Creating Planting Beds That Work

By Cynthia Bee, Conservation Garden Park

When designing or redesigning a yard, the shape and placement of planting beds is a major consideration for homeowners and pros alike. We’re so worried about weeding that we often allow it to overshadow good landscape practices. Below are some of our “best practices” for creating attractive plantings that will require as little maintenance as possible:

  1. Design the Lawn First. The first step in a creating a Utah “Localscape” ( is that lawn is a central open shape that is a designed element rather than a default groundcover. When lawn is created as one shape with clearly defined edges, it becomes a bold landscape statement that’s also completely practical. Most lawn water waste happens because of odd bits and narrow patches of lawn. Wherever lawn and planting beds adjoin is an opportunity for lawn to infiltrate and overtake the beds; a central open shape of lawn minimizes the lineal feet of interface between these two planting types.


  1. Drip Irrigation. It’s clear that using drip irrigation will conserve water but you know that it will also help dramatically REDUCE WEEDS? When beds are watered with overhead spray, the entire ground surface is provided with the elements needed for cultivation, including the space in between plants where weeds can thrive. In addition, as plants grow, they block the sprinklers causing dry spots in beds and lawn alike.


Drip irrigation enables water to be precisely delivered to your plants while keeping the spaces in between dry—making conditions more challenging for weed growth. Advances in drip irrigation products over the past couple of years mean it easier than ever to install or convert landscape beds to drip irrigation. Check with your local irrigation supply company for more information.


  1. More Isn’t Necessarily More. Often, we design very small or narrow beds because we believe that wider beds equal more weeding and maintenance. You may be surprised to learn that this isn’t true—if the beds are installed correctly. Plants don’t scale themselves to the size of the planters, they grow to whatever size they are genetically programmed to grow. Narrow planting beds may reduce weeding temporarily while plants are small but ultimately cause the exchange of one landscape chore for another as plants mature and extend beyond the narrow beds. Overgrown plants must then be clipped back into bounds—often causing damage and creating a lot of extra work.


A better option is to create planting beds no less than three feet wide and 6 feet or more wide if space allows, choose plants that fit within the size of the space, then let them grow to their natural size. Use a combination of plant coverage and a 2-4 inch deep topdressing of mulch to further suppress weeds. As an added bonus, your landscape will enjoy increased privacy.


At the Conservation Garden Park (8275 South 1300 West in West Jordan) we’re always happy to answer your questions, come see us in person or follow us on Facebook for daily tips and ideas.