Drawing a Garden Plan to Scale: Expert Tips and Step-by-Step Guide

When planning a garden, it can be quite difficult to picture the size and placement of plants and garden beds. Before you can plant your garden, you need to judge the best plant placement and how everything will look together.

Only if you base your garden design on a plan drawn accurately to scale can you be sure that everything will fit in the way you intend. It will also allow you to make an estimate of the quantities of materials and number of plants you will require.

A garden landscape plan drawing gives perspective to your ideas, acts as a planting guideline, and is a document for future reference. If you want to know how to draw a garden plan to scale, read on as we explain this process in this step-by-step guide.

garden landscape plan drawing

How to Draw a Garden Plan to Scale

The key to drawing a garden plan to scale is to convert the original measurements from your garden to a format that can fit onto a piece of paper. This garden planning drawing acts as a guide when you plant your garden.  

The first step in drawing a garden plan to scale is measuring the actual garden with the help of a measuring tape. Make a rough sketch on paper using these measurements.  

Although you can use any scale you want, the easiest is ⅛ inch = 1 foot. After deciding the scale, map out the existing plants, garden beds, and other permanent features like fences, paths, and benches. 

Next, add the plants you want in your garden. Be sure to keep the plant’s mature size in mind in your garden planning drawing, and follow the same scale that you’ve used for the garden beds. 

Each plant has a unique shape and form. Use their basic forms to draw individual plants in the garden. Make sure that your sketch is simple and easy to understand. Use various symbols to stylize various garden elements. 

You can build and stylize your garden planning drawing in multiple ways. Some gardeners create a simple sketch to represent various planting groups, while others use color pencils to design beautiful landscape symbols.   

Once your sketch is complete, create a key to label the various symbols and plants in your garden. 

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Finalize your plan and check for any discrepancies. Double-check the plant placements and make sure there’s no need for any last-minute changes.  

garden planning drawing

Steps to Draw a Garden Plan

Drawing a garden plan acts as a guide for gardeners, helping them to better plan their garden, make provisions for classic garden elements, and provide estimates about the number of plants needed. The following tips for garden planning will help you draw a garden plan easily:  

  • Measure the area

The first thing you need to do is measure the garden, look closely at its physical characteristics, and note the things that’ll affect the final plan. Now you’re ready to transfer all this information onto a scale drawing.

  • Determine the scale

Use an A3 sheet of graph paper for your garden plan, choosing an appropriate scale for the size of your garden. Most gardens, up to a size of about 30 x 18 m (100 x 60 ft) will fit. Larger gardens will fit better on a sheet of A2 or even A1 paper. The larger the scale, the easier it is to prepare and ‘read’. 

The measured baselines on your survey will help you to work out which scale to use. Remember to draw the front and back gardens separately. 

First tape the sheet of graph paper down onto a flat surface at the corners. Then place a sheet of tracing paper squarely over the top of it and stick it down in the same way. Work with a pencil and start approximately 2.5 cm (1 in) in from the left-hand side and 2.5 cm (1 in) from the bottom.

  • Add features

You can transfer features on the survey, such as trees or awkward corners, that you measured by triangulation to your scale drawing with the help of a pair of compasses. Meanwhile, you can transfer offset measurements by drawing a straight line from the start to the finish of the curve concerned, and marking it off at 1 m (3 ft) intervals as you did on the survey. Transfer the measurements you took out in the garden to the scale drawing.

  • Determine the Location of Fixed Objects

When you carried out the survey of the garden, you took running measurements along the baselines, across and up the garden. Now transfer these measurements to the tracing paper, link them up, and you’ll see the shape of the house and the position of the boundaries beginning to emerge. Mark in the garden elements like any outside buildings, manholes, gates, drains, paths, and paved areas as well.

  • Label the elements

Then start to rough in the main features on one of the copy drawings. Mark where the terrace might go – noticing where your garden plan indicates shade – the position of the lawn, a barbecue with built-in seating near the kitchen, a play area for the children, and a vegetable garden. Group utility items together where possible: a garden shed, greenhouse, compost, and incinerator or bonfire area. Just make sure to allow room for access and machinery.

