The days are getting longer, and while there may still be snow on the ground right now, it won’t be long before you’ll be sitting outside in your backyard, enjoying your gardens and landscaping. Those gardens don’t just magically appear in the spring. Now is the time to start the planning process and get your garden in gear, so that when the beautiful spring and summer weather comes, you’ll have a space to relax in and enjoy.

Now is the time to figure out exactly what you want, and compare it to what you currently have. Map out your garden on paper, and include all the current trees, shrubs, slopes, and patio areas. Also mark sunny versus shady spots, and make sure you include full versus partial sun, and full versus partial shade. This will help you later when deciding what to plant. You can also add things like where there may be pathways, seating areas, or where children or animals might play.

Next it’s time to pick out the plants you’ll want for your garden. You’ll want to look at several factors, including:

  • Height and width of plant. Don’t forget that a new plant will be much smaller than one that is full grown. You don’t want full grown plants to damage your home, or to shade out other plants that need sun.
  • How easy are plants to care for? Plants that are native to your area are usually a better choice because they are acclimated to the area and will require less frequent fertilizing.
  • How compatible are they with other plants?
  • What color are you looking for, and how long do you want color to last? While flowers are a highly attractive attribute, many plants offer more than just blooms. Think beyond the flowers and use foliage, fruit, and bark for year-long color, form, and texture. Many flowering trees bloom with pretty flowers in the spring or summer and have colorful autumn foliage. Some deciduous and most evergreen shrubs need full sun while broad-leaved shrubs thrive in the shade. With proper planning you’ll know which type to pick for your yard.
  • Also, remember that your garden can do more than just look pretty. The right plants, used the right way, can add comfort to your garden. Conifers and broad-leaved evergreens can protect you and your garden from harsh winds. Large perennials or ornamental grasses can make a privacy screen. A well-placed tree or tall shrub border can provide shade against the summer’s heat.
  • Water sources are another important detail to add to the map. That can mean underground sprinklers or simply a spigot for a hose. Elevations are also important. Does the land slope towards its borders or rise in the center? You always want drainage to move away from your home, not toward it.

Next you’ll want to think about where you’re going to hang out and enjoy all this beauty. Patios, decks, and pathways provide space for you to enjoy all your hard work. A spacious sitting area (one where you can push the chairs back without them reaching the edge) is the perfect spot to enjoy the garden.

Think about the where the paths will go. Walking paths should be at least three feet wide and travel as direct a route as possible. Then you will need to decide what type of stone, brick, or gravel matches your home and yard and is affordable. Keep in mind that paths will get narrower as plants grow over onto their edges.

The final test of your garden design is to settle in to it. Wander the paths, sit under the shade trees, pause to admire the flowers and features. You’ll know you’ve succeeded if you feel a sense of pride, a feeling of peace and an overwhelming surge of accomplishment.