Designing a Garden: Planning a Garden Layout
Designing a Garden – The Final Plan
Designing a garden initially can be fairly daunting, but once you have settled the design in a broad way, you should produce a detailed plan. Don’t expect to succeed at the first attempt.
Start by drawing in your plot, plus any part of the house affected, to scale on a sheet of graph paper, using the side of a large square to represent a foot, yard or metre. Mark in existing features, such as garage, shed or fence, and any trees you intend to retain.If you wish to plot the boundaries and key points with absolute accuracy (you may feel that pacing out the distances is sufficient), you can do it by the method known as triangulation. Measure the distance between two selected points (A and B) on one boundary, and the distances between these and another point (C) on the opposite boundary. On your plan, applying your chosen scale, measure off and plot A and B. Then with compass arms scaled to distances A — C and B — C, draw arcs; the intersection of these arcs will fix point C. Features within the boundaries, such as trees, can be pinpointed in the same way.
Now you can pin or tape a piece of tracing paper over your master sheet and start placing and fitting together your desired features. But don’t finalize your plan before physically checking out the major aspects. Go out on the site and push in canes at the key points, and along the outlines of beds, borders, paths, and so on. A length of hose is useful for trying out the curves of a lawn.
Next make the ‘window test’. You can usually get a very good semi-plan view of your proposed garden from an upstairs window and this is particularly useful in assessing the proportions and balance of your plan. Then view the plot and your trial stakes from the downstairs window or windows you use most. This will help you to site accurately trees or other screening material you need to hide an unwanted view or to make sure that an attractive distant view is unimpaired.
Designing a garden can be a bit of a challenge, but when you are happy with every aspect, complete your detailed plan. Only then can you begin the construction of your garden with confidence.
Putting the Plan into Action
After the hours of planning comes the physical effort of putting it all into action. Approach the job methodically, and don’t rush it. Clear the site by collecting rubble into heaps for use in forming foundations for a terrace or paths. If trees and stumps have to be removed, make use of mechanical aids. Powered saws and winches can be hired.
Double-dig the areas that will become beds, borders and the vegetable plot. Incorporateor manure.
Drainage is important. If in doubt, take out holes 30cm (1ft) deep at various points after a period of heavy rain. If water is encountered, or enters the holes within a few hours, a drainage system will be required (see opposite).
Levelling should be done methodically. First remove the fertile top-soil and stack it on one side. Then move the sub-soil to the required levels before replacing the top-soil. Accurate levelling cannot be done by eye: a number of pegs, a mallet, a long straight-edged board and a builder’s spirit-level are necessary.
Terraces and paths must be marked out and the valuable top-soil removed for use elsewhere. Make a foundation of rubble and sub-soil. Paving slabs are best laid on 5cm (2in) of sand and then four blobs of mortar (five parts sand, one part cement), tamped down and levelled with a spirit-level.
Lawns need careful site preparation. Once drained (if necessary) and levelled, make sure there is a minimum of 15cm (6in) of good top-soil, preferably 20cm (8in). A firm surface for turfing or sowing is assured only by ‘treading’, shuffling across the site with the weight on the heels. Repeat in two or three different directions before raking smooth.
Beds and borders should be raised slightly. Mound beds in the centre and build up borders slightly towards the back. This not only displays the plants to best advantage but also helps drainage. Keep a 12 – 15cm (5 – 6in) channel between soil and lawn.