Making an Annual Bed

What you’ll need

  • Graph paper
  • Pencil
  • Spade
  • Hoe
  • Mattock
  • Shovel
  • Rototiller
  • Rake
  • Trowel

step 1: Plan the Bed

You probably already know where you’d like to have an annual bed. Go to that spot and lay out a garden hose to outline the area. Move the hose around until the shape is just right, then mark the outline with garden lime or marker paint.

Now draw the outline on graph paper, the kind with 4 lines per inch. Use one square on the paper to represent one square foot. Make a few copies of the outline and play with them, planning a design and selecting annuals to fill it in. Keep the design simple for the most effective bed. You might wish to do this planning at the garden center, where you can see the available plants and read their labels. The label will tell you how far apart to plant them. Draw the plants on the plan, then buy the number of each annual you need.

step 2: Remove the Turf

With a spade, cut out the outline you drew on the ground to a depth of about 2 inches. Remove the turf by cutting it into strips about a foot wide with the spade, then undercutting with the spade held horizontally as you roll up the turf. Use the turf to patch bare areas or extend your lawn. It will keep for weeks unrolled and kept watered.

If you don’t want to keep the turf, cut it out with a mattock or heavy hoe. Don’t try to till it in; chunks will get in the way of planting, and much of the grass will re-sprout.

For annual beds being put in places other than lawns, remove any vegetation with a hoe. If the area has been growing weeds for a while, see Controlling Weeds in New Gardens.

step 3: Prepare the Soil

Spread 2 inches of  Organic Compost on the area. Add lime if your region has acid soil (ask at the garden center). Sprinkle with slow release plant food according to label directions. The Osmocote will feed the flowers all season.

Turn over the soil to a depth of about 6 inches with a shovel or rototiller. With a garden rake, level and smooth the bed, and remove clods and stones from the top couple of inches.

step 4: Plant the Annuals

Remove the annuals from their containers and position them according to your plan. Adjust the spacing before you begin to plant. If the weather is hot and dry, do this early or late in the day to avoid drying out their roots. Once you have them just right, plant each one right where it lays. Stab the trowel into the ground, then pull it toward yourself to make a hole. Set the plant in the hole so the soil level is the same as it was in the flat, and firm the soil around it.

Mulch the bed with 2 to 3 inches of fine-textured attractive mulch and water thoroughly. The mulch will help prevent weeds from sprouting and make the soil cool and moist for the annual roots. In a few weeks, you annuals will completely fill in the bed and make a glorious display until frost.

If they begin to look straggly late in the summer, cut back the straggly branches to 2-inch stubs. New growth will sprout from the stubs and fill in quickly. If you cut a few plants back every week, the bed will never look bare.