The most common mistake in gardening is failing to plan out a garden first. Even if you just scribble out your ideas on paper, you will be doing yourself an enormous favor. The more detailed and accurate your plan, the more money, frustration and regrets you will save yourself. You can call in an expert designer for the more complicated plans or even to coach you with your own design. Or you can design a DIY landscape plan for yourself.
The reason you want to start on paper is so you can see how things will flow together. Designing on paper gives you a chance to test out different ideas. It is much easier to change things with a delete key on the computer or a pencil eraser – and cheaper than having to make changes with heavy labor and expensive materials in the garden itself.
Start out by making a list of all the things you want in your DIY garden. Think of how you will be using your space: for exercise, pets, entertainment, growing edibles, relaxing etc. Then add appropriate items to your list like patios, swimming pools, lawns, pens, barbecues, raised vegetable gardens, water features, seating areas, driveways and patios and so on.
Sketch out how all these areas will work along with each other to form a useful yet decorative flow. Use walkways and paths to link events together. Remember safety and design areas like swimming pools and child play areas where they can be observed from the house. Place edible gardens like herb gardens and vegetables where they will be convenient to the kitchen. Designing wisely can then be made artistic and picturesque.
As you lay out a DIY plan place the permanent features – the hardscape – first. Also make sure you sketch out the important systems like drainage, irrigation and utility lines like electric and gas. Make sure you make provisions for future expansion – utility lines that can be capped but will be available for future use.
Once your overall design, hardscape and systems are in place, you can then start designing the living part of your design or the softscape. Start with the largest features; the trees. Plant the right kind of tree in the right location so it will fit properly when mature, the roots will not interrupt any of your hardscape as the tree grows. Consider the sun at different times of the year and plan shade from your tree so it enhances your garden. Then move on to specking out the different kinds of plants you will use. Always plan for the mature size. (You can always fill in with smaller plants and annuals while the newly-planted are too small to fill their space.)
The final part of you plan can involve adding final details like décor, supplementary plant lists, edging materials and other practical and decorative elements. Do plenty of research. The more you know about design and the elements you include, the better your design will be. Like any do-it-yourself project the success of your project is directly proportional to the wisdom with which it is pot together. And one of the wisest things you can do in a DIY landscape design is a plan.