Choose the location
Start by deciding where in the garden you want to make a new border, or maybe you just want to extend one you already have.
Choose areas that aren’t currently giving you anything exciting to look at. An area of lawn where the grass doesn’t grow well, or a bare gravelled patch would be a good place to start. Or an overgrown composting area that needs tidying up.
Decide on the size and shape
The most common mistake that’s made when making a new border is not making it wide enough. Narrow borders can end up looking more like a hedge because there isn’t room for any plants behind others and you just end up with a random line of plants. Make your border at least the same width as the height of your spade, but the wider the better if you have the room. Decide on the shape of your border by laying a hosepipe or rope along the edge of the border until you have the shape you want. Use a taut string line if you want a perfectly straight finish.
Clear the area ready for planting
If you need to clear a grassed area to make a new border it may be best to hire a mechanical turf lifter if you have a large area to move. If you choose to do it by hand, cutting into the turf with a spade and then lifting it with a turfing iron will make it easier. Stack the lifted turves soil side up in a corner of the garden and they’ll break down to make a crumbly compost in about a year’s time. If the area where you want your new border is full of weeds, consider using a systemic weedkiller on a still, dry day, or cover the ground with black polythene and peg it tight to the ground for a couple of weeks to kill off the weeds.
Prepare the ground
If the ground is compacted then it’ll benefit from the top layer of soil being broken up using a digging fork. Use a rake to level the ground after breaking up the soil, to give you a flat surface to sow and plant on. Don’t worry about removing stones from the soil. They’ll improve drainage and may help deter slugs later in the year, too.
Decide on some border focal points
Garden borders can end up looking flat and samey, so an easy way to prevent this is to add some features that bring height to the border. A carefully placed obelisk, statue or tree can draw the eye to the border and keep it interesting all year round. Place these features when the border is a blank canvas because it will be difficult once the border is full of plants and it will also add form to the border in year one. Now all that’s left to do is decide on some plants. That’s the really fun bit!