Tips for Designing a Garden Plan - dummies

By Ann Whitman, Suzanne DeJohn, The National Gardening Association

Before you start planting, you need to create a garden plan. Start by using graph paper and drawing a plan of your garden site to scale. Plot every feature you find on your site, both natural and those you or your predecessors have put in place. Use a measuring tape to get approximate measurements. You may also want to indicate areas of sun and shade.

After you’ve completed the initial drawing of your yard or garden plot, you can move forward and add the elements for your garden plan. Here are some recommendations:

  • Gather any pictures you’re using for inspiration, and prepare a list of your main goals, assets, and limitations.

  • Study your current plan carefully and decide which features you want to incorporate into your final plan, which ones you want to highlight, and which ones you want to downplay or remove.

  • Place a piece of tracing paper over your plan and sketch in or leave out various features and designs.

When designing your garden plan, you don’t have to get bogged down in details, listing every plant by name. Instead, “sun-loving perennials,” “blue and yellow bed,” or “pots of annuals” may suffice.

With your sketched yard in hand, your next step is to decide which area you want to start with and to roll up your sleeves. Break big projects down into manageable pieces, and do them one at a time.

Like rooms in a house, a garden area has four major elements. And as in building a house, going from the ground up is best. Tackle the four major elements in this order:

  • Floor: Lawn grass, a groundcover, paving materials, or good, plantable soil

  • Walls: Supplied literally by a wall of your house; by a fence, hedge, or trellis; or by backdrop of evergreens or shrubs of some kind

  • Ceiling: Can certainly be open sky but may also involve an umbrella, awnings, overarching tree or large-shrub branches, or a pergola with or without a cloak of plants

  • Furniture: Tables and chairs and benches and the like, but also major containers or garden ornaments and décor

Don’t go overboard with garden gnomes and pink flamingos. Limit yourself to one or two ornaments and keep the focus on the sense of space and the living parts of your garden.