Laying Out Your New Landscape

When planning your new landscape, the first place to start is by driving around your neighborhood and seeing what other people have done with their landscapes. Bring a sketch pad or digital camera to record things you like. Your next stop is your local nursery or garden center. Look at what plants do well in your area. Look at any displays they have setup to get an idea of which plants work well together. And don't be afraid to ask questions.

Now comes the planning stage. Get a long tape measure and some graph paper and take some accurate measurements of your yard. The more accurate you are, the more detailed you can be with your plan. Don't worry though, if you aren't perfectly accurate. Even if you pace off your yard and get some general measurements, you will be better off than just trying to guess how large an area you are working with.

After the measurements are done, you can use either graph paper and pencils or one of the new software packages that are available. I prefer the software only because it allows you to make changes very quickly and easily, and also allows you to see three-dimensional views of your design. One unique feature is that many software programs allow you to preview your landscape five-, ten-, twenty- or more years from now! This way you can see how your mature lot will look in the future! This will help prevent over-planting areas.

If you don't use your computer to lay out your new design, use a piece of graph paper and transfer your measurements to the paper. Begin by laying out the larger elements like trees and shrubs, and then adding the smaller elements around them to complement the design. Also keep in mind the relative heights of the materials you are going to use. When viewing a landscape you want taller items in the back and shorter elements in the front.

This article series will continue over the next couple of issues as I take you through the entire process from planning to planting!

Dean Novosat is an avid gardener and landscaper. He has transformed many boring yards into beautiful landscapes. He has several websites including,

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