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How to Start a New Garden

Do you want to start a new garden? Follow these simple steps to begin a new garden bed from start to finish.

We’ve lived here for 22 years, so I have installed several beds for different reasons.

To give you an idea, here are a few new gardens that I created and why:

  • the front border is an everblooming cottage style perennial garden that attracts pollinators
  • rose hedge at the base of the deck garden to hide space below the deck
  • vegetable garden
  • woodland garden
  • backyard border that conceals the septic bed drop-off
  • well garden that conceals the equipment
  • added more space for perennial divisions

For many years, my gardens focused on easy-care, low-maintenance plants that did not require a lot of attention from me.

I followed a low maintenance approach because I was raising three active kids and our lives were very busy running from activity to activity seven days a week.

The time was not there to tend to anything that required a lot of work.

Now that they are older, I have time to spare and want to try some new plants in a cutting garden.

I am interested in growing David Austin Roses, more dahlias, and other cutting flowers so I can bring them indoors to use in floral arrangements.

With this new purpose in mind, I created a new bed this weekend and want to share how easy it is to do.

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5 Ways to Grow a Cottage Garden
Front walkway border that blooms throughout the season and attracts pollinators.

What Do You Want to Grow?

The first thing to consider is the type of garden to grow.

We need to understand what we want to grow, so we know the type of sunlight it needs.

For example, a woodland border requires shade, a vegetable garden needs full sun, etc.

Woodland garden - how to start a new garden

Once we know what we want to do, it’s important to evaluate whether our yard can actually grow it.

What I mean is, we may want to grow something, but the atmosphere of our property might not be conducive to growing it.

For example, if I have a heavily shaded yard, it will be challenging to grow a vegetable garden with a lack of sunlight.

I may be able to alter those conditions by cutting back tree branches, etc. but these are things we need to consider before starting a new bed.

How to make Fresh flowers last longer
Echinacea is a popular perennial that attracts butterflies.


Once we decide what we want to grow, we need to determine where to put it.

Find the best spot in the yard that will provide the proper light conditions.

If you are not sure how much sun a particular area receives, spend a day watching and charting it.

Dahlia 'Jowey Winnie'
Dahlia ‘Jowey Winnie’

Start in the morning, check it hourly, and note whether it receives, sun, partial sun, shade, etc.

It is also a good idea to take a soil test before planting in an area so you know how to amend the soil.

I realize that sounds like an unnecessary step, but knowledge is power.

freezing tomatoes

Knowing your soil conditions is tremendously helpful before planting.


Because the soil matters.

For example, some plants will not grow well in highly acidic soil.

You could give them all the right conditions and because they don’t love acidic soil, they will not thrive and potentially die.

happy gardening with raised garden beds
My new raised vegetable garden.

And you will leave thinking you can’t grow stuff.

While it’s true you can start a new bed without ever doing this step, save yourself time, money and stress.

Do the soil test. Kits are available through your local garden extension, as well as local nurseries and big box stores (I think).

How to start a new garden - summer mixed border
This border conceals equipment for our well. The bed we added this weekend is an extension of this border.

Size and Shape

Similar to choosing the right location, it’s important to determine the new bed’s size and shape.

Consider the overall size and amount of plants you wish to include and start there.

Start a Garden

Supplies to Start a New Garden

Joe Pye Weed

How to Start a New Garden

  • Choose the location.
  • Layout the new bed with a hose or long extension cord.
  • Use the spade shovel to follow the outline of the new bed. Slice through the grass roots and dig out the grass until the outline is complete.
How to Start a Garden
  • Remove all grass with wheelbarrow and replant or dispose. We replant what we can in other areas of the yard that are struggling to grow lawn.
  • If satisfied with the size and shape of the new bed, dig out the rest of the grass using the spade shovel, pitchfork or both.
  • Pitch or turn the soil over to aerate and loosen it up. It will be easier to dig and plant after.
How to Start a Garden
How to Start a Garden
How to Start a Garden
  • Lay out your plants. Be sure to read the tags on the plants purchased. Understand the overall size and work in odd numbered groupings. Space plants apart according to the plant tags. The new bed may look sparse the first year or two but will fill in over time.
  • Using a shovel, dig a hole 2x the size of the root ball.
  • Remove plant from the plastic nursery pot, fan out the roots with your fingers to encourage them to grow outside the root ball.
How to Start a Garden
How to Start a Garden
  • Add some fresh garden soil and amendments to the hole before planting. Note about soil: There are many brands of garden soil out there. I usually look for brands that have soil amendments like compost and hummus already mixed in – it’s just easier that way.
  • Set the new plant in the hole.
How to Start a Garden
  • Back fill the hole with fresh garden soil, amendments and existing soil.
  • Top the bed off with fresh mulch. It’s best to wait to mulch after planting the new bed. In my case, I don’t have any of the new plants yet and had a huge pile of mulch to spread. Therefore, I mulched my new garden first, but it can be done either way.
How to Plant a Garden After Starting Seeds Indoors
How to Plant a Garden After Starting Seeds Indoors

My New Garden

I’m so happy I started this new garden.

Because I wanted to test the waters with a new cut flower garden, I added several dahlia varieties and roses just to get my feet wet.

But I also did not love the original shape of the bed so adding on to it helped create a more aesthetically pleasing design.

This garden addition is two years old now and is doing great!

Here are some of the blooms I planted.

New Garden Lady of shallot rose
David Austin Rose ‘Lady of Shallot’

The roses totally have my heart.

I bought them all bare root after starting this garden section and they bloomed the first season!

The Complete Guide to Roses Care
‘Charlotte’ David Austin Rose

In addition to growing roses here, I also tucked in a few dahlia varieties.

It’s amazing how beautifully unique these flowers are.

And the more you cut the more flowers you have.

Gah! I’m in love.

Dahlias from the cutting garden - How to Dry Flowers
‘Karma Chocolate’ Dahlia

After the first season of growing these dahlias here, I created a much larger cut flower garden outside of the shed in the backyard.


So I could grow a lot more!!!

‘Cafe Au Lait’ Dahlia

Want an Easier Way to Start a Garden?

If you want to start a garden without breaking your back digging out all the grass, you’ve got to try this method!

CLICK HERE to learn more!

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How to Start a Garden

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