Save time and money by drawing your landscape plan

By Mary Fran McClure
WSU Chelan/Douglas County Master Gardener
January 5, 2022

Landscape garden sketch showing sunny and windy areas and existing trees, views and drainage.
Drawing a landscape plan will save you money and frustration over the long term, says WSU Master Gardener Mary Fran McClure.
Provided image/Mary Fran McClure

Mary Fran McClure
Mary Fran McClure – WSU Chelan/Douglas County Master Gardener – photo by Don Seabrook, Wenatchee World

It’s a good bet all of us want to avoid mistakes and frustrations. For your landscape, whether with a new home or a less-than-pleasing established landscape, take the time to draw out your plan and you will no doubt end up with more satisfying results.

I prefer making a drawing on ¼-inch grid paper. Preferably the paper is large enough to afford ¼ inch equaling one foot of your property. You’ll probably need a 24×36 inch size sheet or you can tape several sheets of regular paper together. Or you may just go for unlined paper and mark your own lines. Tackling this project makes your planning more straightforward and easier. For goodness sake, don’t feel it needs to look like a landscape architect’s rendering!

First, outline your property boundaries, then draw in dimensions of home, sidewalks, patio and driveway. Be sure to add a N arrow for north because sun/shade criteria are so important for specific plants. If you have irrigation lines already situated, draw them in as well as faucet locations. Adding overhead utility lines and underground sewer lines may help determine what size and type of trees your property can handle as they mature.

Sketch general contours if your property isn’t level; also, add wind and drainage directions, if they are important to your area.

With an established landscape, draw in trees, shrubs and edging borders. For instance, a mature dogwood tree may have a 20-to-25-foot spread. With that in mind, you don’t want to locate it three feet from your home, as so often happens in new landscapes. It might look nice the first couple of years, but not in the long run. That means in a few years you’ll have branches rubbing against your home and it will require eliminating the offending tree. This is a case of the right tree in the wrong place. A little research done BEFORE planting can make all the difference!

If you’re planning a fence, retaining walls and other improvements that might need to meet code requirements, check with your city planning department for regulations on fence height and other restrictions.

Make several copies of your plan and then play around sketching in various plants, pathways and other ideas. For plants, begin by generalizing what types are needed — for instance, screening plants, shade trees, pathways, a specimen tree, flower beds, containers or raised beds.

Consider micro-climates. Walls and buildings reflect heat and might provide a great vegetable garden spot in a south-facing area. Wind tunnels between buildings may restrict certain delicate plants; avoid expecting sun-loving plants to thrive in shady areas or vice versa.

Raised beds or a garden area for tomatoes, herbs and other vegetables need to be in your sunniest location. Allow walking space between beds, and 2 ½- to 3-feet wide beds are recommended for easy wheelbarrow access.

Now it’s time to begin identifying specific plants to meet your needs. A few of the many considerations include plant cultural needs, size, shape, color, texture, evergreen or deciduous, water requirements, fast or slow growth, and perhaps fire resistance. Include plants with year-round interest, plus colors and shapes that please you.

All this may seem daunting, but in the long run drawing a plan saves money as well as frustration — and most likely your efforts will produce a more satisfying landscape to enjoy for years to come.

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