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Winter is for Dreaming and Planning

It’s bitterly cold out and, aside from a few diehards, most of us don’t want to be out in the garden.  That means it’s the perfect time for dreaming and planning!  If your outdoor space isn’t everything you want it to be (and let’s admit it, whose is?), this is a great time to think about how you would like your garden to look in the future. Hop on Pinterest and Instagram for inspiration and then get planning.  Listed below are a few online tools for planning your landscape or vegetable garden.

Garden Puzzle

  • A nice planner with lots of specific plants and a little info about each
  • You can pick your zone and soil conditions and each plant tells you its light requirements
  • You can upload a photo of your house/garden and overlay plants and structures on it
  • Has a free online trial version, but to get most features, it’s $19 for 6 months
  • Would be my favorite if I actually bought it, I think

My Garden by Gardena

  • A nice, simple online designer
  • You can create an account and save your work for free
  • I can’t for the life of me figure out any way to label the plants, so it’s purely a visual designer
  • When you draw items, they all seem to be in meters, even if you change the scale to feet

Garden Planner

  • You can download a free trial version, but it’s only good for 15 days; you can use the online version indefinitely, but you can’t save your work
  • Very simple, visual planner—no specific plants (though you can add text boxes to your design and label them that way)
  • Easy to use

Kitchen Garden Planner by Gardener’s Supply

  • For square-foot vegetable gardens only
  • You decide how big it’s going to be then place desired vegetables on the grid and it will decide how many plants you can get in each square
  • Lots of information about growing each and when to start seeds

And then, of course, there’s old fashioned drawing.  While there might be a learning curve with online tools or they might not do everything you want them to do, drawing by hand gives you the freedom to make your yard look exactly how you want it to.  I like to start with a photo of my house and print it out as big as I can.  Then I lay a piece of tracing paper on top of it and get drawing.  This method works well if you already know some plants you want and their rough dimensions (for example, I know I want a Dwarf Alberta Spruce on the right side of my house, so I drew a conical green shape), but you can also go more general.  If you don’t know what you want, use this method by drawing round shrubs, grasses and flowers of varying heights with plenty of measurements.  Then in the spring, when you bring it in, you can find something that fits those requirements.   And if you don’t like the way something looks, you can always try again.  It can be fun to give yourself multiple options!

While drawing a head-on picture can help you to visualize how things will look, you should also make a bird’s eye view drawing with precise measurements so you can be sure of the size of the space you need to fill—no one wants to find out after they buy the plant that the space is bigger/smaller than they thought!

With all of these methods, you can be as general or as precise as you want.  You can use these methods on their own or in conjunction with each other (for example, draw out your plan by hand for the visual, then use Garden Planner to get more specific with measurements).  As someone who has a tendency to buy plants on a whim, only to find when I get home that they don’t really work in my space, I can say with certainty that planning can really help to realize a beautiful garden.  It can maximize your time in the spring (it can really help to have an idea of what you want when you come to the garden center) and ensure that your garden is more cohesive and fits together better.  Plus, it’s just a lot of fun dreaming up what it could be!  Enjoy!

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

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