A Beginner’s Guide To Designing Your Own Garden

Everyone has watched a garden makeover show on TV and thought about designing their own garden.

A Beginner’s Guide To Designing Your Own Garden

You’ve seen pictures on Instagram and other places online and thought you could do the same.

After all, all of these designs and videos make doing your own garden so easy to do. Why not try it out for yourself?

While great gardens can add extra value to your home, they can also give you a great space to spend time with family and friends.

But before you buy all the plants you can find, take a look at our guide to help you design your dream garden.

You may think it’s a simple process, beginner gardeners can make mistakes that can ruin your garden.

So keep an eye on what you do, to ensure that your garden remains in good shape. 

Planning and designing your garden is one of the most important things for you to do when you’re working on your yard for the first time.

You may be inclined to work on a bigger project, but starting off slow can give you more confidence in your work.

If you’re starting on your first garden, remember that you won’t see results overnight, so patience is the most important part of working on your garden.

Now, let’s start on everything you need to know about designing your first garden. 

When Should You Start Your Garden?

Before you start working on your garden, you need to consider the area that you live in.

Each region has a different opportunity for you to begin. Many people will assume that you should start work in the spring, but that is not the best time.

Instead, you should begin preparing for your garden in the autumn months.

By starting in the fall, you can make sure you till the ground and improve the soil structure and nutrient levels. 

Even if you didn’t prepare your garden in the previous year, you should just fix your soil once it gets to the right consistency.

However, you should also check and research the types of seeds you want to plant first before you commit to anything.

But before you start, the most important thing you should do is come up with a plan.

Work On A Design First

A Beginner’s Guide To Designing Your Own Garden

You shouldn’t just get every plant or flower that suits your fancy first.

The first step to successfully making your perfect garden is to work on your design first.

The design is used as a brilliant blueprint that can keep you focused on how you want your garden to work without getting sidetracked from your plans.

The first thing you need to decide on is how you want to use your garden, whether you want it to look aesthetically pleasing or if you want some kind of function for it.

Take a look at your yard and consider what will work best for it.

Once you’ve assessed it, you should make a wish list of what you want for it.

Now that you’ve had a look at your garden, you should take some time to learn basic design concepts.

Once you know these, you’ll be able to choose plants that will fit into your design.

Then, once this is done, you can draw your garden plan and have some official blueprints to work on your garden.

If you’re completely new to designing your own garden, then we’ll go through everything in detail about what you want from it. 

How Would You Like To Use Your Garden?

Before you start, you should know how you want to use your garden.

Depending on your needs, you’ll want to include different plants and furniture.

Say you want a place to relax, consider putting a garden bench or chairs and a table for you and your friends and family to relax.

If you want to entertain them, then you want to give enough space for everyone to move around a large table.

One of the most important factors is to make it accessible to your kitchen, or your grill if you want to be hosting some barbecues.

You should also consider whether you want this garden for you or for others.

When you’re thinking of how you want to use it, you should consider who will be in it most.

Do you have children or pets? Then you might want to consider a fence to keep your pets inside and plenty of space for your children to play.

You may want to introduce them to gardening, so consider some easy plants to grow, so think of making a section for them.

You might not just want a fence to keep your pets in, but to get some privacy.

Maybe you want to keep some views out or you want to stop some ugly sights outside.

But don’t block out any beautiful views if you take pride in them.

If you want some more shade, you can get a patio umbrella if you’re reluctant to plant a large tree for shade. 

There are so many factors to consider, especially when you’re designing them.

If you’re struggling with a decision, then choose three main design elements that matter the most to you.

You can consider these when you’re working on your garden’s design. 

Look At Your Yard

Before you consider your garden, you should consider where you want it to be. If you have a front yard and a back yard, think of where you want it most.

You may put your garden in your backyard if you want to have a private area where you can relax and get away from the world.

But if you’re a social butterfly who loves to interact with your neighbors, consider putting your garden in your front yard.

Overall, it’s essential that you keep your garden in an area where you would want to access it. 

You should consider where your water source is, as you won’t want to garden if you have to drag the hose around with you everywhere.

Having a water source nearby will make it easier for you to maintain your garden.

If you don’t have one available, then you should install a remote spigot to make sure your garden remains hydrated.

