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Now's the time to add a new garden bed

People who wanted to put in a garden bed or path last fall but ran out of time have a second chance now before the growing season really starts. Outlining the shape of the bed is usually the first concern.

People who wanted to put in a garden bed or path last fall but ran out of time have a second chance now before the growing season really starts.

Outlining the shape of the bed is usually the first concern. People generally use a garden hose for tracing shapes. But in cool temperatures rubber hoses are fairly stiff while vinyl hoses are fixated in whatever configuration they had in storage.

That's why a Chilliwack gardener recommends lying hoses out on the pavement in sunshine so they warm up enough to make an exact shape.

Meanwhile, a Vancouver gardener shapes the outline of a garden bed with his lawn mower. If he doesn't like the result, he tries a different shape at the next mowing. When he finds the perfect outline he's ready to grab the spade and begin work.

Some of the best-drained beds are those with builder's rubble in the base. A North Vancouver gardener had his sloping lot leveled on the downhill side. He then had enough rocks to create a raised bed on the uphill side. Small boulders, bits of brick, stone and gravel are best.

A Maple Ridge gardener who plants on soil with a high water table makes a point of mulching his gardens each year. Gradually the garden beds are a little more elevated and become better drained, and because it's a very slow process, the plants adapt well.

Moisture was also a problem in a Chilliwack garden. The gardener made a pond in the worst wet spot, then dug rock pits in the other swampy places.

He used the soil to raise his flower beds.

A Mission gardener had problem with runoff when he put in a gravel strip at the foot of a retaining wall. In heavy rain, the runoff became a flood that washed all the gravel downhill.

He responded by concreting over the gravel strip.

Then he bored small, deep holes about a foot (30 cm) apart all along the base of the wall. These holes intercepted the run-off water that sank into the soil underneath.

Gulf Island gardeners can find themselves figuring out ways to grow plants on garden areas that are nothing but wall-to-wall rocks.

A Saturna gardener had her husband put boards around a rocky part of her garden. She dumped kitchen waste there all winter and in spring topped it with an inch of soil. Then she grew asparagus there.

Alpine plants are notoriously difficult to grow.

That's why a Vancouver gardener paid attention to detail when she made a scree bed. She dug out 12 inches (30 cm) of the original soil and added sharpedged rocks. These she covered with the original soil mixed with sand following which she topped it with a pea gravel mulch.

Anne Marrison is happy to answer garden questions. Send them to her via amarrison@shaw.ca.