How to Develop a Landscaping Plan for Your Yard

Alison Kasch
Written by Alison Kasch
Updated February 16, 2022
Woman looking at backyard
Photo: DigitalVision/Getty Images

When it comes to your landscape, it’s essential to plan before you plant

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Every great landscape design has to start with a plan, especially when you’re starting from scratch or taking on a big project. If you place things willy-nilly, you could get left with awkward gaps, insufficient room, or a lack of cohesiveness that will bug you even more than the bugs themselves. Getting the most from your outdoor space involves putting pen to paper (or pencil to graph paper, in this case). Here’s what to do to create a landscape plan.

1. Measure Your Property

Before you begin your site plan, measure out your property from edge to edge. If you have your deed map handy, this will tell you your property’s measurements and where your house sits in relation to your outdoor space. You can also contact the records office in your county to obtain a copy.

Pro Tip: If measuring by hand, invest in a tape measure that’s at least 100 feet long to avoid having to stop and do mental math every time your tape runs out.

2. Draw Your Design Plans to Scale

Once you’ve outlined your property’s dimensions, grab a piece of graph paper and a pencil. Figure out what your scale will be—for example, one square could equal one square foot and so on. Then, draw up the outline of your property’s perimeter based on your measurements. Be sure to keep all your drawings to scale as you move further through your plan.

3. Include a Drawing of Your Home and Where It Sits

After drawing up your property outline, measure the perimeter of your home. Then, measure from your home to the edges of your property to figure out where it sits. Use this information to draw up your house on your design plans. Again, if you can obtain a deed map, you’ll save yourself a lot of measuring.

4. Account for Hardscaping, Fixed Objects, and Utility Lines

To finish your preliminary drawing, measure out all the hardscaping and fixed objects around your outdoor space. This includes your deck/patio, driveway, walkways, and any structures you will keep. Finally, call the dig line or contact your utility company to figure out the location of any underground lines.

5. Have a Clear Idea of What You Want

After you’ve outlined everything, all that’s left to do is fill up the space. Consider different landscaping ideas and come up with a solid list of wants and must-haves, such as a conversation area, gazebo, water feature, fire pit, outdoor kitchen, night lighting, and whatever else you dream up. If you’ve got a plant “want” list, create a garden plan and include the dimensions of the plot.

6. Integrate Your Landscaping With Your Home

Your landscape design should flow with your home, so be sure to consider your home’s style (as well as your decorative style) when coming up with your plan. Also, think about where your windows are and tailor your landscaping to create a beautiful view.

7. Consider Shade, Sunlight, and Drainage

Family eating outside
Photo: DigitalVision/Getty Images

Planning your landscaping requires a thorough site analysis. How much sun does your outdoor space get? Are there any areas with drainage issues that cause flooding? Consider these elements and plan accordingly.

For example, try to pick the sunniest spots for a garden, making sure there’s optimal drainage. Seating areas, on the other hand, could benefit from a tree or other shade source. If you’ve already got your trusty oak tree’s shade to work with, then that’s where you place your entertainment area rather than your garden. Work with what you’ve got, you know?

8. Create Passages

Passages between destinations are one of the integral parts of landscape design. Plot out patios and winding walkways to tie your design together and bring it to life. Not only are these elements beautiful, but they’ll also protect your grass and gardens from getting trampled.

9. Choose Native Plants

The easiest way to achieve a healthy, thriving landscape is to select plants that are already well-adapted to your area’s climate. By choosing native plants, you’ll create a beautiful and highly sustainable outdoor space. Look up your area’s native plants or chat with an expert at your local nursery to learn which plants will work best.

10. Think About Growing Your Own Vegetables and Herbs

Since you’re already putting the work in, why not grow a garden that works for you? Homegrown herbs and veggies aren’t as difficult as they seem (and they’ll bring your cooking to the next level). As a bonus, many tasty kitchen herbs also attract important pollinators to your garden.

11. Don’t Leave Too Much Space Between Plants

While you should definitely allow your plants enough room to grow, too much space can make your design look stiff and stale. After all, you probably don’t want your yard to look like the landscape outside your dentist’s office. Fill your designs with sporadic plants of various colors and textures. Don’t feel like everything has to be perfectly lined up and spaced out.

12. Consider Yard Work and Maintenance

Landscapes can be a lot of work—whether it’s watering, pruning, weeding, or pest control, it’s going to require a considerable amount of attention. Ponds and other water features also involve a lot of maintenance, from patching leaks to replacing filters and checking pump intakes. Think about what you can realistically fit into your schedule and plan accordingly. If you plan on hiring out, talk to a local landscaping company to get a better idea of what will fit into your budget.

13. Carpentry Not Your Thing? Bring in a Landscape Designer

Landscaping plans
Photo: AtStock Productions/Adobe Stock

If the nib on your pencil won’t stop breaking and you can’t seem to keep your drawings to scale, you’re not alone. Drawing up all the parts of a landscape plan is an intermediate-level DIY and not everyone has the drafting skills of a carpenter. Enlist the help of a landscape designer near you to help bring your vision to life.

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