One feature that you definitely need to consider is how much rain, wind, and sun your yard gets.

You may need to consider if you need to put some shade in your garden to enjoy your garden in the summer, or if an umbrella will blow away in the wind.

You also need to know where the water in your yard will go when it rains. 

These factors all apply to the microclimates in your garden, which will help you to decide on which plants will best thrive in your garden.

Getting the wrong plants can mean that they won’t grow as you intend for them.

Because of this, it’s essential you do your research on what will work for your microclimates.

Work On A Wish List

Now that you know about microclimates, think about what plants you would love to grow.

Look around online and keep a note of what you want to have.

You could write a list, but a great way to keep excited about it is by making a mood board.

One of the best ways to do this is by going on Pinterest, where other users will share what they like about gardens too. There are so many ideas available. 

If you like a more physical option, you could take a look at some gardening books and magazines.

You could also print some images online and on Pinterest.

Mood boards can work as a way better method than if you were to just write a list.

All you need to do is ensure that they’ll work in your garden’s microclimate and that they won’t poison any animals that may access your garden.

What Sort Of Style Do You Want?

A Beginner’s Guide To Designing Your Own Garden

The style of your garden is a lot like working on the interior design of your house.

When you come up with garden ideas, you should make sure they work with the style of your house.

The aesthetic can have a major influence on how you design your home. 

Some gardens can clash with your home’s aesthetic.

A cottage garden clashes with modern architecture and minimalist gardens wouldn’t work with an older home.

Consistency with style can help your design to stand out. 

No matter where you place your garden, whether it’s your front yard or back yard, remember to choose the right style for your garden to match your home.

You also need to consider how you want to use the garden, and whether your style will fit in with the way you want it.

Depending on how you design your garden, it can add more room to your house.

Include a patio if you want to have a clear place to relax, and a wall or roof to spend time in for all seasons.

When you’re thinking of your style, you also need to realize what sort of materials can be used in the refurbishment process.

Garden Design Principles 101

Now that you’ve worked on the first two steps, you may want to consider how you’ll have your garden look.

Now the real challenge is designing your garden properly. The first thing you need to do for this is learning how to work on some basic design principles.

So, we’ll give you some advice on how to get started on the design process by working on the main three, such as color, plant groupings, and scale.


Color can play a huge role in ensuring that your garden doesn’t feel too overwhelming.

But you don’t want there to be too little color, or your garden will feel boring.

A color palette of a maximum of three colors for each section of your garden.

Ensuring that each section of your garden has a color palette can help you keep everything organized and give it a distinct look. 

The way colors make you feel can also have an impact.

There is such a thing as color psychology, and with this knowledge, you can decide whether you want cool or warm colors.

Cool colors like blue and green can help you to relax, while warm colors such as orange, red, and yellow are great to help you keep energized.

But before you make this decision, consider any contrasts that may be involved. If you have a dark wall or fence, choose lighter colors. 

Plant Groupings

You may feel like you want everything to be organized into neat little rows.

But that will make your garden look uniform and unnatural. Instead, try to emulate how your plants and flowers will grow in nature.

You should group odd numbers of perennials with annuals. By doing this, you’ll have large clumps of color available in your garden.

But there is one other vital factor to consider.

You should group your plants by how they need water.

If you have water that won’t have a high need for water, then you should keep them away from the ones you would water regularly. 


When you’re putting in new furniture, you need to measure your furniture and the room. You’ll need to do the same with your garden.

While it’s difficult to imagine the mature size of any plants and flowerbeds, and how they’ll work with other elements of your design.

In fact, the best way to help yourself imagine these is by utilizing a physical object.

Bring in friends and family to help with the design process by having them stand in place of any trees, and hold onto some long sticks if you want to know the size of a tree.

If you’re looking for shrubs, try to use an upside-down wheelbarrow, and large pots can work brilliantly for smaller shrubs.

If you want to plant a tree, make sure you know just how tall it will be.

You won’t want to have a tree that exceeds the height of your fence or goes just under a power line. 

Choosing The Right Plants

Now that you have an understanding of the design and the microclimate of your garden, you should be able to get an idea of what plants you want to include from your wish list.

Narrow down the plants that will fit into your garden, and how they’ll handle the level of sun exposure you’ll have. 

Once you’ve done this, look at the other factors.

