Secrets to Success

Garden Journal, Part 1: Master Garden Plan

Garden Journal, Part 1: Master Garden Plan

There are entire books written about garden design and layout, but we'd like to provide basics to get you started on a master garden plan today.

Get some grid paper (we've provided a blank grid for you) and draw out your base plan to scale. The base plan consists of all the things you can't move, for example, your house, large trees, a driveway, or an air conditioner. This will serve as the foundation of your design.

Once you have the base plan, think about how you want your space to function. Draw in your barbecue, an outdoor eating space, the play yard for the kids, and any walkways or pathways. Think about how you will move through the space from one area to another and how well the space transitions. Keep an open mind. Do the things you've drawn in really need to stay the same, or would removing or moving something open new possibilities? You may even need (or want) new hardscape elements.

Now the fun part! Put a sheet of transparent paper over your base plan and start drawing in the softscape, such as flower beds, lawns, vegetable and herb gardens. Flowerbeds between the lawn and a walkway not only help to visually transition from space to space, but also help make an emotional transition. Softscape elements also cover up those not-so-beautiful, modern-life requirements, such as air conditioners or power boxes. Adding a flowerbed around these items will distract the eye from the water meter and focus on the beautiful tall blue delphiniums instead. Play with some ideas. The transparent paper allows you to move things around and see what you can create. Maybe you have more room for a vegetable garden than you thought. Could you remove that tree if you had to? What happens if you move the outdoor dining area? You may see something you hadn't thought possible.

Your master garden design is complete. Often it is a long-term goal rather than what can be created in a short period of time. At this point in the process, we're just designing where each item and garden is going to be, not necessarily what is going to live in the gardens. That comes later. Garden design is an important practice every beginner gardener should complete, and a resource every experienced gardener will keep.

We encourage you to use these guidelines as a way to think of your space in a new way. Check out the sample garden design for more inspiration.

Garden Journal, Part 2: List Making
Garden Journal, Part 3: Month-to-Month Organizer

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