STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE

How to create a garden border

Planting a new border can really improve your garden. It is interesting to watch new plants grow and develop, and borders can also be useful to hide eyesores and add interest and colour. See our garden design: laying out your space guide if you'd like a bit more advice before getting started.

How to create a garden border

You will need:

  • Spade
  • Trowel
  • Organic matter
  • Grit
  • Fertiliser
  • Mulch

Time to complete job: 4 - 5 hours
Approximate budget: £40

Tip: When planning a new border, consider whether it will be in sun or shade, whether the soil is acid or alkaline, whether the drainage needs improving and how much work you are prepared to spend maintaining the border. These will determine the types of plants you choose. If you pick trees and shrubs, for example, they will cost more but take less maintenance. Herbaceous perennials are higher maintenance but higher return.

See
Choosing plants for your garden
for more advice.

  • Step 1: Mark out the shape

    Step 1: Mark out the shape

    Decide the position and shape of your border. Don't make your border too narrow - a wide plot will be easier to maintain and look far better. Gentle curves work best as they're easier to mow and edge properly. An elongated shape works well rather than a long strip and allows room for different-sized plants.

    Use a long hosepipe to mark out the shape of your border - it's easy to adjust until you achieve a pleasing shape. If cutting out of grass, the edge is bound to be damaged so leave a few inches to trim back later.

    If you have already purchased plants, spread them out and imagine them at their ultimate size. Rearrange and adjust your border shape if necessary. Keep in mind when they flower, what they will look like in winter and how big they will get.

  • Step 2: Prepare & improve the soil

    Step 2: Prepare & improve the soil

    Remove all weeds, particularly perennials. Turf can be chopped up and buried or better still composted for future use. Don't remove any of the topsoil.

    Dig in bulky organic matter. This is your best opportunity to improve the soil and is a good investment. If the drainage is poor add grit and dig deeply to loosen up the sub-soil. Take care not to mix darker topsoil with subsoil - put it to one side if necessary to enable deep digging.

    If drainage is a problem make a raised bed. Build up a low retaining wall with bricks, stones or used railway sleepers and add good topsoil enriched as above. Add fertiliser if necessary - it may be required for poor sandy soils - and rake level.

    Weed seeds will always be brought to the surface and there will be a flush of new weeds. Hoe these off. Ideally, prepare the border in autumn and plant the next spring.

    Tip: Buy a soil test kit to find out if your soil is acidic or alkaline. If your soil is very alkaline or acidic this will limit which plants will grow well.

  • Step 3: Plant the border

    Step 3: Plant the border

    You can achieve an instant effect by planting large specimens or quick growing shrubs, but this is costly and can increase future maintenance work to keep them under control. It's cheaper to buy smaller plants if you have the patience to wait for them to grow but ensure you check their ultimate size and plant accordingly.

    Plan the planting before you start digging. You can do this either on paper or by placing the plants in their pots on the border. Work out the correct distances to leave between the long-term specimens and then fill the gaps with lower-growing perennials and bulbs.

    Dig the holes for the plants. Check the hole is deep enough - most plants should be inserted to the same depth as they were growing in the pot. For larger trees and shrubs make a planting hole twice as wide and deep as the pot. Break up the soil, add organic matter and a little extra fertiliser.

    Remove the plants from their pots, insert and firm the soil around the roots. Water thoroughly.

    Add a 50mm (2in) mulch layer of bulky organic matter to discourage weeds and retain moisture.

    Tip: Take a photograph of your handiwork when finished - it will be interesting to compare with your border after it has had a few years' growth.