We seem to have so many friends either revamping their existing gardens or creating brand new gardens at the moment, so this has created quite a few questions about how exactly you begin. The simple answer is, with a plan.
Starting with the front garden
Kate and I moved to Ar Bruidair back in 2012 and had pretty much a blank slate to start with. The people who had owned the house before us had gotten rid of their gardens and replaced them with very easy to manage blocks and gravel, so we got to completely start from fresh which was both exciting and daunting. We started very simply with our first garden adventure, which was our front garden, the one on the street that everyone could see.
It made this a very public journey with lots of people asking questions and watching, so I’m glad we had a plan and at least “looked” like we knew what we were doing.
Our first plan was very basic, a pen and paper. We measured the space to give us a very rough idea of what we were working with and we sat down and drew what we’d like the garden to look like. Kate had obviously eaten too much cheese or something that day, as it was Kate’s idea to have the weirdly shaped lawn but it does make for a really interesting garden in our sea of suburban square lawns and small ornamental trees :P.
Our plan really was as simple as a doodle, but it gave us ideas to work from. You can see that it didn’t really give defined shapes, just rough areas of where we thought things would be. When we took this doodle outside, that’s where things got interesting. We had to lift all that monoblock, which was going to be a huge job, so we drew our actual plan right there onto the ground with chalk, that’s when we were able to really visualise things and our shapes took hold.
We started with the rockery and shrubbery, the two little beds on either side of the lawn, this gave us a small practise area first before tackling the much bigger lawn area. A chance to back out before it was too late if things didn’t work. Luckily it did.
The back garden
By the time we’d got around to planning and creating our back garden, we’d gotten a little bit of experience under our belts. We recognised how useful the planning stage had been and with a much bigger garden to work with, we knew a plan really was going to be essential. Especially as this time, the garden wasn’t just a huge suntrap like our front garden, this time there were sunny areas, shady areas, buildings and furniture to think about. So the plan got bigger and more complicated to match the project this time, there was software!
Hey we are both tech geeks so you knew a gadget or something would appear!
There are loads of options out there for software that helps you plan and visualise a garden, some charge you but a lot are free. Really, most of them are no different from getting out your coloured pencils but we wanted to really think about the plants too, as we were very new to gardening so I tried out Mr Fothergill’s Garden Planner. It is a paid for app, but I found the free trial gave me plenty of time for my needs. It also let me project plan my growing season so I knew when all my tasks needed to be done. Hey I like a good plan!!!!!
It meant we could log the sunny areas, shady areas, wet ground, frost pockets etc, meaning we really could make sure we had the right plants in the right places. It also meant we could test out how the shed and greenhouse were going to work, before doing all that hard labour, cause trust me, that was hard work. Oh and the raised beds, if we’d got them wrong, that would have been catastrophic.
There are lots of different garden planning tools and processes, find the one that’s right for you but if you do want to try out some software to see if it helps, I put together a short video on how to use a free tool from smallblueprinter.