Survey the Landscape
The first step in planning your garden is determining what type of landscape you have to work with. This will help you to select plants that will thrive in the mini-ecosystem of your front or backyard.
Is your yard on a hill or flat as a pancake?
Does water pool in certain areas after it rains? Identify poor drainage areas. You can still plant here, but differently.
Do you know where your underground utilities are located? You get charged if you damage them with digging. Contact the utility company if you are not sure. They may mark the area with bright paint.
Do you have a pond, or do you plan to build a small waterfall?
Does your area receive adequate rain, or do you have desert-like conditions? If your community imposes water restrictions at the same time that your plants are flowering or producing fruits and vegetables, then this will affect your choice of plants.
Are there areas that are always shady due to large trees? Do you have scorching Arizona sun?
White hydrangeas add a touch of elegance to the landscape. If you would like a splash of color, some varieties grow in blue, lavender, and pink. The pink variety will grow blue flowers in soil with a pH of 5.0.
Making Your List
Make a list of what you want to grow: flowers, vegetables, dwarf fruit trees, herbs, ornamental grasses, shade trees, a windbreak, bushes or a privacy hedge. Try to be specific – for example:
1) Flowers: hosta garden, rose garden for cut flowers, climbing roses along the chain link fence, butterfly garden to increase pollination, edible flowers for salads and tea, marigolds to repel pests, etc.
2) Vegetables: eggplant, peppers, cucumbers, squash, tomatoes, etc.
and continue on in this manner.
Make a list of structures that you want in your various gardens: statues, a small pond or waterfall, pergola, greenhouse, trellises against the wall of the house, etc.
Decide how you will connect the different gardens: grassy areas, mulch walkways, paving stones, bricks, etc.
Instead of simply planting a bush for decoration, choose one that will provide a delicious treat, such as this blackberry bush. You can grow blueberries, gooseberries, and many other small fruits to bake into pies, tarts, or just munch on a handful.
Designing the Garden
Research what type of environment each plant on your list requires. Then group the plants that have the same characteristics. For example, hosta plants need 5 hours of bright morning sunlight but their delicate foliage needs protection from the hot afternoon sun. So hostas should be in the group that gets planted on the north or east side of the house. On the other hand, dwarf fruit trees do best on the west or south side of the house since they need 8 hours of sunlight to flower and produce fruit.
Once you have the plants grouped by sunlight requirements, subdivide this group further. Plants that thrive in acidic soil, such as hydrangeas, need to be in a separate flower bed than plants that prefer a more alkaline soil pH.
Now that you know which plants can be grouped together, and where to place them in the yard, you can design the garden for color. Many flowers grow in different colors, so you can play around with your design until it is just what you want.