Believe it or not, this is a good time to start laying out and building beds for flowers and/or vegetables for next year. And you can do it with no digging. This method will not only produce a bed in which to plant next year but will also provide you with a way to use all of the kitchen and garden scraps from this year’s garden. Here’s what you do: locate the place where you want the beds and lay them out (mark their edges. A garden hose is useful for this). Next, put down a layer of wet corrugated cardboard or wet newspapers (the black and white ones only, at least six layers), completely covering the area. These layers will kill the weeds and grass under them and create a dark damp place for the worms to begin the decomposition process, which will spread to the layers you will apply on top of these papers. [expand]
Then add layers of plant material, both green and brown. It would be a good idea to begin with a layer of hay (available at Agway), probably the only layer you will need to buy. Put down at least 8”. If you can get manure, this is the place to put it next. Maybe you have a friend who has horses or you are very friendly with Mr. Iocona (poultry farmer on Long Lane in East Hampton). Do not put bagged manure down, though. For the rest of the year, put your non-meat, non-dairy and non-oil kitchen scraps onto this pile. Also put the spent plants from a vegetable garden. If you mow your lawn and pick up the trimmings, put them here and spread them out (hopefully there are no chemicals on your grass). Keep some hay aside to layer with these scraps and the grass if you have a lot of this “green” material. When the leaves begin to fall, a combination of leaves and grass can be added to this layering. Keep it moist.
One should avoid plants that are diseased, poison weeds like poison ivy, noxious vines like ivy and bittersweet and weeds and grass with seeds. Other than these, any plant material can be used and in the spring, you should have a bed ready to plant. This is called lasagna gardening and sheet composting and I urge you to research it on the Internet.
I have also made beds by cutting the sod off a designated area and turning it upside down in the same spot. This also kills the plant material and begins a decomposition process. It is a good idea to apply a mulch and wait until the next year to plant in this kind of bed. If your soil is not very fertile, it may need compost on top, compost always being a good idea.
And now, what to put around those beds? Well, they really do not NEED anything but an edge of some sort helps to keep them neat. A simple cut edge on a flowerbed would work. Or one can buy many products for a taller bed: wood, plastic, bricks, cement block, pavers, stone and others I am sure. But it is also possible to use logs obtained when a tree falls or blows down, or from your favorite arborist. As I have said in a previous article, I use dinner plates on edge in my garden (not recommended for families with children). When we cleared the debris from seven years of neglect after buying this property, we found many stones and I used some of them on the edges. The decision must be based on the gardener’s landscape concept. [/expand]