What type of soil do you need, and what sort of soil do you already have? Is it wet or dry soil? Does your yard have more of a slope, or is it lower? Then remember just how windy your garden is. 

Once you’ve settled on everything you need, keep a note of all the gardens that will fit into the microclimate you have.

Then, as a part of that, you should research the mature height of the plants.

Once you’ve done that, consider the trees and shrubs you’ll want to incorporate into the design. 

The largest plants should be placed first because trees and shrubs will be the backbone of your garden’s design.

If you have trees, put them in first. Then, when you plant them, put the shrubs after them.

Knowing where you want to plant them and where is important. 

When you’re sorting out your design, you should consider if there’s a walled border in your yard.

Put any tall plants at the back and steadily move your designs further to the front of your garden bed.

However, if your garden bed is an island, place your tallest plants in the center and work towards the outside of the bed.

As an essential part of this plan, make sure that any plants you pick follow the color scheme you decided earlier.

You should also remember that green won’t be a part of the maximum three colors, and any other colors you pick will be in addition to it.

Examine Your Soil

A Beginner’s Guide To Designing Your Own Garden

All plants tend to thrive in different types of soil, so you need to find out how you can examine what type of soil your chosen plants will need.

You should check if your soil is acidic, alkaline, or whether it’s a neutral pH.

Maybe it should also have a mixture of four types of soil: clay, rocks, silt, or sand. 

Some soil can easily have its type identified just by looking at it, but in some cases it may need home or professional tests done.

Soil can easily become contaminated by old house paint or heavy traffic, so you should always test your soil first. 

So, before you start planting anything into your garden beds, remember to test your soil before you plant it to avoid any difficulties with growth.

Once you know the type of soil you have or the type of soil you need, make sure that you till it. Always ensure that your soil is fertile and rich.

The healthier and more vibrant soil will mean that you have healthier and more vibrant plants.

Get The Right Tools

Now, before you start your garden, it’s essential that you get the right tools to work on your garden.

You may be tempted to get some cheap tools, but if you want to be serious about your garden, you should invest.

There are several basic tools that you will need to get started in your garden, so here’s a list of what you need.

You’ll need a garden hoe and a scuffle hoe to make it easier to till the soil, and a dirt rake and a leaf rake to help keep your garden clear.

You can use a garden shovel or any sort of D handle shovel to clear out paths in your garden.

Don’t forget some hand tools either, so you can prune your plants successfully. 

Instead of getting cheap plastic tools, you should look around some yard sales or your local garden center.

You may think that any tools will work, but getting the right size tools to avoid any injury to your body.

Once you have the right tools, you should also make sure that you clean and maintain your tools so they can last you for a long time.

Prepping The Blueprint

Now that you’ve considered what you want, you need to map out how you’ll do it.

The best way to start is by mapping out your current landscape. It’s best to do this on graph paper so it’s easy enough to scale.

Many beginner gardeners don’t judge the size of their gardens and plants well, so that’s why it’s best to map everything to scale.

If you’ve got a larger yard, you might have to tape some pieces of graph paper together. To find out whether you need to do this, measure your yard.

Once you’ve measured it, make an outline of it on your graph paper.

When you’re making your outline, you should include any buildings, patios, walls, fences, and any walkways that go through it.

Remember to include a pond if you have one, or if you have a hot tub or a pool.

Depending on whether you have any existing trees or shrubs, you should draw them on your blueprint.

These will serve as a base, and by including anything you plan to keep, you can then expand on them later on.

But, if you plan to change or remove any of these, you can add them later when you make another copy of your blueprint. 

The best way to do all of this is to make more than one copy of your blueprint in case you change your mind.

It can be more time-consuming if you have to make another one later, so make an original one to then edit later.

Another factor that you can include is by making maps of any individual garden beds that you have, which will make your life easier if you have a larger yard.

When you’re working on your blueprint, you should consider how big your garden bed will be, and most importantly, how much room you’ll have.

Going big isn’t a great idea because if you start out with a huge garden you won’t know how much time it will take for you to care for it. 

While you might be tempted to start out with a huge garden to look after, it’s important that you remember that any gardening show has a team of professional landscapers and an entire crew behind them, while you will only have yourself.

It’s also essential that you consider how long it will take to work on your yard, as it won’t grow immediately.

