How to draw a simple garden plan

  • Difficulty Rating: Beginner
How to draw a simple garden plan

Before you plant that first seed, or even order seeds, why not draw a simple garden plan? Do you think it’s too hard? I can see why, but it really isn’t!

Garden writers and landscape designers often bandy about words like focal point, water feature, retaining walls and hardscape as if everyone knows what we’re talking about.

And, that’s just not fair. For the beginner, these terms can sound off-putting and too technical. Maybe you just want something simple for your back or front yard. Perhaps, you’d like to grow some vegetables in containers, or even raised beds. For years, I thought raised beds were complicated too, and they’re not.

Let’s start with some basics.

Find a sunny spot especially if you want to grow vegetables. If you’re growing shade plants, you won’t need a lot of sunshine, but vegetables worship the sun.

Go outside and measure the space where you want to grow. That’s very important. Paths should be four foot wide to accommodate two people walking side-by-side, or to easily pull a garden cart. Paths can be made out of anything you want from decomposed granite to brick or even grass. I had grass paths for years before I installed gravel.


Come back inside and gather your supplies:
1. I like graph paper because an inch can translate to a foot in the garden. This helps you visual your outdoor measurements in a two-dimensional drawing.

2. If you don’t want to use graph pager, you could use a graph cutting mat and lightweight nearly, see-through paper instead. However, I don’t know how well the paper would hold up over time. You could scan it into your computer though.

3. Some type of drawing pencil, a ruler and an eraser. Although I used the Pink Pearl in grade school, I really like white click erasers that look like mechanical pencils because they erase so well.

4. If you want to draw a circular bed, you’ll need a compass.

5. Colored pencils or Gel Pens from Fiskars. Yes, you can draw everything in black and white, but I think color adds a bit of fun. Part of the secret of not getting overwhelmed from a project is to enjoy what you’re doing while you’re doing it. Turn work into play. You aren’t going to add the color until the end of the drawing anyway so you won’t need to erase it.

6. A photo of the space where the garden will go. It will help you remember what the space looks like now and any existing shrubs or trees to be incorporated into the design.


Start by drawing the perimeter of your garden using straight lines if you’re doing standard 4’ x 8’ raised beds. Then work from the middle outward so you have a center point. You can also draw curves if you want, but it makes things a bit more complicated for your first try. Straight lines build in formality, and curved lines give your eye somewhere to rest. If you want a formal, circular garden, use a compass to make the desired size of the exterior. As you draw, lightly draw in spaces so a change in thought won’t involve so much erasing.
It’s your design, and no one is looking over your shoulder to make sure you’re doing it correctly. As Julia Child once famously said, “Always remember: If you’re alone in the kitchen and you drop the lamb, you can always just pick it up. Who’s going to know?”

The same holds true for gardening. We all make mistakes, and our first attempts at drawing aren’t our best. Physical skills like drawing, cooking and gardening take practice. No one is going to hold your feet to the fire for a design that doesn’t work perfectly. You shouldn’t either.


However, if you decide you don’t want to draw your own design, but simply want one you can adapt to your space, you’ll find several for different types of gardens in my book, The 20-30 Something Garden Guide: A No-Fuss, Down and Dirty, Gardening 101 for Anyone Who Wants to Grow Stuff. I wrote it with you in mind.

This year, let’s make a pledge to go easy on ourselves, but let’s also dream and plan for spring and summer. A garden design is a great way to do both. Gather your materials and imagine me as your coach. I’m right here beside you. Ready… set, go.