded cedar bark, wood chips, or pine needles. Mulch keeps down weeds and creates an attractive, finished look. Also, as it breaks down it delivers additional organic nutrients into the soil.
Water requirements vary for every plant, but generally expect to water a couple of times a week. No more often if you decided to use the ‘Aqua Boost Crystals’. If you’ve created a rock garden, or planted extremely drought hardy flowers you may need to water only once a week until the plants are established and then rarely after the first growing season.
Now, take a look at your thumbs; they probably have turned a shade greener from having created this floral gift of love for your family, friends, and yourself.
Until next week, I’ll see you in the garden center.
Ken Lain can be found throughout the week at Watters Garden Center, 1815 W. Iron Springs Rd in Prescott, or contacted through his web site at www.wattersgardencenter.com or Facebook page www.facebook.com/WattersGardenCenter