5 Tips for Planning A Garden for Beginners in the UK 

By  Enda

How to Plan a Garden for Beginners 

Thanks for taking the time to read our article, on how to plan a garden for beginners. There are homes and home owners all across the UK who either have a nice garden they would like to maintain or improve, or would simply like to create a nice garden, from something that doesn't look too good.

If you are brand new to gardening, or in the simple beginning stage, then figuring out soil types, plants flowers, grass, hedges etc may pretty much be a bit of a mystery.

I am a lifelong gardener and there is nothing quite as enjoyable as spending time outdoors in the garden. Now not everyone has the time to spend on the garden, but they still want it to look nice.

Some other people have time, but they simply don't know where to start. Like most projects and tasks in life, any great idea should start with a plan. All you really need to plan out a garden is three simple things:

  1. A pencil
  2. A sheet of paper
  3. A measuring tape

There are basically three common types of gardens:

  1. Front garden - this is the one at the front of the home and is typically a lawn with a hedge, perhaps fencing and some border plants or shrubs
  2. Back garden - this can be a lawn with hedges, but can also include a patio, a deck or simply a yard. There could also be a vegetable or fruit garden and maybe even a greenhouse. Like any garden this could also have fencing.
  3. Side garden - this is one that can run along the side of a home or driveway, and is usually either grass, or shrubs. Often you will find gravel has also been used.

For those without a garden there is always the option of window boxes, or some form of containers, raised beds, planters, garden boxes, pots etc.

The main point here is that no matter what type of space you have available, there is always some way of bringing life to the garden with at least some flower or shrub displays.

What Do You Want From Your Garden?

gardening planning for beginners

For me a garden is a place to relax and enjoy. In my front garden I have a basic lawn, and a border around two sides of the lawn where I grow some simple flowers. Along one wall of the garden I grow some heather, and the fourth side has a simple hedge growing there.

It looks really well and it does not require a great deal of work to maintain. I simply have to cut the hedge 5-6 times a year mainly in the summer.

I then have to mow the lawn about 12 times a year. In addition to that I do some planting in May with some annuals, a few perennials and that brings the colour to the garden.

This type of garden is ideal as it brings pleasure, and is also very easy to maintain. All you really need is something to cut the hedge and the lawn. After that a simple fork will do to help weed the borders.

Planning Your Front Garden

My advice when planning out your front garden is to keep it really simple if you are a beginner to gardening. If you have a lawn then mow it and feed the lawn when you have just cut it. It will give you nice green grass and it looks great.

I would always recommend digging out a simple border about the width of a spade and then plant some simple flowers which you can buy in any garden centre.

It is always best to work initially with what is already there. So rather than sewing a new lawn, try and see if you can bring the old lawn back to life. Likewise with hedges give those a good trim and leave them a few months to see what they look like.

If you have old fencing, then do a few basic repairs and apply a coat of paint or some stain and waterproofing.

If you then plant some basic flowers in the Spring time, you can add lots of colour to your garden. 

When you become more experienced, you can then start to take on more adventurous tasks in the garden. By then you will know your soil type, what grows in that soil type, and also what plants and flowers work well together.

The bottom line when starting out is to keep it as simple as you can. Start with the grass and makes sure it is mowed regularly, and also feed it regularly. This will keep it healthy and green.

Something like the Miracle Gro lawn food does a very good job of that, and also helps keep weeds and moss under control.

Just this simple step can make your front garden look great. 

This simple step along with keeping your hedges or fences in good condition will make your garden look really well. Any plants and shrubs you add will simply enhance the appearance of your garden.

Planning Your Back Garden

Back gardens are a place where most people go to get some relaxation. Again these can come in all shapes and sizes. My own back garden is about 12 feet wide and around 60 feet long.

It is surrounded by three hedges with a lawn. At the rear of the garden, I have built a deck where me and my good lady can go and relax.

We use a few containers for planting and we also have a very small herb garden. In days gone past we did grow vegetables, but these days there is too much work involved, and we prefer to relax.

With back gardens their use will vary depending on your family circumstances. We have grandchildren so we like to have grass for them to play on. However this is just normal hard wearing grass, as with kids it is really hard to have and maintain a high quality lawn.

However planning out a back garden is something you can do with a pencil and paper. You first need to figure out what the main use of the garden is going to be, and then create your garden around that main purpose.

Ideally try and draw your back garden to scale, as that way you can position things you may want to have in it. For example do you want a deck, a shed, a greenhouse or something else located in your back garden?

You can then do a scale drawing of that and put it in place to see what that will look like. Using a pencil allows you to make changes and also allows you to play around with where you want to have things.

