Designing your own garden space

It’s time to get the garden ready for summer. But this is also the time of year when some of us realise we need to do a more thorough job than just mowing the lawn and pulling out a few weeds. In fact, with a sinking heart we realise we need a garden overhaul.

If you’re in this situation, the good news is that there are some simple steps to take which can really help you make the right decisions about what needs to go where in your garden. So read on for some tips on how to get going.

Whether you’re employing a garden designer to help you or not, you need to start with thinking through three key questions:

• What is staying in the garden? for example a large tree, the trampoline, the washing line, a favourite plant
• What is definitely going? – The patio, scrappy shrubs and rundown shed for instance.
• And what do you want to add? – A new seating area, something to block an unsightly view, year round plant colour?

If you are using a garden designer tell them all of this information, some favourite or disliked plants and colours and they will do the rest.

Developing your own garden plan 

If you have decided to go it alone you need to get out into your garden and take stock of what you have. The best way to start is to measure your outdoor space and draw it accurately onto paper. Either about 1:100 (that is, 100cm on the ground will be 1cm on the drawing) or 1:50 will probably work best. Mark on it any immovable objects such as manhole covers, downpipes, windows and doors, garage etc.

Then try to identify as many of your plants as possible, particularly those you want to keep. If you are lucky enough to have trees in your garden, or near your boundary, estimate how far their branches come out from the trunk – and draw this onto your plan. Similarly roughly sketch in the size of any shrubs or flowers you want to keep. (You’ll find this easier if you’ve already removed weeds and unwanted plants) You may even discover a plant or feature you do want to keep, hidden in that wilderness corner.

Having this plan helps you see the size and shape of the things you want to keep, and how they relate to each other, and to the garden as a whole. . You may already be able to spot some of the improvements that need to be made – such as the need for a path to connect spaces, or where to move the bins to so they’re hidden from view of the patio but still easy to get at when you need to.


Next, focus on the area of the garden you expect to use most. For many people this is the patio or seating area. If you already have a patio you might find it worthwhile to put out your table and chairs and check that it’s the right size; don’t forget to allow for all the chairs to be out and still be able to walk around it. Also check that the patio is nice and level so chairs and tables don’t wobble. Then sit down and check its’ sheltered from the neighbours’ view, and from the wind, and in a reasonably sunny spot. If you conclude it’s in the right spot – that’s great. If it’s not, think about why that is and if there’s anything you could easily do to put it right – for example to plant a shrub or small tree to screen out the neighbours.

Once you have decided the size and location of the patio you can work out where to put everything else. It can look great to have a large flower bed wrapping round the patio, as this gives a lovely feeling of enclosure, plus offering fragrance and colour. Or you may want it next to the lawn or by a boundary to increase the feeling of space.


Think about whether the lawn should be next to the patio so that you can sit out and still see the kids playing – or so that guests can have enough space when you have parties. You may need to have a small retaining wall next to the patio – in which case low planting on top of the wall can soften the lines.

Make space for practicalities

Everyone has some necessary things they need to fit in the garden, from the kid’s trampoline to the washing line and the shed for the lawn mower. Remember to site these carefully so they are easy to get at but don’t spoil the views from the patio and from the house windows.

Once you’ve got all these marked out on your plan you have the rest of the garden to fill with plants, water features, or anything else you fancy!

Prepare for plants 

Most people like to include some plants in their garden. If so, it’s worth finding out some basic information about your plot, as plants need to thrive not just survive and for that they need the right conditions:

• Whether the soil holds water (clay) or lets it drain straight through (sand)
• Whether the soil is acid or chalky. You can buy home pH testing kits in most garden centres or DIY stores if you are unsure.
• Whether the different parts of the garden are mainly sunny or shady. To check this look at where the sun falls at different parts of the day, also any shade caused by yours or neighbouring trees, also any particularly dry or damp areas of the garden.

When you’ve checked this out you will be able to choose the plants that are likely to grow best in your garden. If you enjoy cooking, consider edible plants and herbs as part of the mix of plants. Herbs are best situated near to your kitchen door so you can get at them easily when cooking. You can easily install raised beds for growing fruit and vegetables – think about picking your own summer strawberries! Keep the beds less than 1.5m across so you can reach across easily to pick them.

You now have the tools to get out there and take charge of your garden, so enjoy planning what to put in your outdoor space. Alternatively call us on 07967 181950 for help, from full design, to planting design or just help and advice on an hourly basis.