Making the final plan
At this stage, you should prepare a scale plan on graph paper, using a thick dark pen to mark the site boundaries and any features that you want to retain (or have to retain – air conditioning units, for instance, are somewhat permanent). Having made the ground plan, put a piece of tracing paper over it and mark in the proposed layout of patio, paths, lawn, borders, and other major features such as trees. Try out several ideas on separate sheets of tracing paper, then spend time comparing them until you’ve reached a consensus with the rest of the household.
You can, of course, skip this stage and go straight on to the next, which is to mark out the whole plan on the ground String and pegs can be used to mark out features like patios, lengths of hose are ideal for showing the position of curved borders and lawns, and large bamboo stakes can be stand-ins for trees. When you’ve finished fine-tuning the layout, take a look at the layout from an upstairs window, just to check that it looks right from there as well.
Try to carry out the messiest work first. Generally, this is the hardscaping: building the patios and paths. Lay the paths first, so that you have a good surface to work from, and once the patio has been built. You will at least have a place to rest every so often.
If you don’t want to tackle planting all at once, fill the rest of the garden with lawn and develop beds and borders as time and money allow. Mowing an extra bit of lawn is a lot less work than keeping empty borders looking neat and weed-free. But try to plant any trees as soon as possible-they’ll give instant structure to the garden, and because they often need a couple of years to start growing vigorously, you’ll be giving them a head start.
When you do develop the beds and borders, plant the shrubs first-they’re the “backbone” of the garden, and it’s much easier to decide where they should go and to install them if you haven’t already put in the perennials. In the first few years, until your permanent plants fill out, there will inevitably be gaps, so plug them with colorful annuals or other bedding plants in summer.