orange asiatic lilies blooming in a DIY raised flower bed

DIY Raised Flower Bed Update | Drainage Issues in Clay Soil

In September 2019, after years of a sad, flooded flower bed, I built a DIY raised flower bed for the front of my home in hopes of fixing the terrible drainage issue with my clay soil.

It’s been about 9 months since I built the DIY raised flower bed and IT’S PERFECT!

diy raised flower bed in front of home with several pieces of diy outdoor furniture and decor

The amended soil is rich and full of goodies and my plants are thriving! It makes me so happy to see all of the bright, colorful flowers popping up in front of my home. Especially after nearly 5 years of dealing with a soggy, swamp for a flower bed where everything drowned.

You can find all of the front porch projects here.

Building the DIY Raised Flower Bed

When I challenged myself to complete my Budget Front Porch Makeover last fall I knew the number 1 thing making my curb appeal absolutely unappealing was the front flower bed. Or lack of front flower bed.

before and after photos next to each other of front of home landscaping

This soggy eye sore was such an embarrassment to see every day and I knew I had to do something about it. Finally.

Because nothing had worked so far with my attempts to amend the clay soil and resolve the drainage issues, I decided to build a HUGE raised flower bed.

Before I started building I scoured Pinterest and Google for images of raised flower beds for the front of a home and came up with nothing. So I designed my own layout, built the bed and I love how it turned out!

The flower bed has held up really well so far. The stain still looks good and I haven’t had any issues with the wood bowing – something I was worried about because of the amount of water I knew it would take on and my use of butt joints.

You can read about the whole building process here.

Amending the Soil

I was so excited this spring when I dug into the soil to find it so rich and ready for planting. I never thought I’d be excited about dirt, but after all the work I put in last year trying to amend the heavy clay soil, it was a relief to dig into loose, black soil.

amending clay soil update image of hand in black soil

You can read about all the steps I took to improve the clay soil in this post. (Plus some facts and resources about working with clay soil from my hours of research.)

But here I’ll just highlight the basics of my approach:

  • break up the existing clay about 6-12 inches deep
  • mix in soil conditioner, compost and manure to existing clay
  • fill in with topsoil
  • mix in more compost, manure and garden soil
  • cross my fingers that the water drains and doesn’t flood in the super heavy rains
compacted sand and red clay soil in a hand

This is what the soil looked like when I started. All clay and sand and highly compacted. I could barely dig into it and broke more than one shovel trying!

All of these efforts (even the crossing fingers) apparently worked because I now have a super healthy flower garden with soil that actually drains. (insert happy dance)

Spring Planting

Early this spring I got to work filling the DIY raised flower bed with as many colorful plants as I could fit. In hindsight, I may have overfilled it. I will definitely need to thin the plants out in the coming years. But right now it looks full and colorful and so happy!

raised flower bed in front of house with many blooming flowers

Here is the most recent picture of the flower bed on a typical rainy day. The flowers have all done so well and they are loving the rich soil! The flowers have been blooming in cycles so I always have a bit of color and I love seeing what will bloom next.

Because I have a few other flower gardens, I was able to “shop” my current gardens for a few plants to fill in here.

text: spring update clay soil garden solution, photo of orange lilies in a raised flower bed

I moved the bulbs for the orange Asiatic lilies over to this garden in the fall. They have multiplied so much!

I also moved some yellow day lilies over from my backyard garden this spring. It probably wasn’t the optimal time to move them, but there’s a reason I love planting lilies so much. They’re basically indestructible.

The other plants were either rescued from the clearance rack (the giant white daisy plants in the back) or purchased specially just for this garden (the magenta knockout roses on the sides).

After planting I covered the dirt with pine bark nuggets. I chose this type of mulch because my neighbors have had it in their garden for nearly 5 years without refreshing it and it still looks good. Less work and less money – I’m sold!

diy raised flower bed with newly planted flowers and mulch

Drainage Issues

I’d love to say that building a DIY raised flower bed for the front of our house has completely solved our drainage issues, but it’s definitely just a bandaid.

While I now have a beautiful flower bed, I basically just moved the flooding to a different area of our yard (which is something I thought might happen).

flooded muddy spot of yard next to wood raised flower bed

I have tried planting grass seed in this area of the yard that used to be part of the garden before I built the DIY raised flower bed, but the seeds have washed away every time. This small spot still floods and probably floods worse now.

diy wood raised flower bed with blooming flowers and poorly growing grass in front of flower bed

I’ve also noticed an area in our yard near the flower bed where the grass is growing very poorly. I’m assuming this is due to the new water path I created when I added the flower bed. (Although it could also be due to the terrible grub and mole problems in our yard, but who knows.)

DIY Raised Flower Bed Update

Overall, I’d say the DIY raised flower bed mitigated the drainage issue in our clay soil, finally allowing me to plant some flowers without them drowning. But it definitely didn’t fix the drainage issues, just moved the problem to the yard.

Regardless, I am so glad I decided to go for it with the raised flower bed. The front of our home looks so much better and I get compliments from neighbors all the time about the transformation! Even now, 9 months later.

text: raised flower bed front landscaping, picture of wood raised flower bed in front of home with flowers blooming

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