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Create A Garden Bed

Location, location, location!

A good way to add plants to your garden is to group them into a garden bed. This unifies your plants and makes it virtually appealing. Grouping plants also makes it easier for the gardener to care for them.

Where do you want your garden bed? Maybe there is an area in your garden that feels empty, or you want to attract birds, hummingbirds, and/or butterflies, or you want to change things around and make your garden more visually attractive.

Design a Garden Bed

How would you like your garden bed to look? Here are some design suggestions:

  • Linear: Along a wall, fence or walkway
  • Corner: Where walls, fences, or paths meet
  • Three open sides: Against a section of a wall, fence, or walkway
  • Island: Center area

Choose your Plants or Design Part II

For your location, notice if this is a sunny, party shaded, or shaded area. Does it collect water or stay very dry? Do you water the area now and plan to use less water? Are there existing plants nearby, and would your new plants grow into them? Where does the area face- north, south, east, or west? Are you interested in attracting birds, hummingbirds, and/or butterflies? Do you want easy maintenance? Do you want to create privacy in the garden? These are things to think about because your response to these questions will affect which plants you choose for your area.

We have made lists of Valley native plants for the garden classifying them into tall and small trees, tall and short shrubs, herbaceous plants (that is, non-woody), groundcovers, and vines. Cultural information is included: usual mature height/width, does it grow best in sun/part shade/shade, evergreen vs. deciduous (leaves stay on all year round vs. leaves fall), habit (spreading, V-shape, bushy, etc.), flowering and fruiting color and times, and type of wildlife (birds, hummingbirds, butterflies) they attract. This will help you select the plants that best fit your area, and to avoid overcrowding. We have also included a prohibited species/do not plant lists.

With this information, now you cal plan on spacing the plants so that they don't grow into each other. Place taller plants in the background in the back of a border against a structure (linear, corner, and three sides open designs) or in the center of the island design, and shorter ones in the front- like a group photograph! You may want plants that bloom or fruit at different times of the year for more interest in the garden or to provide nectar/food for a longer time. You can draw on paper how you would like to place your plants or simply place your containers in the area to get an idea.

Prepare Bed for Planting
  • Mark in your garden where the bed is going to be located. Remember the bed needs to be big enough to accommodate your plants at mature size. You can use a variety of items to mark off area, such as hoses, string and pegs, chalk spray, etc.
  • Remove plants you do not want to include in your new bed. This could mean digging out shrubs, trees, annuals, or perennials, to transplant or discard. In many cases, it means to remove grass and weeds. There are different methods to do this. One method is to spray Round up herbicide, which means it can kill any plant it comes into contact (not just grass and weeds) including those you may wish to leave in the bed or nearby. It is best to not apply on a windy day. A second option, non-chemical, to get rid of grass is to cover the area and wait until the grass is gone; this is more time consuming. For this, you can either use a thick layer of newspapers (about 10 pages thick) and mulch on top followed by watering (so they don't fly away), or you can use sheets of black plastic and rocks, bricks, etc. to hold it down. If you use newspaper, they can be left at planting time, as they decompose and become part of the soil; the black plastic needs to be removed. Wait till the grass weeds are dead (check after a week, and then every couple of days) before planting your new bed. A third method, also non chemical, is to dig out the area to at least 6 on. deep to remove existing grass and weeds; this is also more time consuming. All roots have to be removed; otherwise the grass or weeds can come back. If you have St. Augustine grass, you can try digging the sod out and using it elsewhere.
  • Till the soil once the area is clear of non-wanted plants. This means to turn and work the soil to loosen it to a depth of about 6-10 in. As you till, add a 2-4 in. layer of compost to enrich it with nutrients and to improve drainage. More compost is better.
  • Smooth out the surface with a rake.
  • You may decide to add edging to your bed. There is a wide variety of edges available, from stones, wood, and bricks to metal; the purpose is to keep grass from inching back to the planting bed, and to define the area.
  • Place pots according to design.
Plant the plants!

The season to plant in the Valley goes from about September/October to around March/April, when temperatures are mild. Planting in the middle of the summer stresses plants and the gardener doing the work! See Gardening in the LRGV for more details. (Gardening in the LRGV)

  • Dig holes at least twice the size of the pot you are planting there. It shouldn't be too hard since the soil is tilled.
  • Pull out plant carefully from pot. For that, "massage" pot with your fingers to loosen up root ball. Place one hand flat on top of pot with plant stem between two fingers, then turn pot upside down while still having hand place there, and with the second hand, remove pot.
  • Once plant is out, loosen up the root ball (soil and roots) with fingers. If the roots are already growing in a circle (due to having been in a tight container), break up the circle. This is to stimulate root growth and help plant establishment.
  • Plant in soil at the same level as the rest of the bed or a few inches higher, and never below the soil, as the water collecting there can cause root disease. Add some more compost to hole as you are planting. Pat carefully around the plant to eliminate big air holes.
  • You may decide to add a root stimulator, which is a liquid chemical added. Follow the instructions on the label.
  • Continue on with all the plants.
  • Mulch your bed generously 2-3 in. deep to prevent weeds growing and to reduce watering.
  • Water.
  • Enjoy your new Garden bed!
Maintaining your Garden Bed

After finishing the bed, water frequently at first, less eventually, for a few weeks until a new plants are established; on average, native plants are fully established to survive on rain alone after 6 months. For more information on maintaining your new bed, please click on link. (Gardening in the LRGV)

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McAllen, TX 78504

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