How to Plan a Garden Layout

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Taking time and care to plan a garden layout can save plenty of money and effort over the long term. The best way to begin planning is to draw a map of the garden to scale on graph paper and investigate the growing conditions. If you're going to excavate while landscaping your garden, contact your local authority, and find out if utility lines run through your garden and where they lie. Select plants that thrive in the available conditions and are hardy in your local U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zone, for the best results.

How to Draw a Garden Layout

Step 1

Measure the perimeter of your garden and any permanent features, such as ponds, sheds, patios or paths you don't plan to move.

Step 2

Draw a map of your garden on graph paper, converting the garden's dimensions so that the map is as large as possible while keeping it to scale. For example, 1 foot or 6 inches can equal 1 square on the graph paper.

Step 3

As you decide what flower beds, paths, lawns or other garden features you want in your garden, add them to the map.

Step 4

After selecting trees, shrubs and plants, draw circles to scale to show their final growing widths, to avoid overcrowding.


  • Make several copies of your garden map, ready for when you want to redesign.


Factors to take into account when designing your garden include:

  • Lines -- Straight lines look formal, and curved lines give a more relaxed, informal effect.
  • Time -- Flower beds require more time spent sowing seeds, planting, weeding and tidying and than shrubs or trees.
  • Style -- Gardens usually reflect a particular style, such as tropical, Mediterranean, Asian, contemporary, traditional or cottage. Garden styles should match the style of the house.
  • Variety -- A variety of plants provides year-round visual interest in a garden. Trees and shrubs offer height, structure and a background to other plants. Flower beds should contain tall and small plants. Taller plants should be placed where they don't block or shade smaller plants. Ground-cover plants add interest at ground level and help prevent weeds from growing.
  • Viewpoints -- A garden should look its best from where it's most often viewed, such as a patio, a house window or an under-tree seating area.

Most gardens include flower beds, shrubs, maybe a tree or two and a lawn, though nowadays some are giving up their lawns for less thirsty, hungry and high-maintenance planting. Other garden features you might include are a water feature, such as a pond or half wooden barrel of water, a wild corner to encourage local wildlife to visit and a children's play area.

Things You'll Need

  • Tape measure
  • Graph paper

How to Select Plants

Growing Conditions

The secret to a successful garden layout is growing plants that thrive in the available light levels, soil type and climate. Plant labels usually state whether a plant grows best in full sun, partial shade or full shade as well as its preferred soil type, such as loam, clay or sand. Plant labels also state the USDA zones where the plant is hardy, which means the zones where it survives winter and summer temperatures. Ask at your local garden center if you're unsure of your local USDA plant hardiness zone.

Plants that grow best in full sun need at least six hours of direct sunlight per day. If an area of your garden receives less than six hours' sunlight, select plants that grow well in partially shady sites. Only plants that grow in full shade succeed in a garden area that receives no direct light.

Most plants grow best in loam soil, which is moist and drains freely. Some plants tolerate clay soil, which is thick and sticky and drains poorly, and other plants can grow in sandy soil, which is crumbly, loose and dry.

Seasonal Variety

Trees, shrubs, vines, perennials and annual flowers enhance garden displays with their leaves, bark, flowers, fruit, berries and seeds. Evergreen trees and shrubs provide continual color. Perennial plants return year after year, and annual plants grow, flower and die in one growing season. Select plants that offer interest in different seasons, so that your garden looks attractive year-round.

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