CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Making beds indoors isn't my favorite task. Thank heavens for big ol' down comforters and closable bedroom doors.
Making beds outdoors is one of my favorite tasks. Here are some simple steps to creating a no-fail perennial bed.
Some of the tips are from "Better Homes and Gardens Perennials" and some are from trial-and-error at the Busse household. Soon the garden centers will have lots of beautiful perennials available, so now's the time to get the bed ready for planting.
First, choose what shape you want your bed to take. A garden hose moves easily, outlining where the bed will be. Use a square-edged spade to remove any grass (and put that grass in your compost pile).
Next, feed the bed. Apply a generous amount of well-rotted compost to the entire bed. A 5-inch layer is good. It will help with aeration and water-retention. If you don't have a compost pile, you can purchase compost. Add "Start A Compost Pile" to your to-do list - after "Make A New Perennial Bed."
Mix thoroughly. You can use a small electric tiller or just a shovel, but be sure to till down to a depth of at least a foot, and if you're planting larger plants, go down 2 feet.
Edging comes next. Use a hand trowel and make a smooth surface along the edge of the bed. Stand bricks on their wide edge to make a lip to hold mulch. Lay bricks flat around the outside edge for a mower path and to hold the "vertical" bricks. Also, check your garden center for other easy, inexpensive edging materials.
Plant! That's the next step. Read the tags to check the mature sizes of the perennials you're planting, allowing enough room for them to grow. Place all of the plants on the bed before you plant, rearranging until you have a design you like. Keep smaller plants toward the front of the bed. I like to mix "bloom times," so something is always in bloom.
Water continually until the plants are established - well into the summer. Make sure the water reaches the roots. Sprinklers, soaker hoses, watering can - any will do just fine.
Mulch. Why do you need to mulch? It conserves water and suppresses weeds. Organic mulches include shredded bark, pine straw, cypress mulch and wood chips. For a new perennial bed, spread mulch to a depth of 2 to 3 inches.
A few last bits of advice: Again, don't forget to water, especially in dry periods. Fertilize in the spring. Deadhead plants such as phlox, veronica and Shasta daisies so they re-bloom. Mulch again in the winter.
Some spring tasks