Utilities in the Back Garden

If you don't have an outside water tap, or an external electric supply in your back garden, then that is something worth your consideration.

Likewise some type of security lighting, patio lighting are worthwhile thinking about. A basic tap costs around £9-10 so not that expensive.

Most people can easily fit one of these but if in doubt a plumber won't charge that much and at least that way you know it is done properly.

Fitting An External Tap

Fitting an external tap is a really useful thing to have as it saves you having to carry water in and out of the house. The hose can then be used for watering plants, lawns etc and can also be used for washing your car.

It can be used to wash down paths. An external tap is easy enough to fit and does not cost a lot of money. Most people can do this if they have the right tools.

If not a plumber can quickly do this and most will charge around £50 for a simple job like this.

Fitting Electric Outlets

Having electricity outside is very useful but of course not essential. Most homes will have some type of rear lighting such as a floodlight or a security light. This light is usually fed from inside the house.

Likewise some people may have a shed or a garage and there may already be electricity existing in either one of those.

If that is the case then you are in a good position to be able to use power tools and powered gardening tools.

If you don't have any electricity outside, then you will need an electrician to get this done properly. There are a lot of electrical safety regulations to adhere to, when running and installing electrical cables externally.

This is not a job you should do yourself. In the video below, we have included a video of fitting an external electrical socket by plugging it into an internal socket in a shed or garage.

Each person's circumstances will of course be different. Just be careful with anything electrical outside. It does have to meet very high standards to be safe for anyone using it.

Planning Your Side Garden

These come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. The vast majority of people will have some grass, shrubs and some may even have trees. I don't have a side garden, but I have planned many for other people.

Most people simply want the garden to look really well but keep the maintenance to a minimum. The easiest way of doing that is by planting a few flowering shrubs and covering the rest with small stones or tree bark.

If the side garden is wide enough it is of course easy enough to have grass which will require cutting. Almost always these will run along the side of a path or driveway.

That is why many people use tree bark rather than grass as it is just neater and tidier. If you have grass it can lead to grass growing over the edges, weeds spreading and even moss.

plan a garden path

Understanding the Sun and Gardening

The greatest determining factor of what you can plant in any garden is the sun. Every gardener dreams of a "South Facing" garden, as that is where most of the sun will be.

No gardener would have a north corner, unless it were absolutely forced upon them. Most plants are difficult to grow where there is no sun. The only things that grow there will be ferns, certain wild flowers, and begonias.

Other than that north spots are of little use as spots for a general garden.

If possible, choose a southern exposure. The sun provides heat and light for most of the day.With that you can easily grow rows of vegetables and flowers.

The idea is to get the most sunlight as evenly distributed as possible for the longest period of time.

That is why we would recommend writing down on a small plan, the areas where the sun falls on your garden. You can do this simple task once a wekk for a year, and then you will have a very good understanding of your gardens.

Simply use a little diagram to map out the sunshine areas. The southern exposure gives the ideal situation because the sun gives half time nearly to each side. 

Plan Your Garden On Paper

The garden, if possible, should be planned out on paper. The plan is a great help when the real planting time comes. It saves time and unnecessary buying of seed, plants and shrubs.

We have seen people new to gardening buying expensive plants only to find they have the wrong soil type, or the wrong climate conditions for their choices to grow.

we would always recommend trying to draw this plan to some sort of scale. That just gives you a much better sense of what the final garden will really look like.

Use a pencil as that allows you to make changes without having to start all over again. It is also a good idea to bring your scaled plan to your local garden centre, as that will help them as well.

Planning a New garden

If you have moved into a new build house, the gardens will most likely be found in two conditions

  1. They will be covered either with a basic covering of seeded grass
  2. They will have just been left as sods or roughly dug

When it comes to planning out this type of garden, the one good thing to your advantage is that you are starting with a clean slate. Yes there will be quite a bit of work to do, but at least you will be in full control.

You may need to order top soil if you want to get a good lawn started. You can order this in bulk and it comes in three varieties. You can read more about soils and top soils by clicking here.

The general principle is that you need about 4" of top soil for lawns and 8" for borders or anywhere you plan on growing shrubs, flowers or vegetables.

Once your lawn starts to grow it is a matter of feeding it a few times a year, and cutting it regularly. A lawn is the main appearance in many gardens and usually easy enough to look after with just a little care.


I am someone who enjoys a little gardening. Now I am not someone who spend hours in the garden, but I do like both my front and back gardens to look really nice. Well kept lawns, neatly trimmed hedges, and borders filled with plants, make a huge difference, to how your property looks.

Enda McLarnon

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