Making New Garden Beds Using Topsoil

One of my favourite garden tasks is creating new garden beds. There’s something very hopeful about it, and somehow, thinking about all the new plants that I’m going to buy makes all the hard work easier!

So what are the key steps?

1) Planning

It sounds obvious, but before you start, you need to plan your new beds. You might want to start with drawings, but once you’ve got an idea of the shape and location, there’s no substitute for getting out into the garden with string and tent pegs! Mark out the shape of the new bed on the ground, using the string and tent pegs, and just look at it. Leave the string in place for several days, and keep looking. Try slightly different shapes and sizes, and see which one looks best. Once you’ve finally decided what you’re going to do, then you can start work. If the ground is too hard for tent pegs, or paved, draw outlines with chalk instead.

2) Getting the outline in place

Most of us don’t have the luxury of starting from scratch in a garden, so you’re probably going to be cutting flower beds out of lawn, or even out of a paved area. Either way, the ground is going to need some work to get it ready for planting. If you’re cutting a bed out of a grassed area, use a half-moon cutting tool to cut the shape out along the string lines. Raise the turf gently and remove it. If you want to use it elsewhere, lay it before you do anything else, as turf doesn’t like being left.

If you’re removing a paved area through earthmoving Sydney equipment, lift the stones or slabs up as close to your desired shape as possible, so that you have the outline of your new bed in place. You may need to do some work to smarten up the edge of the paved area again, perhaps by concreting, or putting sets around the edge of the new bed. It really depends on the type of paving, and the quality of the previous job, so you’ll just have to play it by ear and see what’s needed.

3) Preparing the ground

What happens next depends on what you find when you lift the paving slabs or turf. With turf, you’ll probably find compacted soil. It will need to be dug over or rotavated to at least a spade’s depth, to loosen all the soil up. With paving slabs, you may find concrete, or rubble, or sand. Either way, you’ll have to remove it, which may be easiest with a mini-digger and skip or you can hire northshore bobcats for concrete removal. Once you’re down to the soil, it will need to be dug over to at least a spade’s depth; you might find the mini-digger or rotavator useful here too.

4) Adding topsoil

The chances are that the soil that’s left behind once you’ve dug out any rubble or lifted the turf isn’t very good quality, and you may also have had to go down quite a long way. So you’ll probably need to add some new topsoil. You can buy topsoil in bulk, and most topsoil suppliers will usually deliver it within a couple of days. There are various sorts of topsoil available, including multi-purpose, vegetable topsoil and deluxe topsoil, which are all slightly different. Consider what you’re going to plant, and buy topsoil to suit.

Once your topsoil has been delivered, you’ll need to transfer the soil from the bag to the new bed. Bring the soil level up to that of the surrounding area, and then about two inches higher, to allow for settling. Once you think you’ve finished, leave your bed for a few days if not weeks, for the soil to settle, and then add more topsoil if necessary to bring it up the right level.

5) Choosing your plants and planting

Now it’s over to you, to choose your new plants, and put them in. Have fun!