Starting Your Garden from Scratch

Probably the most common question to ask when planning your home garden design is “Where do I start?” The answer: a blank piece of paper.

Start off with an A3 or A2 size sheet. This should give you enough room to draw in as much detail as you require. Pencil in any buildings, structures and landforms that will remain as part of your garden design. This will obviously include your house, and sheds and any mature trees you plan to keep. If you have a larger property it may also include streams and watercourses, driveways and existing pathways.

Once you’ve blocked all this detail into your design you then need to locate north, if you’re living in the southern hemisphere, or south if you’re living in the northern half. The importance of this is to plan where the sun will move and which parts of your garden will be relegated to shade.

Now that you know which parts of the garden the sun will illuminate start planning any outdoor living areas you might like to include. Patios, gazebos, sunken barbeque areas and decking may be on your list of required areas. While these give the garden some added structure, character and aesthetic value they can also inhibit further the sun’s ability to flood your garden with light. Therefore, you will need to position them knowing that whatever lies to the south (or north) of them will be limited to part or full-shade.

Once your permanent structures are drawn in, the process is now to be completed via your own personal working style. Some would suggest that you add pathways before lawns and garden beds, while I prefer to add the lawns and beds first and then connect them as creatively as possible. The second option seems to be fiddlier but I find you end up with a more interesting garden.

To give some perspective on my thoughts would be to compare it with Main Roads who plan to build a highway for the sake of it and then attach a city at the end. This is, of course, complete nonsense as the road is a means to an end and not the end itself. Pathways, like roads, are a vehicle for getting us from Point A to Point B, C, D…

You may decide to have no lawn and just garden beds. Or it may be that lawns will feature predominantly and be complemented by a little garden. Your preferences need to be drawn into the garden design and then weighed against limitations of space, time and resources.

When we began our garden, more than 3 years ago, Deb and I had different views of how much lawn we should have. I’m not a big fan of it and would much rather prefer more gardens whereas Deb wanted more playing space for the kids. In 10 years time our needs will have changed and lawn won’t be such a high priority. Therefore, planning ahead for your garden design will also make transitions easier.

Once you have some rough plans sketched out, attach a transparent sheet over your main drawings so that you can draw in reticulation and outdoor lighting plans. The benefit of having an overlaid sheet is that you can always remove it if you decide to change some aspects of the garden design or lay it over to view only your initial plans.

Voila. Now you have an initial plan to start working on your home garden design. Remember, nothing is set in concrete until it’s set in concrete! So, don’t feel limited to your design just because you now have it on paper. It’s a work in progress and can change and is modified as your work progresses. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Additionally, we participates in various other affiliate programs, and we sometimes get a commission through purchases made through our links.