How To Plan A Landscape Design – 6 Steps To A Well-Designed Garden

How To Plan A Landscape Design

For many people, it’s getting to be time to figure out how to plan a landscape design for your organic garden.

I show you how in the video below – and I’d love to get your questions in the comments section at the bottom of this page.

Your landscape design plans might mean putting in new gardens entirely, or maybe just coming up with a planting plan for this year.

You could just go out, buy a bunch of plants, and then decide where to plant them when you get home.

But doing some good old fashioned proper landscaping design planning will result in a much better garden.

Here are 6-ish steps to getting it done…

Landscape Design Step 1 – Set Goals

First step for how to plan a landscape design – you get to think about how the garden should look and feel, how it will be used, and how you’ll work to improve your little ecosystem.

1. Look/Feel. This could be certain flowers, specific shapes and colors, and other home and landscaping design features.

Here in this simple little corner of my garden, I want to recreate the 3 sisters guild (corn, beans and squash), but with some additional beautiful plants incorporated like sunflowers and cleome.

2. Usage. This is how you’d like to use the garden. That means you may want places for playing sports, walking, sitting, eating, potting and everything you want to do in the space.

In my little spot, I simply want to grow this cool grouping of food plants and make sure I can access them through little informal paths into the garden, but obviously the usage goals are more involved in a full garden.

3. Ecosystem. This is how you want to improve garden health and focus on the environment.

For me that means compost, mulch, a new crop rotation, microbial inoculants like effective microorganisms and controlling the ivy. For you, it could mean erosion control, attracting beneficial wildlife, recycling rainwater, etc.

These goals will make some of your landscape design planning decisions seem to fall into place for you…

Step 2 – Site Plan

Draw what’s already there – gardens, paths, buildings, plants.

Even if there’s just a lawn next to your house, draw it to scale. Use graph paper and measure accurately. Three feet by three feet per square on the graph paper is often good.

Draw in utilities like gas and irrigation lines and hydro wires.

Make a few photocopies for playing with, and then start playing…

Step 3 – Site Analysis

Now we’re looking at the various energies that interact with your site.

For example, the sun. Draw the sunny and shady areas and areas in between.

That can take some observation over the course of the full growing season, but if you don’t have time for that, you’ll have to approximate it by keeping track throughout the day. Positioning plants in the right sun conditions is a big step to helping them be healthy.

Keep track of the winds in case you want to block them (or use them). Keep track of the views in case you want to block them, too (or accentuate them).

Draw in slopes. Draw anything that will impact your home landscape design, and then you can start with the most basic form of designing…

Step 4 – Functional Diagrams

Then it starts to get really fun – you get to start designing your landscape.

Look at your site plan and site analysis and start roughing in where things might go based on these.

No drawing individual plants yet. Instead, just draw bubble diagrams of where things might go. A pond here, a hedge there, greenhouse here, compost bin there, cistern here, etc.

You’re just seeing how the overall layout might look, and you’re always trying to integrate the major elements so they work for each other.

Doing this with bubble diagrams allows you to let go of the attention to detail and just dream. And they’re so fast you can easily draw at least a couple of entirely different options on your photocopies.

Then from there you can start to get more detail…

Landscaping Design Step 5 – Concept Plan

If you want, you can do a concept plan next.

This is where you turn the bubble diagrams into more definite plans, but you don’t get right into choosing all of the plants yet, except perhaps for the main specimens.

So you draw exactly where your paths are, your lawn, pond, etc. This is what a landscaping designer would present to a client before getting into the nitty gritty of choosing plants.

I often like to use this plan as my final plan in a vegetable garden, because that allows me to be more flexible on how I actually plant.

But in a more formal garden, I’ll get into 1 last step…

Step 6 – Planting Plan

The planting plan is where you decide which plants you’ll be using, and draw exactly where they’ll go in the garden.

You draw them at close to the size they’ll become, not the size they are now. This allows you to give them all the space they need to grow naturally.

Many gardens are planted too densely, and too close to paths and buildings, even by experienced landscape designers who should know how to plan a landscape design, so this is an important step.

From this, you can also create a plant list so you know exactly what you’re looking for as you go to your local garden centers.

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