Friday, January 26, 2018

Making a New Flowerbed

I promised I was going to start sharing more about landscape this coming year. Let's start by talking about new flowerbeds.

I was fortunate that I had a blank slate when constructing the new house. The guys that installed our irrigation system were the same guys that laid the sod. They used their small bulldozer and leveled the ground and put sod in the correct spaces and leaving the bare spots for flowerbeds. I had given them my landscape design to follow and they did great!

Over time, I have changed the shapes of beds and I wanted to share that process. It's not as hard as you might think. The thought of removing grass is scary in our red clay, but I only did that once when I wanted to reuse the sod in another location. The rest of the time, I cover up the grass!

This past weekend, the weather was warm so I played in my yard. Like I mentioned in my January Gardening post, this time of year you can still do things. You can plan things and spruce things up. With the leaves removed from plants, you can see a lot more and fix things. I was only planning to "plan" out my projects this past weekend, but then I just started doing more.

It has always bugged me the small mulch ring around one of my Maple trees. It was a large tree when we planted it, but the ring size felt so small and the mulch never stayed. I think each time we edged around the grass ring, the mulch was flown into the grass.

I decided to make it bigger. This would help the mulch stay in place (or the mulch in the center would and that's where it is important) and it would feel proportionate.

I used leftover spray paint and my yard stick. I put one end of the yard stick at the trunk and marked the end of the yard stick. I connected the dots all around the tree. I then used my shovel to trace the paint line. This would separate the grass roots.

Next up, I used my weed eater to scalp the grass inside the circle. I scalped it to the ground. We have Bermuda grass that is very invasive. This is good for filling in bare spots, but you want to keep the runners in their designated space. During the cold months, the Bermuda grass goes dormant. All the brown blades will eventually fall off and new green blades will appear. The brown does not change to green. In March I will scalp the entire yard ( kind of ) to encourage the green. But I don't scalp it to the ground like I just did in this circle.

I then laid leftover newspaper on the scalped section. It was a windy day, so I could only lay one piece at a time and then throw a handful of mulch on it to keep it down. A handful was enough. I did one sheet and one handful until I got all the way around. The newspaper will break down and enter the soil eventually. The newspaper and the thick mulch layer will block the sun from getting to the old grass and it will really die.

Once I got all the way around, I had a new, larger mulch ring for a large tree.

I made it as wide as the flowerbed that was near it.

It's something small that will go unnoticed, but in a decade when the tree is huge, it will be the right size and there won't be this tiny mulch ring for a huge tree. I'm sure the shade from the Maple would kill some Bermuda underneath, but now it is already taken care of and neatly done.

Now, while I was out there, I created a new flowerbed using this same technique. I had a Dogwood tree on the side of the house that didn't do well. There is just something about Dogwoods that I don't get. I tried them at the old house with no luck and replaced them with Eagleston Hollies.

The dogwood would have been a beautiful option to fill up the space between us and our neighbor, but I chucked it with the trash last week. And when I pulled it up, I didn't need a shovel. Its roots were gone, which just verified it was really dead.

I thought hard for a replacement, but I couldn't come up with just one tree. I kept thinking of a grouping of three trees, and those Eagleston Hollies were constantly popping in my head. But if I went to three trees, I needed a larger flowerbed. So, I marked where three trees would go first and then used my yardstick to mark their canopy. The "canopy" is how far they stretch out. I then connected the canopies of the trees to create the flowerbed.

I had many "dots" where I played with the placement of the trees and then I put a circle around the final choice.

I then took the weed-eater and scalped the grass.

I could then see the shape of the new bed and I liked it. It now feels like it belongs to our yard and not just some leftover vibe that it was giving.

I have not planted the trees yet. I don't even have the trees. I actually didn't scalp the grass where the trees are marked so that way I wouldn't lose my placement. But once the trees are planted, I will then use the newspaper and mulch technique to make it a flowerbed. I also plant to put some daylilies in the new flowerbed. I have those and they are part of the reason I made the bed larger. I needed a spot for them!

And while we are on the subject of flowerbeds, I wanted to share a picture that is my guide of what a blank-canvas flowerbed should look like. You want to build up the dirt mound to be higher than grass level. The picture below is a great example and what I use to mimic when I am creating a flowerbed.

I didn't use this the first go around and my plants let me know they were unhappy. So I dug everything up and did it just like the picture and the plants are thriving!



I don't plan to plant the trees now since it is so cold, but I'm not going to wait past April. The grass will start greening up and I need to have that scalped grass covered so I am not fighting it!

I hope this helps make the task of creating a new flowerbed less daunting. The task of removing grass feels big, but you can make it really simple.

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