Transform your backyard with a new garden bed

Well-planned garden beds can give your backyard both structure and beauty, and solve all sorts of tricky problems, from screening out your neighbours to disguising an ugly fence. Here’s what you need to know to get started.

Make a plan

Think about what you hope to achieve. Do you want an edible garden, a pretty focal point or simply to block an unwanted view? Does the bed need to be easily accessible, such as from the kitchen? Knowing its purpose will help determine the location, size and shape of your bed, and help you choose the right plants. “Don’t forget to consider your garden style,” says garden expert Matt Carroll of Hortiman. “A formal garden demands order, symmetry and defined borders, while a cottage garden calls for a kaleidoscope of colours and loose, relaxed edging.” 

garden bed

For impact in a green bed, opt for plants of different heights, with a range of forms and leaf shapes

Pick the perfect spot

Identify how much sun your garden receives, which will determine the garden bed layout and plant choice. A north-facing garden enjoys full sun for most of the day, but hot afternoon sun will scorch a west-facing bed. “There are plant options for most situations, so it’s just a matter of understanding your light conditions,” says Angie Thomas, horticulture consultant to Yates. “Roses and citrus love full sun (at least six hours), whereas daphnes and hydrangeas prefer dappled sun.” 

garden bed

Curved beds suit an informal style, while dense plantings will help crowd out weeds and fill the space with colour and interest 

The size of it

Accessibility, proportion and, of course, available space will all play a part in the overall size of your bed. Width wise, you should be able to reach across it comfortably for weeding and planting, so for a border that might only be accessible from one side, up to 100cm is about right, double that if the bed is centrally positioned. A handy trick to find the right proportions to suit the size of your garden is to use a hose to map out your proposed plot, and adjust it until it looks right from all angles, near and far, This is also a useful tool if you want to create a shaped bed.

lawn with garden and fountains

Trimmed box hedging makes a neat green border for a formal space

In-ground or raised garden beds

In-ground beds are better for larger shrubs and trees, as the depth of a raised bed may not let roots spread. A raised bed is great for a border, especially if you want to get a head start on screening out next door. “Raised beds can be installed on most outdoor surfaces, whether grass or concrete,” says Angie. Plus, if your soil is hard to work with, you can fill the bed with quality bagged garden soil and soil improvers, while you work at a height kinder to knees and back. For the bed itself, kits are an easy option. Metal-framed models such as those from Birdies and The Organic Garden Co come in a range of sizes.

Check your soil before you plant

Not all earth is created equal, but it can be improved. Before planting, fork in a mix of a general plant fertiliser, organic compost and well-rotted manure and incorporate well. For clay soils, apply a gypsum product to help improve drainage. Soil health is important, so ensure you look after it and apply products at least twice a year. Edging will help stop grass wandering through the beds. “Bricks are classic, while timber stakes keep things natural,” says Angie. For a more modern look, slimline edging such as Tuff Edge aluminium is virtually invisible when installed. 

Layer your plants

Defining your garden bed with clever plantings will help to give it structure. Look to create layers and depth with a mix of height and forms, adding interest and texture with different leaf and flower shapes. “For a formal look, choose shrubs that can be trimmed into neat and straight levels, like English box or westringia,” suggests Angie. “For a relaxed feel, select plants with varying foliage colours and flowers, like grevilleas, lavender and loropetalum.” When planting, watering in with a tonic such as Seasol can help get plants off to a flying start. 

Recommended shrubs

Give your new bed form and structure with a well-chosen shrub or two.

Camellia (Camellia sasanqua):

Camellias have gorgeous blooms and evergreen foliage to 1m (dwarf variety). 
Suits: warm and cool temperate climates.

camellia flower

Indian hawthorn (Rhaphiolepis indica):

Hardy, grows to 2m and thrives in coastal areas are some features of the Indian hawthorn. 
Suits: subtropical, warm and cool temperate, and cool climates.

indian hawthorn plant

Grevillea ‘Robyn Gordon’:

Long-flowering, bird-attracting shrub. Grows to 1.5m.
Suits: subtropical, warm and cool temperate climates.

grevillea plant

Plectranthus ‘Mona Lavender’:

Mona lavender is fast growing (up to 80cm) adds colour to semi-shade. 
Suits: subtropical and warm temperate climates.


Acacia ‘Limelight’:

Dwarf variety grows to around 1m with unique, lime-green cascading foliage. 
Suits: warm and cool temperate, and cool climates. 

acacia plant

Get started on your new garden bed

Now you know our tips and tricks on how to create a garden bed, head into your local Bunnings store to pick up everything you need to complete this project.

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