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If your garden slopes, you’ll have noted the levels on your survey. You now need to relate these changes in level to a known fixed point close to the house. Manholes are often used for what surveyors call a ‘datum’ point or ‘zero’, and from this point slopes up are given as a plus measurement, and slopes down as a minus one. If you used the plank, tape, and spirit level method in your survey, you can easily plot the measurements of the vertical drops, along with any contour lines.

  • Review and refine

Now you can go on to produce thumbnail sketches to map out various alternative designs for your garden, incorporating what you have and what you want in different ways. Make the shapes proportionate to each other by organizing them following multiples of your graph paper squares. The thumbnail sketches on this page will work as garden planning tips, giving you an idea of the possible variations that you can achieve using the same basic blueprint.

  • Create a final copy

Once you plot the boundaries, levels, and other measurements on your scale drawing, mark the additional information you noted. When you finish the scale drawing, file the original tracing away. You can use this to make copies of your plan when devising possible designs. Never work directly on the original.

 

drawing a garden plan to scale

10 Quick Tips to Draw a Garden Plan

It can be quite hard to visualize a garden on a piece of paper. The following tips can make the process of drawing a garden plan to scale quite simple:

1. Know your space

Before starting on your garden planning drawing, you need to look around your garden. Measure your garden area, paying particular attention to the shape of your garden bed. Take note of features like windows, utility access, etc. to ensure they aren’t blocked by your plants.

Sometimes you may need to create an asymmetrical design to accommodate a low window. It’s best to take these things into account before getting started, as they can be difficult to correct afterward. 

2. Pick a view

Next, you need to decide on the view to draw from. The best approach is to choose the view that allows you to visualize your garden space easily. Do you find it easy to visualize your garden from the front or from above? The plan view allows you to view garden plants as circles and symbols. By choosing the elevation view, you can see your garden as if you’re standing in front of it.  

3. Use tracing paper 

Another simple trick that can help you make a killer garden planning drawing is the use of tracing paper. Place tracing paper over the photo of your garden to draw out different garden plans. This allows you the freedom to explore multiple ideas quickly.

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4. Use a sharp pencil 

Be sure to use sharpened pencils when drawing a garden plant to scale. Use different shapes like ovals, circles, and pyramids for different types of plants. Using different sizes and shapes makes your drawing planning drawing more interesting.

5. Use colored markers and pencils

Adding colors to your garden planning drawing helps visualize the space. Many landscape designers use alcohol markers and watercolors in their drawings. However, there’s no need to get fancy – a set of normal crayons or colored pencils will do the trick.  

6. Draw simple shapes

When drawing a garden plan to scale, it’s best to denote plants and various garden features using simple forms and shapes. There’s no need to draw anything fancy—as long as it’s clear and easily understandable, you’re good to go.  

7. Use the same scale throughout

Choose the scale according to your preference and stick with it throughout your drawing to avoid confusion. Be clear when you write your scale on the drawing, and mention ‘Not To Scale’ if a garden feature isn’t to scale.

8. Try to make big drawings

It’s hard to produce smaller drawings accurately. They’re also harder to read and less appealing to the viewer. Try to make your garden planning drawing as big as possible to avoid potential mistakes.  

9. Mark the features 

Take careful note of existing features like a fence, path, or large trees that you intend to keep, and draw the features that you’re going to add. Also, mention the amount of sunlight each area gets using words or symbols. This’ll help determine the optimal place of plants. 

10. Keep an eraser handy

Use an eraser if you aren’t happy with your drawing. It’s much easier to draw again compared to dragging benches or returning plants to the store.

how to draw a garden plan to scale

Conclusion

Gardens come in various sizes and shapes, and having a garden landscape plan drawing makes it easier to plan your dream garden. Once you examine your space, gather your inspiration, and pick out a theme, all that’s left to do is learn how to draw a garden plan to scale.  

Drawing a scale plan not only allows you to create a design that’s feasible, but it also helps in ordering the correct amount of plants and materials, saving you time, money, and inconvenience. Remember, it’s a lot easier to change a drawing than it is to change a pathway or replace a terrace once it’s built.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in November 2020 and has been completely updated.

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