How to Design Your Own Garden


Gardens have been around since man decided that staying in one place was better than meandering all over the countryside in search of supper. Modern day gardens range from the purely aesthetic to the practical plot to grow the family's fruits and vegetables to everything in between. Good basic garden designs depend upon preparation, determining the purpose of the garden, planning and, of course, planting.

Step 1

Preparation is key to a good garden design. Before any work is done in designing a garden it pays to take a good look at the area where the garden will be. Take some time and observe the pattern of the sunlight and shade. Map out where current flower beds, patios and walkways, bushes and trees exist. Determine where the soil is muddy and dry, as well as any potential water runoff areas. Sketch the current landscaping on graph paper, keeping it to scale. Now you're ready to design your new garden area.

Step 2

Good garden design reflects the purpose of that particular garden. A cutting garden should be in an area of the yard where it can be viewed at a distance. That way the flowers that have been cut won't be as obvious as they would be if the garden was next to a patio. A vegetable garden needs paths between the plants, so they can be harvested without packing down the soil. A garden for entertaining should have level surfaces for walking, ample seating, and lighting for the evening.

Step 3

Taking into consideration sunlight, soil, and water is critical to any garden design success. No matter how beautiful the design, if the plants don't flourish the garden is ruined. Plan ahead what plants will go where in your garden. While some plants can grow in either full sun or shade, most plants are suited for one or the other. Water requirements are another factor to be considered. Roses, for example, like moist soil but don't like their roots to be in water logged soil. Lantana prefers soil that dries completely between irrigations. Trees do better with deep watering every few weeks. Group plants that have the same sunlight, water, and soil requirements together. It's difficult, for example, to keep cacti, which like dry sandy soil and full sun, next to lilies, which prefer moist rich soil and shade in the afternoon.

Step 4

Well prepared soil enriched with amendments worked well into the soil gets any garden off to a good start. There are two thoughts to plant placements in a bed. If the bed will be viewed from one angle only--say from the front of the bed to the back--because the bed is up against a wall or fence, place lower growing plants in front and taller plants in back. The tall plants won't block the view of the shorter plants or the sunlight they need. Plants grow naturally and look most pleasing when they are in groups of three or more if large, five or more if medium size, and nine or more, if small, rather than by ones and twos.

Tips and Warnings

  • Mature trees are valuable and take years to replace. Don't change the soil level around a mature tree, or you risk killing it.

Things You'll Need

  • Tools
  • Graph paper
  • Pencil
  • Shovel
  • Seeds and plants
  • Soil amendments


  • Garden Ideas; Carol Spier and Earrn Schultz; 1996
  • Great Ideas for Your Garden; Jane Courtier et al; 2003

Who Can Help

  • Basic Garden Design
Keywords: garden design, do it yourself garden design, basic

About this Author

Katie Rosehill's first book was published in 2000. Since then she has written additional books as well as screenplays, website content and e-books. Her articles have appeared on various websites. Rosehill holds a Master of Business Administration from Arizona State University. Her articles specialize in personal finance, weddings and gardening.