The Scale Plan

Once you have measured the site, looked closely at its physical characteristics, and noted anything that will affect the final design, you can transfer all this information on to a scale drawing. Accuracy is vital, and will ensure that all the design elements will fit in the way that you intend. It will also allow you to make a good estimate of the numbers of plants and quantities of materials you will need. Front and back gardens should be drawn up separately.


Use an A3 sheet of graph paper for your 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 on this size of paper, although larger gardens may need a sheet of A2 or even A1. Each square (or number of squares) on your scale drawing will represent a measured square of garden; the scale will be established by what fits best on graph paper. Use the measured base lines on your survey to work out which scale to use, but bear in mind that the larger the scale, the easier the plan is to prepare and work with.

Tape down the graph paper at the corners on to a flat surface, then place a sheet of tracing paper squarely over the top and secure it in the same way. Working in pencil and starting approximately 25 mm (1 in) in from the left-hand side and 25 mm (1 in) from the bottom, number each 'metre' (or 'foot') square consecutively both across and up the sheet. For example, if you are working to a scale of 1:50 (2 cm = 1 m or 1/4 in = 1 ft), the numbering will be approximately 1 to 12 across the sheet and 1 to 17 up the side. If you are using a smaller scale of 1:100 (1 cm = 1 m or 1/8 in = 1 ft) you will be able fit on a garden plot twice the size, with the numbering 1 to 25 across the sheet, and 1 to 35 up the side.

Transferring Your Measurements

When you undertook the survey of the garden you took running measurements along the base lines, up and across the garden. Transfer these measurements to the tracing paper, link them up, and the shape of the house and the position of the boundaries will start to emerge. Mark in any manholes, drains, outside buildings, gates, paths and paved areas. If you have forgotten to take an important measurement, or a measurement looks suspect, go out and check it.

Offset measurements can be transferred by drawing a straight line from the start to the finish of the curve, and marking it off at 1 m (1 ft - or your equivalent) intervals as you did on the survey. Transfer the measurements you took to the scale drawing and join them up to plot your curve.

Features such as awkward corners or trees that you measured by triangulation can be transferred to your drawing with the help of a pair of compasses as described here.

You will have noted any changes of levels on your survey, and you will need to relate these changes in level to a known fixed point close to the house. Manholes are often used as a reference point (a 'datum' point or 'zero'), and any ground above this point will be given as a plus measurement, whilst anything below will be given a minus one. If you used a plank, tape and spirit level to measure your slopes, you can easily plot the measurements of the vertical drops, along with any contour lines.

Adding Additional Features

Once the boundaries, levels and other measurements have been plotted on your scale drawing, you can mark any additional information, such as existing features, onto the plan.

The Final Scale Drawing

When the scale drawing is finished, 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.

Creating Your Design

Your scale drawing may be used to create a strong design that will suit you and your garden site. Refer back to your prepared list of items to include in your plan, and sort them in order of preference. Your major priority might be a lawn; your second a terrace; third, a barbecue; fourth a water feature, and so on.

Start to add in the main features on one of the copy drawings. Mark in the position of the lawn, where the terrace might go (noticing where your plan indicates shade), a barbecue with built-in seating near the kitchen, a water feature, a play area, or a kitchen garden. Where possible, group functional items together, such as a greenhouse, garden shed, compost, bonfire area; all the while remembering to allow room for machinery and access.

You can repeat this process as often as you want, sketching out various alternative designs for your garden, incorporating what you want and what you have in different ways.