My last post was about using what you have to build a garden bed right in bad sandy soil. I can't wait to show you what this little bed will do and how it looks in a few months, but before then, I'll show you another bed I prepared in a very similar fashion. After all, the proof is in the pudding.
This is a nearly identical setup to what I did yesterday, but this this bed is almost two years old. I double dug this bed Two feet deep and mixed in piles and piles of mouldering oak leaves in the bottom of the trench. I filled it in with about a bag of slow release fertilized dirt (what I had on hand at the time) on top of the leaves which really only covered the very bottom of the trench. I set the plants on top of that and then back filled in around them with more layers of oak leaves mixed with the dirt I had removed from the hole. I mulched with more oak leaves (I had a serious surplus of them laying under the tree in my front yard) and then added a thick layer of red bagged mulch on top for aesthetics and to hold the dry oak leaves down while they decomposed.
Truthfully, oak leaves aren't the best choice for this sort of thing because they breakdown so slowly, but they do work. It's especially good if they've been sitting around for a while gathering up fungi and good microbes to help with the breakdown process.
I have never fertilized these plants. I have barely had to weed here either which is quite a statement. In fact the weeds are usually stray grass shoots that have wandered over the bricks from the yard, but they can't get through the thick layers of mulch and leaves to set down roots. I also don't water this bed anymore. I did during the establishment period, but after that, I trust all that good leaf amended dirt to hold in the water. And it does.
Now, a word about the plants. These are Sweet Viburnum. I got the three of them on the clearance rack at lowes for just a dollar apiece in their 2 gal pots. They were just sticks back then, but now I have to prune them regularly so they will take up a more formal hedge appearance. Viburnums are natives that grow all over the U.S. Finding a viburnum suited to your area is really a safe bet as far as choosing plants goes. The native Viburnum here is called "Walters Viburnum" and is rather tricky to track down at nurseries. But it's cousin, Sweet Viburnum, is an excellent stand-in.
If you are looking for easy plants that will grow well with much less work, find out what is native to your area. Use those if possible, if not, choose something in the same plant family, a cousin if you will, and plant it. Not only will grow great if you've met its needs, it will look more natural in your area. I have several plants that I have to fuss over and fertilize, but any natives or native cousins are self sufficient once established and if I've planted them in the correct location as far as sunlight requirements go.