How to Start a New Garden Bed

Build a new garden in 3 simple steps

Many Canadians are looking to add more gardens to their lives. For us, that means adding more planting square footage by creating new beds.

A planting bed is the foundation of any new garden you create, whether it is to grow vegetables or attract pollinators. An existing lawn is a great place to locate your new bed, as the grass is not productive in the yard for much more than walking on. Besides, it will be easier to dig up old sod than your driveway.

Create a new garden plot in 3 easy steps

1. Remove the grass. The easiest way to build your bed over your lawn is by adding a layer of uncoated cardboard directly on top of the existing grass. To get started, thoroughly soak the cardboard in a rain barrel before putting it down. Doing this will allow it to tear easily into various shapes to fit the desired form of your new bed. On top of the cardboard, add a thick layer of wood mulch. Leave the cardboard and mulch in place for one season to smother the grass below and add organic matter to the topsoil.

Or, to save yourself a year of waiting, you can add a layer of fresh topsoil between the cardboard and the mulch, and plant directly into the fresh soil in your first year.

2. Ensure healthy soil. The foundation of every garden is great soil. When working your new bed, avoid damaging the soil by excess tillage or compaction from walking with equipment. Unlike the old-fashioned method of tearing up the earth with a rototiller, build your soil health by layering organic materials on top and allowing plant roots and microorganisms to carry them down into the deeper layers of subsoil, creating beneficial structures and nutrient pathways as they do.

3. Mind the edges. To improve the look of your new garden bed, take time to trim the edges neatly and consider adding a border material. Natural rocks lined out around the perimeter can provide a visual sightline, with the benefit of keeping grass or other weeds from creeping back in.

With your new bed laid out before you, take a moment to appreciate the world of potential you have created for yourself. Then, dig in.

9 Steps to Starting a New Garden

Mark & Ben Cullen
Mark & Ben Cullen

Mark Cullen is an expert gardener, author, broadcaster and tree advocate
and holds the Order of Canada. His son, Ben, is a fourth-generation
urban gardener and a graduate of the University of Guelph and Dalhousie
University in Halifax. Follow them at, @MarkCullen4
(Twitter) and @markcullengardening (Facebook) and look for their latest book, Escape to Reality.

Follow them at, @MarkCullen4, and biweekly on Global TV’s national morning show, The Morning Show.

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Posted on Wednesday, April 26th, 2023
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