If you are one of those people who have perhaps been looking at your garden over the last few summers, wishing you were making more of it, you are not alone. The problem is, we usually leave everything until the first warm weekend of spring and then the garden centres and DIY stores are rammed and prices are at a premium. Outside of a few new pots and some colourful perennials, its often difficult to move your garden forward to exactly how you would like it.
Believe it or not, the start of the New Year (Yes January) is actually the perfect time to plan your garden and to take steps to get it ready for the Spring. There will be enough to do keeping the weeds at bay, keeping your grass cut and shrubs in shape in a few months time, so using the time of year, with the least amount of growth is perfect for getting those small, medium and large garden design projects off the ground.
OK, so the first and most important thing to do, it to draw up a plan. If you are gifted enough to do it by hand, that’s perfect but you can use design software, which only costs around £30 or get a professional in to design it for you. The great thing about drawing up a plan is that you will have actual dimensions, a full design to work to and of course the all important part, it will give you an idea of cost.
If you are going to get a professional in, you may have to pay a fee for the design but you don’t necessarily have to get them to do all of the work for you. With a decent plan, you can pick and choose the bits you want to do.
If you are going to draw up the plan yourself, here are a few tips for you.
Firstly and probably most important, measure your garden as best you can. Fence lines are rarely straight and a garden may be wider at one end than the other. If you measure across the garden at each fence post, this will give you a pretty decent and accurate measurement. You should start by measuring the length from the back of the garden to the house and then measure from side to side at every fence post or couple of metres if no fence.
Fence panels will usually not run in exact line to each other on opposite sides of the garden, so just use the posts from one of the sides (one that has easiest access) and then go in a straight line (as you possibly can) to the other side of the garden. Just another tip, the large “reel” type tape measures are the best to use for this.
OK, so you now have an accurate measurement of your garden as a whole. This is where you can really start to work on your design. At this stage, you will want to look at all of the things you want to keep in the garden. Its not often I remove absolutely everything from a garden, so we need to look at what is going to stay.
Using some canes and your trusted tape measure, plot around the things you want to keep and add them into the plan, this should include lawns, paths and any larger plants / trees & structures you are keeping. If you are updating something (shed / patio / decking) but keeping it the same size, add this to the plan now, as you already have the measurements.
So now you have your starting point for moving forward. You have the shape and size of your garden, the things that are staying or being upgraded but staying the same size and hopefully by now, you will already be brimming with ideas.
The final thing to do, before you start getting to the really creative stuff, is look at any practicalities. These could include access points, storage or simply even where you are going to store your bins. These are “must haves”, so if you are having a major overhaul, get these practical bits sorted first.
Once the practicalities are our of the way, its time for you to get working on the finished design. Even if you are not going to do all of the work immediately, having the design finished will help you with costings and time frame.
Each section of the garden you want to work on, should be done in the same way that you have done so far. Out with the canes and the tape measure and mark out your features section by section. To make like easy for yourself, if you are going to build a new structure, for example a raised bed, think about the materials you want to use and design to fit around off the shelf measurements. In other words, if you are going to use Railway Sleepers, which come in lengths of 2 meters, design your feature, to cater for “off the shelf” sizes.
Also, don’t get caught up in working with millimetres, try to keep the numbers round and easy if you can. Gardens are not like houses, there are very few perfect rectangles, so allow yourself the space to work with easy to build numbers. If you are putting in curves borders, you really only need to mark out the curves and take a few measurements to get as accurate as they need to be.
Now it is just a case of repeating the process, until you are happy with your design. If there is any hard landscaping, or jobs you are unable to do yourself, having a plan will help trades people cost it for you more accurately. And if you are going to do it all yourself, you can simply cost it section by section and spread it out over a 6-8 week period, well in time for Spring.
My final tip for you is get the hard landscaping done first, along with any structures as all the dragging of machines and materials across your lawn, can leave it in a mess. The earlier you do it, the more time it has to recover.