Gardening 101: Planning and Design

In the eyes of many, there is nothing more beautiful than a well-tended garden. To reach this point, it takes time, effort, money, and maintenance. One great way to ensure your efforts do not go to waste is to start with a well thought out garden plan. Taking time before you start planting can result in a unified area, one that accents your home and gives years of pleasure and enjoyment.

Although no two gardens are the same, there are common factors that directly affect how your garden grows. You must take into account the amount of direct sunlight and shade the area gets. Is there the potential for foot traffic? How is the drainage, is there a water source nearby? The first step in garden planning should be an analysis of these types of issues.

Create a Map

Before you know what it is you want, you must know what it is you have. Prepare a scale drawing of your yard. Include the position of existing trees, shrubs, patios, walkways, and whatever else is in the designated area. These factors influence the garden that eventually follows.

Consider What It Is You Like

Once you have completed mapping your yard, it is time for you to start thinking about what you like. There are plenty of ways to go about developing your garden plan. Walk around your neighborhood. Look at what other people have done. Take note of what you find attractive and what you do not like. You can get a wealth of information from gardening books. Take a trip to a couple of local garden centers. Garden centers are great places to ask questions, particularly about plants that thrive in your area.

Design your garden around a theme. Perhaps all you want is a beautiful place to sit and enjoy life, or maybe you prefer the formality of a Japanese garden. Maybe you want to attract butterflies. If you have a young family, leave plenty of space for the children to play.

Merge Your Map and Your Dream

With your map and your ideas, sit down and put the two together. You may have to reevaluate your thinking. Are you still within budget? Can the plants you want grow where you want to place them? Your dreams, whatever they are, must be practical. You may wish to have ferns, but if you live in Arizona, this is not the right choice. Spend time on the internet or get involved with a garden forum. There are knowledgeable people to answer questions you have.

Using your map, pencil in what you want, where. Perhaps you want to include a vegetable garden at the expense of lawn area. Do you want flowerbeds abutting a winding flagstone path? How about a water feature? Have you considered a reflecting pool or fountain? Consider what you want and whether it can thrive there. A vegetable garden, for example, needs plenty of sunshine, good soil, and frequent irrigation.

Lay out the location of pathways. Areas that are used frequently should be broad. Pathways less traveled can be considerably narrower. Decide on the path surfaces. Are you thinking of paving stones or gravel, or perhaps washed gravel, or bark? Choose a material complementary your home.

Choosing Plants

When you are ready to choose the plants, consider budget, low maintenance, ease of care, aesthetics, and future size. All of these factors come into play when you design your garden.

When it comes time to “get your hands dirty,” layout the garden on the ground. Once you see your plan in reality, you may want to move things one way or the other. You can use a garden hose to simulate pathways. Set your plants where you think you want them, then walk around on your “paths” and see if you like the look. Sometimes things look perfect on paper, but at times, your original thinking does not translate well in reality.


Gardening 101: Planning and Design

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