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  • Writer's pictureJohn

Location, Location, Location: Tips for Choosing the Perfect Spot for Your Garden

By taking the time to thoughtfully consider and weigh garden location options, you will help ensure that your garden provides the right conditions for your plants to thrive and your garden vision come to life.

Choosing where to locate a garden on a property goes hand-in-hand with understanding the garden’s purpose, the style of garden you imagine, and the dimensions and form of the garden. The garden location will affect plant choices, plant health, and ultimately, the relationship you have with the garden. For example, if the garden’s purpose is to grow vegetables, then a sunny site is requisite, optimally a location with rich organic soil, perhaps located nearby the kitchen, convenient for you to cultivate and harvest the plants when they’re ready for eating.

If your property is small, location options will be fewer and presumably siting the garden will be easier, sometimes self-evident. If your property is larger, the possibilities of where to locate the garden(s) may necessitate evaluating several different options. In either case, structures such as a house, outbuildings, walls, pool and stairs will influence the choice of the garden’s location and layout. The broader surrounding landscape – trees, shrubs, streams, landmarks, etc. – on your property, the neighbor’s property, and even on the distant horizon, also should be considered.


The process of siting and designing a garden starts with creating a base drawing. This is accomplished by measuring the property and drawing on paper what features are already there, helping you to visualize the space. Next, lay a thin translucent vellum paper over the base drawing and sketch ideas to illustrate different garden locations, dimensions, shapes, pathways and other landscape features you may want to add, now or in the future.  During this step, keep an open mind to removing, relocating or altering existing garden spaces, trees, shrubs or even structures to achieve the new garden’s purpose and your vision for the garden. Plan freely. Think about “what could be”. Sketch several ideas, set them aside for a day or two, then return for a fresh look. Share your ideas with experienced gardeners you trust to see what they might think. Gardeners’ love discussing gardening and design ideas. If you’re lost for ideas, get inspired by looking at private and public gardens that appeal to you and the works of accomplished gardeners and landscapers featured in magazines and online.


Caution: Be careful not to create too large a garden. It’s far better to start with a small, thoughtfully designed garden than to create a large, haphazardly designed garden with sparse planting that ultimately does not meet your expectations and requires more maintenance than you can reasonably manage or afford.


Here are some additional factors to consider when locating and laying out a garden space.


  • Water availability: Determine the availability of water in the area you have chosen for your garden. Consider whether you will need to install a watering system or whether the area has access to natural rainfall. You may need to install a hose, watering can, or irrigation system. If the right plants are installed in the right location, watering needs should be minimal once the plants are established. The goal is to design a sustainable garden needing as little intervention and maintenance as possible.

  • Proximity to other features and obstacles: Consider the proximity of the garden to other features in your yard, such as trees, sheds, fences, walkways, and eyesores, like a neighbor’s RV parked in sight of your property. Think about how these features can be incorporated, or integrated, into the garden in harmonious ways. For example, a frumpy old shed you still use might be enhanced by planting a climbing vine at the foot of it, bringing an interesting dimension to garden space. Or, you might move the shed to a less apparent location.

  • Sun exposure: Most plants need a certain amount of sunlight to thrive, so it's important to choose a location that provides the right amount of sun exposure for the types of plants you want to grow. Most plants require at least six hours of direct sunlight per day, but some, such as shade-loving plants, may do better in areas that receive less sunlight. Consider factors like the orientation of your yard and the shadows cast by nearby trees or buildings. Determine the sun patterns in your yard to understand the location of the sun at different times of the day and how that will affect plant selection and plant performance. Sometimes it may be necessary to remove or prune trees to achieve the desired amount of light and moisture (tree roots can rob plants of available moisture and tree canopies can effectively reduce rainfall).

  • Wind exposure: Consider the prevailing wind direction when siting the garden and choose a location that offers some protection from strong winds, which can dry out plants and damage delicate foliage. Some plants, including ornamental grasses, are not bothered by wind and might look their best when the wind is blowing, creating a calming sense of motion. Windy locations don’t have to be avoided, only factored into the garden design.

  • Soil type and quality: The type of soil in your yard will impact the types of plants you can grow, as well as the type of garden bed you need to create. Even on a small property, soil and drainage conditions can vary significantly from location to location. Evaluate the soil at different locations. Conditions may range from wet and shady, to dry, sandy and sunny. That’s OK. Different conditions offer different opportunities to work with different kinds of plants and garden styles.  A well-designed garden can accommodate just about any set of conditions, so long as those conditions are understood and accounted for when choosing and locating plants. It should not be necessary to amend the soil with grit, compost or other organic matter, but instead, choose plant species that will like the existing soil conditions and work with that. Search online to find at-home methods for testing soil pH levels which may affect plant health and plant choices.

  • Equipment accessibility: Make sure that the location you choose for your garden is easily accessible for planting, weeding, and harvesting. You may also want to consider accessibility for larger equipment like a lawnmower, tractor or tiller. You may want to choose a site that is close to the house or near a path or driveway for easy access.

  • Utilities: It’s crucial to know where above-ground and below-ground utilities (water, electric, gas, fiber optic, etc.) are located. Whether you are planting a tree, pruning a tree, building a fence or laying a foundation, contact between equipment and a utility line can cause injury and damage. In most areas law requires you must call the appropriate one-call center at least 48 hours before you dig or drive equipment into the ground. In Wisconsin, call 811 or click to Diggers Hotline. They’ll notify affected utilities who will send professional locators to the dig site to mark the approximate location of any underground lines.

  • Aesthetics: Consider the aesthetic appeal of different locations in your yard, and choose a location that will complement the overall look and feel of your property. Think about how the garden will look in the context of your yard and how it will complement your existing landscape and neighboring landscapes. Consider factors like the color, texture, and form of the plants you want to grow, and how they will work together to create a harmonious garden.

  • Views from inside the home: Think about the relationship between the house (interior rooms, windows, and entryways) and the garden. How will the garden be accessed from the home and vice versa? What do you want to be visible or focus on from each room in the house? Perhaps it’s a particular section of the garden, an ornamental tree, or a view of a water feature or other architectural feature of interest. Conversely, there may objects like a car parking area you want to mask with trees, shrubs, or an architectural element.

  • Privacy: Consider whether you want the garden to be visible from outside the property.  You may want to choose a site that is tucked away or surrounded by trees or shrubs. Or you may want to strategically plant shrubs or trees, or install a decorative fence, to hide the garden area from passersby.


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