5 Tips for Easy and Successful Garden Planning

5 Tips for Easy and Successful Garden Planning

As the cold temperatures are here for many parts of the country, it might seem a strange time to think about what to plant this spring. 

winter garden scene

But this time of year is a great time to work on planning your garden.

Good garden design starts with thinking before digging.

digging in the garden with shovel

Garden design takes time. 

It's too late to plan your garden when you're standing in the nursery eyeing every new plant that tempts you. Spending some time planning during the off-season will help to ensure success later.

garden plants at farm market


To help you I’ve put together 5 Tips for Successful Garden Planning. Stick with me here and you'll be saving yourself a lot of time and a considerable amount of money.

Plant selection should be one of the last things you consider, or you may be overwhelmed trying to create a garden design to accommodate the dozens (or hundreds or even thousands) of plants you crave.

relaxing by the fire

So curl up by the fire with a few plant and seed catalogs, pen and paper and your favorite beverage and start dreaming of spring.


1. Decide How You Would Like to Use Your Garden

dinner in the garden

Do you want to grow vegetables or herbs?

Would you like a cutting garden or will your garden be a place to entertain family and friends?

How much time and effort do you want to spend keeping your garden looking good?


2. Monitor the Site During Different Times of the Day and Year

Once you have an idea of how you are going to use your garden, take an objective look at the site before you come up with your garden design. This very important in determining which plants and trees you use to achieve the desired effect.

perennial garden

  • How many hours of sun does the site receive?
  • What times of day is it sunny?
  • Does sun exposure change with the seasons? Do trees allow sun in the spring and shade during summer?
  • How is the soil, as far as pH and texture?
  • Are there structures or large trees that will affect plant growth and selection?
  • Are there structures nearby that you would like to camouflage?
  • What plants are already growing there?

3. Choose Your Style

You know what you want to use your garden for, what you are working with and what resources you can devote to it. Now, what do you want it to look like?

salvia cottage garden

Formal or informal? Wild?

Should it complement your house?

Do you want it to flow with the natural landscape?

Do you favor soft pastels or bold tropicals?


4. Know Your Planting Zone

Before you buy that first plant, you have to know what your planting zone is.  Without that knowledge, you can end up ordering all sorts of wonderful looking plants and shrubs only to find that they are not suitable for your planting zone and they will die.

You will have spent time and money needlessly. 

US Hardiness Zone Map

If you're buying by catalog or online, every plant and seed catalog or online merchant should show a planting zone map and each plant depicted should have an indication of the zones in which that particular plant (or tree, etc.) will thrive. 

5. Select Your Plants

Sedum Autumn Joy

Make a list of the plants you like and group them by color, texture and form. (You can search on-line, Pinterest, or mail order catalogs.) Also chart them by season of bloom and/or interest. Consider both flowers and foliage. There are more and more plants being bred with colorful foliage that will provide interest in the garden all season.

japanese maple and liriope foliage


If you are planting for low maintenance, consider perennials as they come back year after year.

Be sure to include some large anchor plants that will look good all year. These are usually shrubs and often evergreens. Most small to average gardens can only accommodate 1 or 2 trees or shrubs, but they are important for providing the good bones of the garden. You want to choose wisely at the beginning. Trees and shrubs can be very difficult and heavy to move around.

colored pencils

Finally, if you’re feeling artistic, draw out your new garden. Measuring the spot is always a good idea. Some people like to use graph paper. Other prefer to make a rough estimate of how many plants they will need and fill in later if they don’t have enough.



Congratulations! You're ready for Spring Plant Shopping and Planting!

Stay Warm and Happy Planning!

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