Planning a Garden Layout

Planning a Garden Layout

By Michael Jenkins

There are a great many garden chores that can be done during the fall and winter months, but planning a garden layout is probably one of the most enjoyable. Planning a garden entails a wonderful mix of imagination, creativity, and exploration. It’s a wonderful chance to just enjoy your space when the weather might be keeping you inside and your garden is sleeping. While there’s no single correct way to plan a garden layout, we can make some suggestions that might make the process a bit smoother and more productive for you.

The first step is to take a look at the space in question. Whether it’s a garden you’ve had for some time, or a new space to you, getting to know it is an important part of planning the layout. Whether it’s a small patio garden or a larger backyard space, take some time to walk through the garden-to-be and get a feel for it. Note where the sun is—and where it will be in the spring and summer months—and how the shade moves throughout the day. Are there low places where rainwater pools? What’s the soil like? How about the drainage?  All of these things will influence your final design, and the ways in which you’ll need to modify your garden space. Taking pics of the space on your phone can be helpful for later reference, so don’t be afraid to do so!

Next, you’ll want to measure your garden—and then measure some more. Accurate measurements are a critical part of creating a good garden plan. Your measurements should note any permanent features in the space—a walkway, a shed, fences, a children’s play set—and where things like gates, water spigots, and outdoor power outlets are. It’s wise to measure more than once to ensure that your numbers are accurate; without accurate measurements you’ll be relying on guesswork. Guesswork is never an optimal way to garden, and should be avoided if possible.

The next step is maybe the most fun: dream! Take some time and use your imagination to think about the kind of space you have, and the kind you want to create. Don’t be afraid to dream big—even if you can’t use all of those ideas this year they’ll be there for the future. Writing down your dreams, ideas, and goals (perhaps in your garden journal) is a great idea as it helps with future planning. Gardening is, in part, about anticipating the future while living in the moment, and a good list of dreams and goals can help you do both.

Here comes the artsy part: it’s time to design your garden space. Incorporating all of the information you’ve gathered thus far, and thinking about what you’d like to plant and where it would best be suited, create a sketch or mock-up of your garden layout. There’s no single correct way to do this, so play around and find what works for you. Many people like colored pencils and graph paper. Some folks like using digital design tools like Adobe Illustrator, Canva, Sketchup, or even Exel. Some folks create elaborate mock-up gardens using Legos or similar toys, while others freehand sketch on scrap paper and call it a day. The goal is to create a road map you can follow that helps you place your plants where they’ll thrive and gives you the garden that you want. Pro tip: take photos of your sketches or mock-up and save them on device or computer just in case the original gets lost or damaged! Saving your garden plans can help you note what went right, want could change, and what you want to do next year.

In the end, that’s the take-home lesson for this blog: a garden is always evolving. New ideas, new plants, and new goals come into play with each season. A good garden plan helps you adapt and change  over time, letting you enjoy your garden now while looking forward to the future. If you’d like to share your garden layout plans with us, please get in touch either in the comments or via social media. We love to hear from you!

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