How to Design Your Outdoor Garden Indoors

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Autumn and winter can offer cold, rain and snow. Even in mild areas where gardening can continue through the cooler weather, there are likely to be inclement days when staying inside is your best bet.

Where winters are more severe, gardening moves indoors completely – or quits altogether. Even if the landscape isn’t buried under layers of icy white, soil freezes solid and makes digging difficult for even the toughest shovel. Snuggling indoors in your cozy home is a perfect time to pull out paper and pencil (or hop on your computer) and lay out improvements that can make your landscape better than ever next spring.

Drawing out a plan can save money, identify potential problems and ensure you will have the best looking and functioning garden. Not only will a plan allow you to work on your garden a little at a time, but it will show you how each area interacts with the next and help you avoid making very costly mistakes. Whatever media you want to use to sketch out your garden plan, here are a few guidelines to make the job easier.

  • Start with a layout – either as a rough sketch or to scale. Place all the important items on your drawing, from property lines to structures, to trees, walkways and patios that currently exist and will be a permanent part of your future landscape design.
  • Think about a focal point. What will be the structure, tree or garden that you want to show off most? This will be the most exciting view in your garden and you can design everything else around it.
  • Introduce new major hardscaping (permanent structures) to your layout. Think about practicalities first – like drainage and irrigation systems. Then add walkways, buildings, swimming pools, patios, pergolas/arbors, walls, boulders, etc.
  • Next, add the big living stuff like trees and shrubs.
  • Set up flower beds and design the placement of the plants once all the larger items are in place.
  • Garnish with mulch, outdoor furniture and decor as a finishing touch.

Whether you scribble out the layout of your garden on a paper napkin, draw it out on graph paper, plot it out on the computer, or call in a professional designer or architect to work with you, get a jump on next year’s the gardening season. It’s a great way to get valuable outdoor gardening done indoors.

Photo credit: Jane Gates

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