As winter transforms into a blossoming and warm spring, many homeowners begin considering flower gardens as a new hobby or landscaping interest. If you are new to the practice of keeping a flower garden, you may be wondering where to start. Before you begin planting a bunch of seedlings that may not be the best fit for your plot, it’s a good idea to do your research on native flowers and growing tips.
To help you get started, here is a step-by-step beginner’s guide for planting a brand-new flower garden.
Research Your Hardiness Zone
The first step to planting a successful flower garden is to choose plants that naturally grow in your USDA Hardiness Zone. The hardiness zone is determined by the USDA according to climate conditions. When you know your area’s hardiness zone, you can more easily identify which plants are acclimated to your region and therefore more likely to thrive.
Plan Your Landscaping
After determining your plant hardiness zone, you can plan your landscaping. For your flowers to grow healthy and bright, your garden needs sunlight, quality irrigation, and protection from bugs and other threats. As you decide on a plot for your garden, take these factors into consideration.
The timing and amount of sunlight that your garden receives will influence which plants are ideal for the space. Plants that enjoy partial sun or shade often grow well in the softer, less intense morning sun. Afternoon sun is often more intense with a stronger heat that may scorch your spring flower beds if left unprotected. Some flowers, however, thrive in full sun. Be sure to research your plants to find the best fit for your yard. Most plants at gardening shops will be labeled for “full sun,” “shade,” etc., or you can ask a garden expert at your local plant nursery for advice.
You need to be mindful of how water collects and drains in your intended garden plot. For example, the bottom of a downward slope in your yard has the potential to flood, so it may not be the most conducive area to plant a flower garden. If you still want to set your garden in a spot that is likely to flood, you might consider building a retention wall, leveling the area, or developing a drainage plan.
Protection From Potential Threats
As you set up your garden, it is important to build in protections against any potential threats such as invasive insects and other pests. Consider physical barriers such as insect mesh or floating row covers, or another method such as interplanting (growing different types of plants in close proximity for mutual benefit) to ward off any potential dangers.
Prepare the Soil
Once you find the perfect spot to build your garden, soil preparation is key to making the plot fertile and ready for new growth. This includes tilling and testing the soil as well as adding in nutrients to revitalize its capacity to support new plants.
Till the Ground
The process of tilling the soil includes breaking up any packed-in dirt to loosen the ground for planting. Tilling helps to mix organic particles in the dirt and control weeds. You should be careful not to till too deep and risk damaging the soil. Less than 12 inches of tilling is recommended to avoid this risk.
Test the Soil
You may want to opt for scientific testing methods to find out the composition of your soil, including its pH level (acidic or basic) and nutrient makeup. Knowing your soil composition is helpful for understanding which plants will grow best in your flower garden. This testing is often completed by a soil engineer but can be done using a soil testing kit from your local hardware store. This step may not be necessary for a small family flower garden, but you may find the process helpful in deciding on plant choices or if you’re planning to cultivate a larger garden.
Fertilize as Needed
After testing your soil, you might find that fertilizer is needed to supplement the soil’s nutrients. You can find more information about native soil needs and supplements at your local garden nursery or hardware store. Some areas may not require fertilizer while others may need the extra push after winter to reinvigorate the soil and make it healthier after a dry winter.
Cover With Mulch
To maintain a stable nutrient and water level, mulch is a great way to ensure plant health. Placing a layer of mulch over the topsoil (the uppermost layer of soil) will help excess water soak in and protect your plant roots from becoming overly saturated. Mulch also aids in the prevention of soil erosion and lessens the amount of soil that blows away in the wind.
Consider Ongoing Needs for Your Garden
As you decide which flowering plants you want to include in your garden, here are several factors to keep in mind for the long-term growth of your greenery.
Feeding and Watering
All plants require adequate water, and some need additional feeding through fertilizers and plant nutrient supplements. Consider your schedule and availability for watering your garden before including plants that require extensive daily watering. If you are not home often enough to complete regular feeding and watering or simply have a schedule that constantly changes, you might consider installing a watering system for automated drip irrigation or sprinklers throughout your flower garden.
Flower gardens require a significant amount of weeding to maintain the size and shape of the plant in the designated spot that you want it to grow. Many flowering plants will grow wildly out of control very quickly, which makes it difficult to ensure that the flower beds continue to look nice and neat. If you spend just a few minutes a day pulling any new weeds, your garden will have no issues staying clean and trimmed.
As the old saying goes, “Out with the old, in with the new!” And so it goes with plants. It’s important to remove dead blooms and other dead sprouts from the main living plant when they show signs of dehydration or color changes. Clipping these dying heads, known as “deadheading,” creates the capacity for new growth and stops sending water and nutrients to dying limbs so new buds can flourish.
Choose Your Color Palette and Select Your Plants
Finally, after all the preparation, here comes the best part: picking out your plants. You have a wide variety of flower species to choose from to create a flower garden aesthetic that works for your personal tastes and climate. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you consider which plants to cultivate.
Annuals, Perennials, and Biennials
Flowering plants come in three different types: annuals, perennials, and biennials. Annuals grow to their fullest capacity in one growing season and must be replanted each year. Biennial plants live for two full growing cycles (often two years) and then must be replanted the following year. Perennial plants are planted once and should grow back year after year without any new planting labor required.
Planting different types of plants next to one another in the same bed offers great benefits for flower garden success, such as pest control, soil replenishment, and plant health protections. Interplanting also helps support plant growth while adding a variety of colors and textures to your spring flower garden.
Seeds vs. Seedlings
Before planting, you may be considering whether to purchase a packet of seeds or seedlings. A packet of seeds, even high-quality seeds, tends to be cheaper than buying seedlings or starter plants. However, while seeds may be less expensive, seedlings offer the reassurance that the plants are already growing and healthy and ready to plant. They’ll also be ready to produce flowers much sooner than seeds.
Gather Your Tools and Get to Work
There are some basic tools that will be helpful to a novice in flower garden planting. You should invest in these items so you can continually work in your garden and complete regular maintenance throughout the season. These tools include a small shovel or spade, gardening gloves, pruning shears, a hand trowel, a hand fork or cultivator, a watering can, a garden rake, and a garden hose. Over time, you’ll add to your collection of tools as you expand your gardening knowledge or decide to add other features like a boundary around the bed.
Enjoy Your Blooming Flower Garden
Building a bright and blossoming flower garden is a labor of love. It takes time, energy, and resources to create a beautiful blooming landscape in a peaceful yard space. When you’re ready to start a new hobby and make your yard look lovely in the process, use these tips to create your own charming flower garden. When you’re done, the flower garden will be the perfect scene to welcome you home.
Melanie Theriault is a writer, counselor, and lifelong learner. She holds a B.A. in Sociology from Southwestern University, where she discovered her passion for fostering human connection through storytelling.