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How To Create a Perennial Border from Scratch

My Mother-in-law bought the house directly behind ours. It’s a cute Ranch-style home that sits on a corner lot. The house is in great shape, but the garden needs a little TLC. We started renovating the garden in July 2018.

There were a few must-haves for the new garden design:

  1. Plant deer resistance plants.
  2. Flowers and foliage to cut for floral arrangements.
  3. Plants to attract butterflies, bees, and birds.
  4. New, low-maintenance fence.

Where To Start?

This photograph shows my Mother-in-law’s garden when she moved in.

July 2018 – Perennial border before we started the garden renovation
July 2018 – Closer view of all the daylilies that were in the garden before starting the garden renovation

The First Job was to Replace the Fence

The first course of action was replacing the old fence. We opted for a horizontal design made from standard 2x4s and 2x6s. The benefit of a horizontally designed fence is that it’s easy to replace the bottom board resting along the soil line. The soil line is where a fence rots first. With a horizontal design, you replace the bottom 2×4 rather than the entire section. Easy peasy and super practical.

The first step was to replace the old fence with a new one

The Second Step was to Prep the Soil and Dig Out the Border

After the new fence was built, we tackled the garden. The most important thing a garden needs is healthy soil. I ordered a soil testing kit from Michigan State University. I took soil samples all along the length of the border and mailed them to the Soil Lab.  The results were available in a couple of weeks. The test results told us to add nitrogen and lime and to maintain the organic material level. 

So, I ordered compost. Lots of compost. 8 yards of compost to be exact. 

8 Yards of Compost was delivered to improve the soil in the garden

Creating the Border

The border is a simple rectangle measuring 6 feet deep by 150 feet long. The border extends the entire length of the fence.  We used string lines to dig a straight border edge with a shovel.

Once the edges were set, we cleared out the weeds and unwanted plant material. The previous garden was overrun with daylilies and ribbon grass. Both considered too aggressive for a low maintenance garden.

We kept a small section of daylilies, but most were removed. We spread the compost into the new border and tilled it into the soil. We covered the existing border with roughly 3-4 inches of compost.

Perennial border after clearing weeds and unwanted plants getting ready to plant the new border.
The turf was seeded to repair the lawn and covered with a layer of straw to retain moisture.

The Perennial Border Today

It’s been a year since we started the perennial border. The new plants are growing well and it looks like a garden. We have plans to add more structure to the border with tall evergreens and grasses. It’s a fun project and I’m looking forward to watching the plants grow.

Perennial border in June 2019 – 1-Year-Old
Vertical garden planted along the fence
Deer resistant planting of catmint and salvia in the Perennial border
Brightly colored Aralia Cordata ‘Sun King’ brightens up a shady spot

It’s going to be a blast filling up this garden and watching it grow through the years. Thanks for following along.

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