Enjoy a new Island Bed

Wouldn't you like to add interest to your yard without investing a lot of time or expense?  The "island bed" is a great way to create a focal point and fall is the perfect time to tackle this project!  You can create an island bed anywhere in your yard – encircled with grass in your lawn, surrounding your mailbox or bordering your driveway or fence – by following these simple steps.

Plan your location
Ask yourself, "Who am I designing this bed for?"  Is it for curb appeal for the people passing by your house?  For you to enjoy when you look out your kitchen window?  Or for you and your guests to admire from your patio?  Answers to these questions help determine the placement of your island bed.  In addition to the view, consider the physical factors involved like sunlight, irrigation and drainage.

Design the shape of your island bed
Here's where you can get creative!  Anyone can do a square, rectangle or even a circle, so maybe you'll want to branch out and do something different in a free form shape!  Take an extension cord or garden hose and play with laying it out on the ground in various shapes.  Step back and look at it and make any adjustments until you get it the way you want it.  Once you've settled on a design, make sure you're not in an area with any buried wires or cables and then outline your shape with spray paint.

Lay out the shape of your island bed with a garden hose or extension cord.

Choose your plants
Select plants that work well together aesthetically and physically by considering color and blooming cycles as well as sunlight and watering requirements.  You may want to go with a combination of mostly perennials and then add seasonal variety with some annuals.  Remember that more plants will give you a lush effect right away, but may need to be thinned out in a few years, while fewer plants now will fill in the area as they grow.  A focal plant can add interest as well – an ornamental shrub or an existing tree adds height and dimension to the bed.  Once selected, set out the plants to arrange them before doing any actual digging.

At this house, Metro GreenScape chose to install Chapel Hill Lantana and Blue Salvia around an existing tree in a bed bordering a fence.  These plants were selected because of their contrasting colors, easy care and drought tolerance.  They also attract butterflies and hummingbirds which add to their appeal!

Prep your garden
Island beds can either be raised garden beds or ground-level beds.  Typically, raised beds provide more visual appeal and are less labor intensive – there's not as much digging involved! – so that's the type we are going to look at here.

If your raised bed is located in a grassy area, you will need to kill the grass in the bed first; an easy way to accomplish this is by laying several thicknesses of newspaper over the grass inside the bed before adding your topsoil.  The paper will smother the grass and decompose into the soil over time – environmentally friendly and easy!

Complete your island bed
Follow these steps for any raised island bed:

  1. Edge your raised island bed to define its outline and to hold the topsoil you're going to add in place – an outline of individual natural river stones or a small stacked stone wall work great for this. 
    A small stacked stone wall makes a great border for an island bed.
  2. Add 6" – 8" of a quality garden soil to the bed.  Garden Max from Blue Max Materials contains a mixture of topsoil, creek sand and compost specifically blended for growing gardens in the Charlotte area. 
    Add 6" – 8" of a premium topsoil like Blue Max Materials' Garden Max.
  3. If you want to give an added boost to your plants, mix in a couple of bags of Jolly Gardener's Garden Soil – this is a blend of ingredients that helps keep your soil loose and fertilizes your plants for up to 4 months. 

    Add a couple of bags of Jolly Gardener Garden Soil to give your plants an additional boost.
  4. Position your plants and place them in the topsoil, putting them in the ground at the same level as they came out of the pot.
  5. Add quality mulch like Double Hammered Hardwood Mulch to conserve moisture and to protect the roots during the upcoming winter.  The mulch should be about 3" deep to provide the maximum benefit.  As it decomposes, it will add nutrients back into the soil to enrich it.  Double hammered hardwood mulch added to a depth of 3" will insulate your plants from heat and cold.

  6. Water your new bed daily for a couple of weeks until the new plants begin to establish themselves.

Add a unique feature
You can create a focal point within your island bed focal point by incorporating an unusual structure or feature into the design.  This can be as simple as adding an accent boulder, a wrought iron trellis or a favorite sculpture to the mix.

This is an example of a ground-level island bed bordering a driveway.  Boulders serve as accent pieces.

Now you can sit back and admire your handiwork!

Mature trees provide the contrast in this bed.


Decorative river gravel was used as mulch in this island bed with the purple fountain grass serving as the focal plant.

For more information, contact Blue Max Materials at 704-821-2426 or on the web at www.bluemaxmaterials.com.