Creating a New Garden

One of the most frequently asked questions from garden visitors is how to create a new garden so, from sod to bloom - this is our method of creating a new bed.

Select Location: The location, shape, and size depend on the intended use. This garden will be one of our "Dig And Go" beds for garden visitors who want to take their purchases right home from our garden to theirs. Since it will be used only for daylily divisions, we have chosen a site with more than 6 hours sunlight each day. The shape will be rectangular and the size approximately 15' x 35'.

String Perimeter: It is a little hard to see, but there is a yellow cord marking our new garden outline. We wanted to parallel our property line and, in this case, we had a property line fence to use as a guide measuring equal distances from the fence to establish our first two corners. We like to use gutter spikes but any type of stake will work. We measured equal distances from our first gutter spikes to our desired garden width. Once the four corners were in place, we used a string to outline the new garden, making adjustments when necessary to establish nice square corners. (Note: If a rectangle or square shape is squared up, the corner to opposite corner measurement will be equal.) Creating a free form garden is easier as the measurements can vary but since we wanted to end up with a garden that would be divided into sections with walkways, it was important to have fairly accurate measurements with square corners.

Score the Perimeter Outline: Using a square point shovel/spade (do not try to do this with a rounded edge unless you want scallops... :-), we followed the outline of the outside of the string, digging straight down about 4 to 5 which took us below the grass roots.

Score the Inside Perimeter: Now we did exactly the same thing but from about 4 or 5 from the inside of the string.

Remove Perimeter Sod: Once the outside and the inside were scored, it was easy to just pull up the sod which left a nice defined border to the garden.

We could now take up the string and gutter spikes and proceed to remove sod. We have spoken to many gardeners who just till from this point, however, we do not want to deal with grass and weeds appearing throughout. We would rather take the extra time and effort now to eliminate an unavoidable and on-going battle.

We tend to have very clay soil so since we have the sod cutter available, we use it on the soil surface to loosen the top few inches prior to tilling.

Removing the Sod: On small gardens we simply score squares and chop out the sod but since this was a large area we chose to rent a Sod Cutter. We set the depth on the cutter to what we wanted then proceeded to cut out strips. Once the strips were cut, they were rolled and removed. (Note: If we are removing nice sod, we usually know ahead of time where we want to place it. Establishing a new grassy area is very easy just place and water.)

For those of us always needing new planting space, isnt this a nice site? Getting closer to a new garden and watching it take shape.

Enriching Soil and Tilling: We just have a small tiller but it has served us well. At this point we like to add our soil recipe which has worked very well for our soil type here in Indiana.
40 lb bag Composted Manure
40 lb bag Black Peat
2 or 4 cubic yards of Spagnum Peat Moss (the more, the better of this for our clay soil)
a couple handfuls of Gypsum (excellent for clay soil not quick results, but over a period of time it acts like a million tiny backhoes working deeper and deeper into the clay. I always add gypsum to each of my gardens when working them in the Fall.)

I use this mixture for approximately a 50 to 80 square foot area. Of course, to know exactly what is needed in soil amendments, have the soil tested.

Walkways: Over a period of time we have learned many garden tips and one of them is to, by all means, put in walkways if you need to dig from an area throughout the season. Walkways should be at least 12 wide and we place them often enough to give easy access to the plants from any given area. In the past, we have used roll roofing which comes in 3 foot widths, cut into 12 wide strips and laid for walkways. (Word of caution: DO NOT lay the roll roofing out on your lawn and delay cutting ...if you want to burn out your sod, just lay this rubber backed roofing out on a sunny day and leave it, guaranteed you will not have any sod after just a short period of time!!! - We did this one year and the whole season our back yard lawn looked as if it had a 3 wide runway running at an odd angle across our yard!!) This works well however after a couple seasons and enough digging and transplanting, the edges of the paths tend to tear so on this garden we tried outdoor carpet. So far, it has worked beautifully. We have been told that just regular carpet scraps cut into 12 widths will do the job too.

Secure the Walkways: We wanted our walkways to stay in place so to insure this, we used gutter spikes to stake each path on both ends and in the middle. The spikes heaved a little during the winter months but just stepping on them in the Spring secured them once again. The carpet has not budged, shows no wear, and can be sprayed with the hose to clean it good investment in our opinion.

Our Dig And Go Garden: Here is the finished garden when first planted in the Fall of 2003. Since it is to be a garden of convenience for both us and our customers, it was not designed to be pretty however during the first bloom season, it was lovely --- hard to keep daylilies from being attractive, isnt it? A good number of these divisions were sold during the season and have already been replaced with new divisions, are tucked in for another winter and ready for the next bloom season.

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Louise & Bobby James
P.O. Box 869
Shelbyville, Indiana 46176
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