A successful garden begins with a plan. Before you turn over the first shovel of dirt or plant a seed, determine the type of garden you want. A kitchen garden, in which you grow vegetables and herbs, needs several hours of sunlight per day. A rock garden intended as a quiet retreat may require more shade. A flower garden may require a mix of sun and shade, according to the flowers you wish to grow.
Determine the location of your intended garden. Check its proximity to a water source. Consider if you'll be able to access that water source for your drip irrigation and/or sprinkler systems.
Assess the site for your garden. Determine how much sun exposure the site receives and which portions remain shaded. Ascertain if the site is exposed to excessive wind---and potential damage---and if so, determine if you can add a hedge or fence for a windbreak.
Check the viability of the soil to support plant life. If the site is covered in established grass, you may have to struggle with continued grass sprouting for several seasons. If the soil is dry and depleted of nutrients, you'll have to amend the soil before building the garden.
Sketch out your ideal garden. Include the area around the garden as well. Mark the location of existing trees, shrubs and fencing, using a black pencil. Use a green pencil to mark the locations of your intended plantings. Use a red pencil to sketch in irrigation lines as needed.
Use larger circles to represent trees. For garden plantings, draw smaller circles and rectangles, and label them with the type of plants you wish to include in the garden. For example, a circle may represent the location of a honeysuckle bush. A rectangle may represent a row of tomato plants. Draw in any paths, benches or water features you intend to include in your garden.
Measure the actual width and length of the space in which you intend to locate your garden. Write the measurements on your sketch.
Research the plantings you intend to use. Determine their water and sun requirements and the amount of room needed for the plants as they reach maturity.
Look at the sketch of your garden. Taking into account the information you now have regarding your plantings' requirements, consider revisions that need to be made.
For example, you may realize your tomato plants may not get enough sun if you line them up on the south side of the plot. You need to relocate them, which in turn relocates your cucumbers.
Make a scaled drawing of the plot without any of the plantings or features. Make several copies of this drawing. Draw in your elements (using circles and rectangles for plants) to scale, taking into consideration their sizes at maturity. Use these copies to continually revise your plans until you have a solid, workable design.