How to plant a pretty border

Flower and shrub borders provide colour, scent, and seasonal interest – making them a great way to get maximum bang for your gardening buck

Level of expertise needed
Beginner
How to plant a pretty border
Combine different shapes and colours for maximum effect

Equipment


  • Garden hose
  • Half-moon turf cutter (optional)
  • Spade and fork
  • Rake
  • Well-rotted farmyard manure or garden compost
  • Wheelbarrow

Top tip!

Dig some horticultural grit or gravel (available from garden centres) into your soil if it is heavy clay.

1
Step 1
Step 1

Decide where in the garden you want your border and mark out its shape. For a curved edge, use a garden hose. Make sure the border isn't too narrow and that its shape suits the garden.

2
Step 2
Step 2

Using a half-moon turf cutter or a small spade, carefully slice through the grass, following the contours of the hose. Make sure the cuts join up properly, and push the full depth of the cutter into the ground.

3
Step 3
Step 3

With a spade, begin stripping off the turf. Cut it into manageable-sized squares from above - then slide the blade of the spade under the roots of the grass. Try to avoid removing more than 5cm (2in) of soil.

4
Step 4
Step 4

Stack up the turves in a spare corner of the garden, grass-side down. The soil in the turves will be nutrient rich and should be re-used. After several months the grass will die off, and the pile can be cut up, sieved and dug into the borders.

5
Step 5
Step 5

Dig over the exposed soil with a fork, pushing the prongs down to their full depth. Remove any old roots, large stones and debris that you unearth, and break up large clods of soil. Work the soil until it has a crumbly texture.

6
Step 6
Step 6

With a spade, spread about 5cm (2in) of organic matter, such as well-rotted farmyard manure or garden compost, over the surface of the border. Then turn it into the soil and mix evenly.

7
Step 7
Step 7

Using a rake, remove any remaining stones, roots or pieces of debris that have worked their way up to the surface. Then, using the flat back of the rake, carefully level off any mounds and hollows.

8
Step 8
Step 8

Set out the plants (still in their pots) on the ground, and adjust their positions until you're happy with them. Pay attention to their eventual size, flower and foliage colour, and season of interest to achieve your desired effect.

9
Step 9
Step 9

Make sure the plants are well watered before you put them in the ground. If the pots feel light, soak the plants in a bucket of water for 10 minutes.

10
Step 10
Step 10

Dig a hole a little wider and deeper than the plant's pot. Remove the plant from the pot and place it in the hole. Backfill with soil, firm the plant in and water well.

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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.