When designing a new landscape or re-landscaping an existing one it is always a good idea to start with a design. This is especially true when installing beds and borders whether it is done by a do-it-yourselfer or a professional.
To begin a design ask yourself these questions. How much time do you have to work in a garden? What are the growing conditions of the plants that you want in this bed or garden? What is the style of your house and what material should be using to enhance the beauty of the landscape?
A bed is a grouping of plants with no vertical element to define it, which means it can be seen from many different directions. A border differs from a bed in that a border has a vertical element such as a wall, a fence, or a hedge which defines one or more sides of a border, creating a back, front and sides to the garden. These definitions become important when looking through books or the internet for designs that will meet the design needs.
To get started consider whether or not the designer wants beds or borders to define property boundaries, create privacy, enclose outdoor dining area or frame a picturesque scene. Once this is decided, then a design can be chosen.
Several factors determine the design of a successful bed or border. First determine the location and the amount of space that can be allotted for this bed or border garden. Using a tape measure and a pad, write down the measurements of the bed or border. Using stakes and string or a water hose to give the designer a general idea of what the bed or border will look like. Taking pictures of the vantage points from which, the actual view of the bed and borders will help determine the new garden from a patio, the front walkways, the kitchen window and other views.
By looking over the photos the designer can determine if any trees or shrubs should be removed. Also, what is the amount of sunlight available and the quality of soil. If old beds and borders were removed, it is a good idea to note the type of plants that thrived in this area. This is an easy way to figure which kind of plants to use in the design.
There are many plants and designs to consider. Start by looking at exiting landscapes in your area. Look for both color and style. Color and style, remember, comes from not only the plants but also from the house, the hardscape elements (shingles, adobe, bricks, fences, shed) neighborhood and area terrain.
The most important elements in a successful design are the plants. Use trees and shrubs to provide the foundation of a bed or border. Use perennials, annuals and bulbs to provide a changing display of color and texture. Many woody plants provide color from autumn foliage, berries, variegated foliage and colorful flowers.
Before planting, it is important to prepare the soil thoroughly so that the plants stay healthy. A soil test from the county Extension office will determine what nutrients are available, soil pH and what nutrients needs to be added. Most plants benefit from a healthy amount of organic matter mixed into the soil. Spread 2 to 3 inches of organic material over the soil and till in. Additional fertilizer such as 13-13-13 or 10-20-10 or an organic fertilizer can be added and worked into the soil at tilling.
Supplemental watering is a must in Oklahoma. If a water source is located in or near a bed or border then soaker hose, sprinkler systems and dragging hose will supply water needed to keep plants healthy.
Jim Coe lives in Lawton and writes a weekly garden column for The Lawton Constitution.