Helpful Tools for Designing Your Perfect Garden Layout

When people ask me for tips on planting a garden, the first thing I do is admit to the numerous mistakes I made when I planted my first outdoor garden. Instead of designing a garden layout I jumped right into gardening and started planting plants where I could fit them. Years later I’m still paying for this mistake that could have been easily avoided if I had sketched out a garden plan in one wintry afternoon.

If you can afford to hire a landscape architect or a garden designer, you should consult with one. For those of us working with tight budgets (or the DIY enthusiasts), sitting down and drawing what you want your garden to look like is an option.

Garden Layout - Raised Beds

Photo via Shutterstock/Jamie Hooper

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Sketch your own garden design

Designing a garden layout can be really simple. Go out into your yard where you would like to plant a garden and sketch out the area you have available for planting. It doesn't matter if you can’t draw; nobody besides you ever has to see your garden layout. If all you can draw are simple squares, triangles and circles to represent plants--that’s fine. In your garden layout include any existing trees, plants and features you have. Now draw in your raised beds, planters, flower beds or anything else you want to add to your garden. Refer to your garden sketch when you’re determining what kinds of plants you want to add and how many you have room for.

Using garden design software

You don’t need to be a landscaping guru to be able to use a variety of free online garden planning tools. If you spent years planting and maintaining a garden on Facebook, you can design your own garden in minutes. Here are two options for designing your own garden layout online in a few minutes.

Garden Planner 3

Vegetable garden plan on computer

Garden Planner 3 screen shot via Small Blue Printer

Garden Planner 3 from Small Blue Printer is available as a web app, and a downloadable tool. The download comes with a 15-day free trial that has more bells and whistles, but there is no time restriction to experiment with the online version.

In the example above, I laid out three raised beds with the beginnings of a Three Sisters Garden in about 5 minutes and took a screenshot to give you an idea of what is possible. You can get a lot more creative with your garden plan by adding decks, lawns, pools, hedges, fountains, trees, shrubs, annuals, perennials, vegetables, and experiment with different styles to match your garden vision.

Garden Puzzle

Not everyone who wants to design a garden layout wants to grow a vegetable garden, and maybe a head-on view of the garden would help you visualize plants and their spacing better.

If you spent your childhood playing with paper dolls or books of reusable stickers, Garden Puzzle will seem like child’s play.

computer-generated decorative Garden design

Garden Puzzle screen shot via Garden Puzzle

What’s really cool about Garden Puzzle is that it allows you to drag and drop plants and objects on top of a background that may match your current home or yard. If you upgrade to the full version you can add your own photo.

In the example above, I chose a pretty common outdoor space that many may recognize and started layering plants and a few accents to give you an idea of what Garden Puzzle looks like. There’s a tremendous selection of plants and trees to choose from along with structures ranging from basketball hoops to garden sheds.

Hopefully, this shows you how easy it is to design your own garden. If you’re looking to learn how to design a garden layout, give these two tools a try or conduct an Internet search for some more DIY garden design software options.

Did you design your own garden, or did you work with a garden professional to build your garden? 

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Lyla Brady

Oh, now you tell me after putting me thru a loop 6 times!

Michael Jackson

Please if you could send me any other computer programs for design would be much appreciated. I’m a horticulturist with a great lack of any computer skills.

sue fletcher

Hi I live in a caravan and need to make the most of my bit of land between the nextdoor caravan. every plant got to be in containers. we are slabbing all over then need a fence made of plants To stop people walking through thinking of bamboo will these look good all year round. Thank you in advance. X


Bamboo looks great year round. You’ll see the yellow or green stalk year round. Bamboo is a grass. It grows in more and more each year. It grows very tall. You have to stay on top of it for sure! Once your fence grows to the thickness you want, you’ll be up rooting new shoots to be sure it doesn’t take over your space. Find a recycle place or mulcher to dispose of excess each year. Also, I don’t know if your community has any HOA requirements on fence height, but you’ll want to keep it at a manageable height. They grow taller than a single story house. You may want to google and see if someone in your area is selling or giving it away (thinning out their space). Good luck!

Linda McAninch

My husband built some raised beds behind our garage some don’t get much sun and stay wet longer then 2 of them.Can you tell me what would do good in limited sun?


not all bamboo is invasive. there is fast and slow growing. talk to your local garden center to find the type that is right for you.

Amy Ortega

Thanks for the tips, Ramon! Everything you have done is great, but I am considering to hire landscape architect. I am not sure if I am able to make it alone, therefore I don’t want to risk and I want to be happy with the final results! Greetings


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