Garden Layout and Design Plans

Discover tips and ideas you can use for developing your own garden layouts and design plans.

Vegetable garden in Rustic Backyard

Rustic Outdoor Kitchen Garden

This kitchen garden is designed to provide herbs, flowers and fruit.

Photo by: Mary Palmer Dargan ©Gibbs Smith, Lifelong Landscape Design, Mary Palmer Dargan

Mary Palmer Dargan, Gibbs Smith, Lifelong Landscape Design, Mary Palmer Dargan

This kitchen garden is designed to provide herbs, flowers and fruit.

Create a garden layout that you can live with and the whole family will love by starting with the basics. The most effective garden design plans follow a simple process from inspiration to completed landscape. The process isn’t difficult to follow, and the results easily come together to help you design a garden layout.

Whether you’re aiming for a formal garden design plan or a productive vegetable garden design, jump-start the process by taking an inventory of what’s already on site. Grab a tape measure and note the size of your proposed garden area, including locations and dimensions of existing structures, such as your home, garage, patio, deck or storage shed. Also take note of any significant items in the landscape, like a slope or septic field.

Stroll through your property and record any specific conditions. This includes things like a view you want to screen, a tree that needs to be trimmed or a spot where grass won’t grow. Also note any assets your property currently has, including plants or outdoor living areas.

Consider the garden layout you want and craft a wish list. Include every item you want to see in the garden design plan, whether it’s do-able today or ten years from today. Turn your imagination loose and incorporate things like the water feature you’ve always wanted, a backyard garden swing or a rose-covered trellis. If your family loves blueberries, include a berry patch in your wish list.

It sometimes helps to divide your yard into public, private and service areas. The public areas are the ones others see, like the front yard and entry. The private sections include back or side yards, outdoor living areas and decks. A service area is something like a play structure, compost pile, garbage can storage or dog run.

Examine your wish list and consider how to incorporate these different items in your existing property. A garden design planner software program comes in handy for this step, allowing you to resize and shift items around the yard easily.

Seriously weigh your budget. Consider what funds you have available today and ways to implement the garden design plan in stages. Swapping materials is one way to pinch pennies today, with a long-range goal of upgrading items. For instance, a landscape tie retaining wall is cheaper than a dry-stone one, and a mulched path costs less than pavers. Explore garden layout ideas that embrace versatility over time. 

By working through these steps to ponder different garden layout ideas, you’ll actually save yourself time and money in the long run—even if you decide to hire a landscape designer. Working through the steps of creating a wish list and fitting items into your existing landscape will make initial meetings with a garden designer more efficient and productive. A garden layout you produce using design software is actually a great tool to hand to a garden designer.

Above all, don’t rush yourself. If you’re unsure which way to proceed in a certain area, pause. Take a garden tour, browse online galleries or flip through garden books to discover the right ideas and inspiration for your setting. The reward of creating an effective garden design layout is definitely worth any wait.

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