How to Renovate a Planter/Flower Bed Like a Professional Landscaper

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Ever wonder why professionally landscaped planting beds look so great? 

Pros don’t cut corners. They take the time to properly prepare the bed before planting.

A few key steps guarantee success. Skip them (you know who you are) and your bed won’t have that crisp, clean look and healthy, thriving plants.

healthy plant and flower bed with mulchKim Rubert, landscape designer at Outback Landscape, shares her pro tips on how to renovate a flower bed.

How to Redesign a Flower Bed

1. First, Clean It Out

Overgrown, neglected flower beds can be a real mess of weeds, dead flowers, rocks, ratty mulch, and decomposing leaves.

Yuck.

“Clean it all out so you can start fresh,” Rubert says. 

2. Add Screened Topsoil

“An old bed is probably depleted of nutrients,” Rubert says. “Till in some compost with the topsoil and add granular fertilizer. Get it nice and enriched.”

Pro tip: “Don't get too crazy with the fertilizer,” Rubert says. “You can burn plants if you use too much. Follow the manufacturer’s directions.”

Will there be shrubs or trees in your bed? Use fertilizer tablets that tuck in the ground for them, she suggests. 

3. Put Down Weed Barrier Fabric

How to renovate a flower bed with plastic? You don't. When we say fabric, we mean fabric. Don’t use plastic. 

“Water can’t penetrate plastic,” Rubert says. “We’ve ripped out lots of plastic weed barrier.”

Pro tip: Use 20-year fabric, not the five to 10-year type. It will say so on the package.

Use the cheap stuff, and you’ll have to do this whole progress again before you know it.

The fabric goes down right on top of your topsoil.

But don’t use weed barrier fabric if you’ll be planting bulbs, Rubert says. They won’t come up through it. 

And don’t use it where you’re planting annuals.

“You’ll be digging up annual beds a lot,” she says. 

“You might have to weed a little bit, but annual beds will get thick pretty fast, so weeds aren’t much of an issue.”

Overlap the edges 4-5 inches to discourage weeds from growing in between.

Cut an X where each plant will tuck through.

“Staple” the fabric every few feet with big landscape staples you push in with your fingers.

4. Now, the Fun Part: Add Plants

Tuck your pretty new plants into each X you sliced into your weed barrier fabric.

Pro tip: Proper spacing, please. Keep in mind the size of the plants at maturity, not now.

“You have to leave room for when the plants get bigger,” Rubert says. 

Healthy flower bed in Idaho FallsIt’s tempting to pack them in close, but if you do, you’ll just have to remove some later when they grow and are packed in like sardines.

Be sure to include what Rubert calls “permanent plants” — shrubs and perennials, not just annuals.

She arranges perennials and shrubs and leaves large pockets here and there for annuals.

5. Next up: Add Bark or Mulch

How to redesign a flower bed with the best finishing touch? Top it all off with 3-4 inches of bark, mulch, or rock on top.

Which one? 

Rubert prefers bark at her house. She likes the way it looks.

It’s a real work horse, too: 

  • Bark mulch conserves water, by holding in your soil’s moisture so you need less irrigation.
  • It protects your plants’ roots from extremes in temperature, keeping them cozy in cold weather and cool in summer’s heat.
  • As it decomposes over time, bark mulch adds nutrients to your soil.
  • And, maybe everybody’s favorite mulch benefit: it discourages weeds from popping up, keeping everything dark so the weed seeds can’t sprout.
  • Finally, mulch just looks great, adding a tidy, uniform appearance to your beds.

“But you have to replace mulch,” Rubert says. “It wears thin or it blows away.”

The Case for Rock

Shrubs and plant bed with rocks instead of mulchRock, on the other hand, stays put. This is a plus if you have a lot of wind, and your shredded bark keeps blowing away with every big gust. And, you don’t have to reapply it every season or two. 

Rock also creates great drainage, if you have excess water issues on your property. 

But rock doesn’t add any nutrients to your soil, because it doesn’t break down over time. 

Pro tip: If you prefer rock, but like the rich, dark look of mulch, opt for “Perma-Bark,” Rubert says. This basalt rock mined right here in Idaho contains black and brown tones similar to the dark color in bark mulch.

For commercial properties, Rubert likes one-inch river rock.

”It’s super cheap, lasts a long time, and looks nice,” she says. 

How to Redesign a Flower Bed? Ask Outback

Now that you know all the steps, are you tired?

Go easy on yourself and let the pros at Outback Landscape do the hard part.

You just relax and enjoy the pretty flowers and plants. 

We serve residential and commercial properties in Idaho Falls, Rexburg and Pocatello, Idaho, as well as Bonneville, Madison and Bannock counties.

Call us at 208-656-3220. Or fill out the contact form to schedule a no-obligation meeting with one of our team members.

We can’t wait to hear from you.

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