Preparing a bed in which to plant can appear at first glance to be a daunting task. If you have researched the topic, you most probably have become at least somewhat familiar with terms and words such as tilling, rototilling, pH, screened top soil, shredded top soil, the chemical method, the non-chemical method, and many more depending mostly upon the depth of your research. All these terms can certainly make this task seem more daunting than it should be in real life.
The first thing you need to do is get rid of whatever is growing in the area which you want to transform into a planting bed. Assuming you have some sort of grass, flowers, or shrubs growing there, you will have to decide on the chemical or non-chemical method of killing everything that is currently growing there. I prefer the chemical way because it is so much easier than the non-chemical, but I will explain both ways. After I explain both of these methods, I will explain what to do next regardless of which method you may have chosen.
The first thing you have to do regardless of your method is mark out exactly where the planting bed will be. The best way to outline your planting bed is probably to buy a can of marking paint. This is very similar to spray paint, but marking paint only sprays when it is inverted, so it is basically designed specifically for spraying lines on the ground.
Make sure that you are being realistic when you spray the outline. If you think too big or too small, you will end up with either an over-crowded garden, or a garden which is too spread out. Therefore, it is very important to figure out what you want to plant and how much space you will need to plant it, and to be right about it. Too many people mess this up and end up with a stupid-looking garden; don't be one of them!
If you choose the chemical method, go buy some RoundUp. It is very good at killing everything it touches. After you spray an outline with the paint, spray everything that is alive inside of the outline with RoundUp. It is important to spray enough without spraying too much or too little. If there are drips dripping off the grass, you just sprayed too much.
It is vital to mix the chemicals exactly like the manufacture says and in a sprayer that will only be used for this purpose. Be very careful to spray only what you want to kill. You should assume that RoundUp will kill anything it touches.
It is for this same reason that you should not walk in the sprayed area for about three days; just let the chemicals work. If you step in the spray, you will end up with dead splotches of grass throughout your yard which are the shape of your shoes.
Do not dig in your planting bed after you spray for about three days. It takes about three days for the chemicals to kill all the plant-life. Again, just let the chemicals work, and be patient.
After the three days of waiting, the grass may look like it is alive; it is dead. You might want to dig out a few inches of sod by the edges so that it is easier to edge and mulch.
If you choose the holistic approach, dig down a couple of inches and strip away the sod from the planting bed area. Then turn the stripped sod upside-down and place it in the middle of the planting bed. Then pack it down firmly. The next thing you need to do is cover the entire bed with eight to ten layers of newspaper. You are now ready for the top soil.
When choosing top soil, be sure to get good quality top soil. This is where many people go a little bit crazy based upon the amount of research he or she may have done, but choosing good quality topsoil is actually much easier than you may have heard.
If you get good quality top soil, you will not need to worry about things like pH, tilling, adding bone meal or some other garden-store products, and a whole bunch of other unnecessary stuff. Just about any topsoil on the market will have a suitable pH, and the other work is unnecessary if you take the proper steps to ensure that you are getting good quality top soil.
The most important things to look for in top soil are the top soil's feeling, and the top soil's appearance. Run your fingers that the top soil and make sure that it is grainy, not clumpy.
You should also look at the pile of top soil to see if looks grainy, or hard and bunched together into little top soil balls. Obviously, you want it to be grainy. Otherwise, the top soil is bad quality and will most probably be hard as a rock only a short time after you plant in it.
Another thing you can look for or ask about is whether the top soil gets screened, shredded, or just left alone. If it is good without even being screened, that top soil may just be some of the best stuff out there. If it gets screened, that is just fine, since most top soil on the market gets screened; but if it gets shredded, that is a warning that the top soil was very clumpy and hard and will most probably be like that again shortly after you plant.
Once you have good quality top soil picked out, it is time to go home and plant. Pile up about eight inches of top soil in your planting bed. Be sure that the top soil is on a slight slant away from your house or building if you planting the bed against a structure. This will ensure that the water drains away from the building. If you are planting an island planting bed, be sure that the highest point of the bed is in the center if the island. This will create the water to drain evenly throughout the planting bed.
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