Garden Design for Beginners: 5 Tips for Getting Started

Garden design tips

Designing a Garden Isn’t Difficult

The real challenge is balancing all of the garden’s needs for successful growth with your unique dreams for your green space.

To help you get started, and to minimize stress, remember that planning an outdoor garden space is a lot like redecorating or reorganizing an indoor room or space. We’ve put together an eBook with expert advice from professional garden designer Rebecca Sweet of Harmony in the Garden, and before you download it here are 5 quick tips—with detailed explanations following—that will help you think through the planning stages and get you into action.

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Five Steps to Easy Garden Design

  1. Decide how you want to use the garden space
  2. Determine how much sunlight the garden gets in all seasons
  3. Take your time
  4. Be realistic; start small
  5. Choose your focal point

What do these steps mean? Enter your e-mail below for a free guide.

Tips for designing gardens

Step 1: How Will the Garden be Used?

Will you just grow flowers and ornamentals, or do you want to grow some vegetables, too? Do you need space for dogs or kids to run? What about a gathering area for you, your family and friends?

This is the time to allow yourself to dream big. Start a sketchbook of ideas—it’s okay if you’re not a skilled drawer. It’s a process that’s going to help you get your priorities clarified and let you consider a number of different options. What the drawings look like isn’t important, it’s so you can think it all through. Maybe in one plan you intersperse vegetables in the flower bed? Perhaps you’re dreaming of a wild-growing cottage garden? Or maybe a formal, orderly planting is more your style?

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Step 2: Determine How Much Sunlight the Garden Space Gets

Knowing the amount of daily sun exposure in the growing seasons is vital to help you determine which plants will survive and thrive. Remember to consider sunlight in all seasons though, not only for the plants’ well-being but for any hardscape or furniture you might want to place.

That glider you’ve always dreamed of sitting in with the latest book you’re reading won’t be so comfy if it’s situated so that it gets blistering late-day sun and you only have evenings to spend in the garden.

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Step 3: Take Your Time

If you’ve just moved into a new house resist the urge to do anything major during the first 12 months. Give yourself an entire year to see what’s already planted where in all four seasons, to get to know the neighbors’ habits, to discover the exact location on your property that will be the best location for your dream garden.

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Step 4: Be Realistic; Start Small

Gardeners have a saying about a new garden plot: first it sleeps, then it creeps, then it leaps. It may be tempting to try and recreate that makeover you saw on a home and gardening show, but those show folks had a huge budget and likely dozens of people working on the project.

One of the biggest joys your garden will bring you is the sense of feeling connected to it through the time and energy you spend on it. It’s great to have dreamed up and sketched out the whole back yard plan, but start with just one part.

Maybe begin with the beds closest to the house that you’ll see regularly and have easy access to. There’s nothing worse than excitedly beginning your garden install and realizing you’re in over your head with regard to the amount of time you really have to care for it, the amount of money available to outfit it and the energy it will take to maintain it.

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Step 5: Choose Your Focal Point or Points

Is there an ancient oak tree spreading its canopy over the yard? Maybe you are now the owner of the garden bench that came out of your grandma’s garden back home where she taught you your love of gardening? Will you eventually install a fountain or garden art?

Know where the focus or focal points are in your garden because these will draw your visitor’s eye and help pull them through the space. These focal points will guide all your decisions about supporting plants or hardscaping, too.

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