Tips for digging a flowerbed?

flowermum(South Z7)March 22, 2007

Don't laugh, but does anyone have any suggestions on how to dig a flowerbed in this heavy clay soil barring a rototiller? I've googled and read about using the layers of newspaper route, but has anyone tried this method and if so, how long did it take for this method to work?

I know good old fashioned sweat-equity will get the job done, but I'm doing it myself. The size I'm going for is approximately 7-9 feet wide by 18-20 feet long and 4-6 inches in depth.


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royzda1(z7 TN)

I have pretty heavy clay in parts of my yard and the newspaper method did not work for me. Even with four inches of mulch to hold it in place. I have a bermuda/fescue mix in the yard. The bermuda ran under the newspapers and started growing through the papers in a few months. If your yard is bermuda free, the newspapers might work ok. Removing the turf with a flat shovel worked well but it is absolutely back breaking work. I did a bed rougly 6'x15' this way and wouldn't try it again.

I would recommend two treatments of roundup, waiting a few weeks before the second application. If you have bermuda, you'll need to wait until it is actively growing in the summer or the roundup will have no effect. Then you can top dress the soil with a compost mixture. I buy a planting mix at Needhams in Mt. Juliet for top dressing beds. You can purchase it by the bobcat scoop. You really need to till it in, otherwise the roots will still be growing into the clay. I usually till in peat moss as well to help loosen the soil. Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2007 at 11:10AM
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flowermum(South Z7)

Thanks, your information helped me a lot! I figured there was "no" easy method. I've been reading about raised beds, and given the size bed I want, a raised bed may be easier or I'll try to find a handy-man to help me out.

Thanks again.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2007 at 4:35PM
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This is what I have done for any bed I want to make. I put down mulch about ten inches or more in depth. I don't dig up any of the grass. Then I make up some good soil mix & use that to fill the hole I make in the mulch to put my plants. I've been using this procedure for several years & it has worked for me. I bought mulch when I first tried this. We have a pickup I use to load the mulch. Now that our city leaf collection site has somone working fulltime to load the leaf mulch, I pickup several loads of leaf mulch each year. After a few years, I would scrape the top layer of mulch off to mix in with cheap top soil to put in any plant hole.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2007 at 1:13AM
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flowermum(South Z7)

I dug my flowerbed myself with the help of the Lord! It barely took a few hours. I am very proud of this accomplishment. I only went down a full shovel-depth and refilled with top soil and compost.

I'm so proud and overwhelmed! Now I have to design it. I know the look I'm after, I just have to figure out how to bring what I've imagined to fruition.

: )

    Bookmark   April 2, 2007 at 11:48PM
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Good Job! I know what a feat it is.

I did one myself a few years ago about 10 ft wide & 20 ft long & it took me almost 2 days to complete it & then a week to recover - LOL. Since then, I pick my next potential bed's location WAY in advance & use the newspaper with lots of compost, & topsoil on top. The earthworms love it & do a great job under there - you just have to be very patient.

I read about gypsum helping improve clay soil over a 3 year period - I think I am going to give it a try.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2007 at 11:05PM
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After a few beds by hand and tiller, I did some lasagna beds. I'm pretty happy with the method although I wish I'd started sooner and layered more materials. Some have produced a lovely soil (but not much) on top of my clay and rocks.

Depending on how much you have to do, I might start some now...and in the fall really apply leaves, grass, etc, etc. to be ready for next spring.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2007 at 7:38PM
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katiedidcottage(z7 TN / Chattanooga)

I know its kind of late but I just had a moment during lunch at work and its raining and I can't go outside. I've got some good pictures of how we did our raised garden beds. There are also some other pictures in another of my albums that show how good the plants grew in the raised beds.

This year, I've planted my irises and daylilies in the front 3 raised beds. Just trying something different.

Katie - see my link below

Here is a link that might be useful: Katie & Rich's raised garden beds

    Bookmark   May 2, 2007 at 1:44PM
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flowermum(South Z7)

Wow Katie!

Thanks for sharing. That is so helpful how you showed pictures of the progression of your beds. I want "more" beds, and I love the way your raised beds turned out.

I will save your pictures for future reference.

Thank you for being so generous.
: )

    Bookmark   May 7, 2007 at 6:02PM
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