Once you have successfully planned and completed your garden project, you’ll be able to become more confident when working on a large garden project.

Then, remember that your flower bed matches the scale of your home and that they’re between thirty to fifty percent of the height of your wall.

They should get proportionally wider as you make your flower bed longer.

But you shouldn’t make them too wide, as if you can’t access the middle you won’t be able to look after them as easily.

If you do have a wide flower bed, make sure that you have a walkway that goes through the middle.

But vegetable beds should never be over four feet in height.

Mark Out Your Garden In The Yard

A Beginner’s Guide To Designing Your Own Garden

Grab some materials and spend a few days deciding on where you want your garden to be located in your yard.

If you’re wondering about the materials, take some marking flags or a long garden hose, and when you’re committed, get the landscaping spray paint. 

Look around the yard and think about where you want everything to go and make sure you look at it from different angles.

That doesn’t mean to look outside, take a look at your garden from different windows to see how it looks. 

When you’re marking out your garden, think about all the other design elements and color schemes that you thought about earlier.

These three most important elements will be the deciding factor on how you work on your garden. They’ll tie it all together. 

Let’s consider this scenario as an option. You want a garden in your backyard.

Your three design elements include privacy, a place to relax, and you want shade from the sun.

Privacy can be achieved through building a fence or some larger trees that will go around the fence, or perhaps, you would like a hedge to keep the privacy instead.

If you want shade, a larger tree can work instead of a hedge to ensure that you keep the shade.

If you want to relax, consider whether you need to build a patio and what sort of furniture you need.

You may want light blue and green flowers to help you relax, and if you want friends over, you may want this located near the kitchen.

But if you don’t want trees, get an umbrella or another shade structure.

These can keep you out of the summer sun and help you feel more refreshed.

You won’t have to decide all of these details straight away. Treat this as a brainstorming session instead.

All of these elements are what you’ve already considered. You just need to make sure they work with the space that you have.

If you also live in an HOA you may also need to consult the rules for what you can and can’t plant. 

Once you’re confident that you have the garden size that you want and you have everything where you want it to be, put it on your blueprint.

When you look at it, you also need to include any hardscape elements such as walkways, patios, fences, or more.

If you need to build anything, make sure you include it on your map. 

Commence Your Plan

Take another look at the wish list you made.

Now that you’ve figured out the logistics behind your flowers, plants, and your garden style, you should be able to decide on what you need.

Now that you have a color scheme, you can see the types of flowers and foliage that you prefer.

Make a note of what you’re most interested in growing, and how you can balance it with the plan that you’ve made. 

Now, let’s look at what you need to look for when you’re deciding on the type of garden that you’re planning for.

Flower Garden

There’s so much to consider when you’re making your flower garden, but it’s essential that you include a balance in your design.

Plan your design for a succession of different blooms. Then, decide where each of your plants will go based on their needs for both water and sunlight.

Along with this, you can include both the height and width of the plants you have in your garden.

Vegetable Garden

If you’re working on a vegetable garden, you really need to consider how much room and time you have.

Vegetables require a lot of time. You also want to make sure that they don’t go to waste, so when you pick them it’s important that your family will want to eat them.

Making your vegetable garden a manageable size can mean that your garden will have more vegetables that won’t rot. 

Waiting For Your Dream Garden

When you’re working on your dream garden, it’s essential that you realize that it will not occur over a single night.

Every flower takes a different amount of time to grow.

While it may be frustrating to see your garden not realizing your dream every day, you can still imagine everything great that will one day come.

While waiting for your garden, why not try some annual flowers and vegetables? Annuals mature faster than perennial flowers.

To distract yourself from your perennials, your annuals can take their place.

Even vegetables can be great to grow as they come into season, so you can test which will work for different months.

There’s no point in only waiting for your plants to mature, as you can use that time to think about how you can improve everything.

While you may think that waiting is the only option, you can already see what you think is working and what isn’t.

This way, you can start up a plan for your next project while you wait.

Gardens can always be improved, so you should keep that in mind as you wait.

Having a garden is all about improvising on your design, and seeing what works and what doesn’t.

You don’t have to be disappointed if you think that your design isn’t working the way that you want.

The important thing for you to remember is that patience can go a long way when you’re working on your garden.