now how do you plan a garden?

I really wish that planning a garden was as simple as a visit to a nursery/garden center, buying up all of the pretty plants that you see, placing them in the ground with love and support (and water) and watching them flourish. Sadly, that was our experiment last year… and it didn’t work out. Then again, our drip system wasn’t working as we thought, we did get a little frost, and we planted without considering what will grow in our type of soil.

So this time around, instead of just buying and plopping plants, I’m trying to be a bit more purposeful in my planning. Pandesaldreamer asked the
other day where I was finding my garden plans, so I thought I’d share what I’ve come across to help me out.

First off, Better Homes and Gardens has an immense number of free online garden plans, all conveniently made as PDFs so you can print them out and take them to the store with you!

bhg_garden by you.

My first stop: a clay soil garden. We didn’t raise our garden beds nor dig out 4 feet of clay from our backyard, so I figured I might as well get plants that will love our soil rather than hate it.

Once I downloaded the plan & printed it out… I cross referenced all of the plants in this lovely book: the Sunset Western Garden book.
Western Garden Book: More than 8,000 Plants - The Right Plants for Your Climate - Tips from Western Garden Experts (Sunset Western Garden Book)

I have fond memories of my dad pulling this book out of the yellow cabinet at home and searching for information on the new plants he bought. Quite simply, if you live in a “Sunset Magazine” zone… you need to have this book, especially since most other publishers only take into account non-Western climate zones. After crossing a couple of plants off the list, I headed to the nursery to see whether they actually sold any of the plants that I wanted… and I came home with some pretty new daylilies and siberian irises.


And for the lazy gardener who just wants it all in a simple way, there’s always buying a garden! Michigan Bulb has a few pre-made gardens, but you’ll need to be extra patient for your orders and complain if any of them die to get a replacement ASAP.

And last but not least, if you’re going to order anything online, check Dave’s Garden for reviews on the sellers. There seems to be a lot of waiting time involved with the “cheaper” sites — but at least you won’t be surprised by poor service if you look here first!

Anyone else have any great garden go-to websites for planning out their garden??


  • Stacy

    Thank you so much for providing some helpful hints and links on planning our landscaping. I really don’t know where to start since it’s a big task for me to carry on and the fact that I don’t think I have a green thumb in me at all! Heck, I’m trying to save my flowers right now outside my door.” The blazing sun we had the last couple of days fried them. =(

  • Anita (snow pea)

    Awww, I just read this. I’m sorry it didn’t work out.

    Talk to your neighbors and family. Go on Craig’s list. Other gardeners are so happy to share a piece of their garden with you. See if anyone is offering thinnings of their own plants. The BEST part about this is that the plants already have some years of growth and even a baby of the original mother plant will be a much better and established when you get it as opposed to buying them at a home store nursery. Walk around your neighborhood and see what other people have planted (I know it’s a little difficult in new development where much of it is pro-landscaped). I like reading BHG and perusing their plans because it gives you an idea of heights and how to plant plants together.

  • Anita (snow pea)

    Also, please start small. Do one garden bed. Learn from that one and then proceed to a larger bed or landscaping. I don’t know how many times I’ve had to wrip up my entire garden bed because I did it all wrong.

    About the clay soil, my mother in law mixed in tons of peat moss into her soil.