Before you set a budget, draw up plans or buy materials, here are some things that may help, or muddy up the decision making waters. Beds for annual color and veggie gardens are different from perennial shrub beds.
The most expensive beds to prepare are shrub beds. The 20 year plan for a shrub bed is trimming for shape and adding mulch every year or two. Basic rules include, picking the correct plants for the sun exposure and our current water situation. Space the plants at their mature size, even if you think it looks out of portion. You can use annuals to fill in the gaps for a year or so. Leave enough room behind the plants for maintenance of the bed, the house, shed or whatever.
Do not amend the entire bed with compost, expanded shale, volcanic sands, eye of newt or other such products. Spread compost around the plant only and not on dirt that you are going to cover with mulch. Installing weed barrier fabric will help keep most of the unwanted growth from coming up through the bed for years. Once the weed fabric is in place and the plants are staged in the bed, the shovel work starts. Dig the hole about twice as wide as the pot and not too deep. It is better to be on the shallow side than the deep side. A third to half of the back fill should be compost and expanded shale. I also use Rocket Fuel (fertilizer). In the past I have also used lava and green sand, corn meal, dried molasses and peat moss.
Adding 3” to 5” of mulching is the last step but one that cannot be skipped. Mulch aids in weed suppression and most important, moisture retention. You can do everything right but if the plants dry out you will loose them. The two most popular types of mulch are hardwood and cedar. Hardwood comes out of the bag black but will fade in relatively short time especially in full sun. Cedar comes out of the bag faded but smells better. I give the edge to cedar mulch due to its insect repellent properties. You can also find cypress, pine bark, rubber and dyed mulches. Nothing wrong with cypress but if you must use pine I would rethink your plant selection. Dyed mulches are used when a particular appearance is wanted. For me the rubber mulch is what they do with old tires and serves no use in a landscape unless you have plastic or metal plants.
And here comes the shameless plugs. We sell lava and green sand, corn meal, dried molasses, 4 types of compost, expanded shale, Rocket Fuel, hardwood and cedar mulch. We also carry a red dyed mulch. We do not carry cypress mulch, pine bark mulch, rubber mulch or eye of newt!
For more information on weed barriers click here.