8 Easy Steps To A New Shrub and Flower Bed

8 Easy Steps to a New Shrub and Flower Bed - An Oregon Cottage

We recently finished our backyard border and I wanted to share how easy it is to transform a weedy patch of yard into a neat and tidy shrub and flower border in just a 8 easy steps and a minimum of time. Brian and I were able to complete this roughly 20 x 8′ bed in just a couple hours one Saturday.

This bed was the one last, wild area of our yard, located on the side of our house. It used to hold a cyclone-fence dog run (yeah, it was a beautiful thing to look at, let me tell you) left by the former owners. Since our dog doesn’t run away and sleeps inside, we didn’t need it (we’re reusing it as the run for the new chicken coop).

We need this area to be easy-care, but look good because it’s seen from the guest bathroom window inside and the gravel patio outside. So we decided to plant mostly shrubs in this corner that will help connect it to the rest of the border around the yard, but not take much care.

Every time we make a new bed or border in our yard, we take the same 8 easy steps to a new shrub and flower bed, no matter if we’re starting with grass or weed-filled ground (like this area).

Here are the 8 steps you can take to create a new flower bed, too:

1. Remove perennial weeds and any large weeds. The large weeds were easy to pull in this area and there weren’t too many dandelions, so this step went quickly. If it seems overwhelming, use black plastic to kill the weeds about a month before planting and then just rake them away.

2. Add a layer 2-3 inches of good garden soil. If you’ve got any composted manure, mix it in this layer. We’ve successfully used horse manure here (notoriously full of weed seeds) because we cover this layer with more layers.

8 Steps to a New Shrub and Flower Bed - Setting Plants | An Oregon Cottage

3. Place the plants, in their pots, where you’d like them to go. Moving them around during this step is much easier than after digging holes! Think about the size of the shrub when fully grown and leave adequate room.

This is the hardest part, I know! It looks so bare – but take it from someone who’s moved too many overgrown plants in her day…leave room for growth. Perennials I don’t worry so much about – they often need dividing and fooling with anyway, but shrubs are there to stay, so place them where they can grow fully.

4. Once you’ve decided on where the plants go, dig the holes. Now, instead of digging the whole bed (which in all honesty, we’d never do, so we cut corners in order to get it done!), we just make the holes for the plants extra big while incorporating some of the good soil and compost. This has worked really well for us – especially with shrubs.

5. Fill in around the plants with original soil mixed with good soil, and step down around the plant to get the roots firmly in contact with the soil. Then give each plant a good soaking with water.

6. Lay a soaker hose or a drip-type system down (for those of us without sprinkler systems). Make sure that the hose is next to all the plants, but it doesn’t need to circle them – only if you have enough hose to spare.

7. Cover the entire area with thick layers of newspaper or cardboard. (You can go here to read more about our newspaper-and-mulching system to keep weeds down.) Since we aren’t planning on planting anything else in this bed, we used cardboard which lasts a bit longer than newspaper. Put the paper underneath the soaker hoses (you could switch 6 and 7 and lay the paper first, of course, I just find that the hose helps hold down the paper, though I do have to keep lifting it up).

8. The last step is to cover the paper with a 2-3 in. layer of mulch (cover the hoses if you can, too). I like using the stuff labeled “garden compost” at our local yard products center. It’s black (instead of orange like bark dust), and feeds the soil as it breaks down, providing all the nutrition these shrubs will need.

That’s it! No heavy digging and a few hours of work and our weedy area was gone forever. Is that awesome, or what?


  1. says

    Thanks for hostessing. I have used this method to plant beds, and it really is easy. Much to be recommended. Your beds look wonderful. Thanks for your info on the OSU water wise gardening courses. I will check those out.

    Yael from Home Garden Diggers

  2. says

    Thanks so much for sharing how you so beautifully transformed a small corner of your yard! We’ve got three areas that will receive similar treatment on our property over the course of the next several months, so I’m appreciative of seeing how truly easy it is to “make-over” a small patch of dirt.

    This week I finally (after five weeks) posted a Garden Journal update and am sharing here today (#9) — thanks for hosting. While our strawberries are done, peas and lettuce are abundant in our garden right now, and the summer crops are beginning to take off!

    Happy gardening,


  3. says

    Hi Jami,

    You sure have been busy. Love the new shrub and flower bed! Gardening has been a challenge this year with the heat, drought and animals “snacking” on the plants. Thank you for hosting.

  4. says

    I love to take previously unused areas and make them beautiful. I had not heard of using cardboard as a layer in the yard. I wonder if it would break down as well in New Mexico…? We sure have enough weeds that I’d be happy to prevent them in any way possible and keep moisture in the soil.

  5. says

    The area you re did looks wonderful
    and will look even better once the
    plantings are established.
    I want to pull everything out back
    and bring in a dump truck with fresh
    soil.. it’s hot steaming and the soil
    is so salty here…
    Nice post, lovely yard.
    thanks for hosting once again.

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