To be fair, entire books have been written on this subject. You could spend months planning and preparing or spend thousands of dollars with certified backyard planners on this very subject.
A short-read article can’t really claim to do justice to the wide range of possibilities and options available. But there are a few basic points that will help you save some time and/or money before you jump head first into your new landscape project or hire someone to do it for you.
- Draw it up
The first step is to get an accurate drawing of the yard. Take the time to measure the length, width and design of the existing area you want to landscape. Perhaps you just want to modify an area of the yard or even if you want to (re)design the whole yard, you will need to start with the layout of the yard.
You can go online and pull up a map of your yard using Google Earth or even your local County Assessor office. That should get you a nice satellite view and dimensions of the yard. Or, just go old school and measure it out by hand using a tape measure or laser distance measurer.
- Pick a Scale
Transfer all of your measurements onto a piece of paper or use a free, online computer software to help layout the yard to scale. Most landscape professionals use either 10th scale or ¼ scale when drawing plans for construction. It all depends on the size of the yard you’re planning for. A basic subdivision backyard might measure out at 75’ x 40’ deep (*this is just an example and you should measure your own yard), then 10th scale will work just right. Larger lots or wider open spaces might require a different scale.
Important Note: (This is where you will use your geometry skills, and you thought you would never use them after high school!) Scale allows you to put a measure to the specific areas you want to plan for. Scale provides accurate square footages for planning and budgeting. While dimensions on a piece of paper might work, they don’t accurately depict the scale of the yard and the features within the space. Don’t skip this part or it will end up costing you more time and money.
- Create Zones
You can name them what you want, but segment your yard into areas that you want to use the space for. You might create space for:
Extended patio seating area
BBQ/Outdoor kitchen area
Play Structure or Swing set area
There are a number of names and functions you might want to include into the planning of your yard. Just label them out and where it makes the most sense based on what and how you want to use your yard.
- How Much Room Will I Need?
Suppose you want a new outdoor kitchen area so you can start cooking like a pro. Or perhaps you want a vegetable and/or herb garden. How about a bocci ball court or a corn hole game setup. Knowing how much space you’ll need will affect the planning and space you have for each zone.
There are several calculators on line, but start with the areas you want and Google it.
Bocci Ball Court (regulation) 91’ x 13’
Half-Court Basketball Court (regulation) 47’ x 25’
Outdoor Kitchen: Varies…but a good kitchen area might require 12’ x 12’ space
Those are just a couple ideas, but just keep narrowing down the spaces until you have all of the specs accounted for.
- Finishes & Features
By this point you have narrowed down most of the yard. You’ve identified your zones or spaces into segments, determined the required dimensions needed and have them all scaled to your backyard planning sheet. Now you need to add the specifications and the features & finishes for the yard.
This might take a little more planning and research then what we can cover in a simple article. You’ll need to spend some time looking at decking surfaces, turf or lawn types, masonry items, landscape lighting options, plants, trees and ground cover options. The big box stores have most of the options covered or you can go to landscape-outdoor centers or masonry supply stores.
Another option would be to take your plan to a couple landscape stores and have them walk you through the options for plantings, finishes and features.
- How much Will it Cost?
By now, I’ve either lost you and your off to hire a high-priced landscape team or you have the gumption do it yourself. If you’re the later, congrats and stay the course.
The next step is price things out. Again, to be fair, pricing can vary widely and be based on a number of aspects from the types of finishes, availability and where you live.
To help out, we created a quick spreadsheet with some of the more common items you will need to consider when planning for your backyard.
If you need help with your plans and planning, we’ll be featuring more stories and provide you with more tips and links to resources to help you along the way. Remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day and your backyard doesn’t need to be either. But with a plan in place you can work toward the completion of it as time and money presents itself. In the end, it will be well worth the effort when completed.
If you found this information helpful, please let us know. We want to be a useful resource for you so that you can get the most out of your backyard.