Plan Before You Plant: How to Use Computer Software to Design Your Garden

Baby, it’s cold outside! These days, the best way to garden may involve sitting in a cozy armchair with your laptop. That’s right. Put away your pencil and graph paper – there are many easy-to-use and easy-on-the-wallet (or free!) apps and software out there can make planning a new flowerbed or veggie patch a cinch:

Many landscaping software companies make it simple to ‘see’ how your new garden can look, by incorporating features such as the ability to import photos of your home so you can design landscape elements around it. Then, you can see how your garden looks during the day, at night or throughout the seasons. Others let you create a 3D rendering of your finished project, or show you where tree and building shadows fall at different times of the day. There are even programs that forecast how plants and trees will grow in over time, letting you see your garden in the future!

Not sure what you want? Making virtual plans on a computer means having the flexibility to change your mind over and over again, without digging a single hole! Plus, many programs include a cost-estimating feature, so you can figure out where to splurge and where to save.

Want to see where to install an irrigation system, a raised herb garden, or a new fence? Some programs include design ideas for these, as well as plant encyclopedias complete with botanical names, photos and care guides that you can consult before investing big bucks.

Be sure to choose a program that includes lots of tools, plants and materials options to let you create the ideal plan for your landscape. And check if there’s a built-in tutorial section plus a question-and-answer tab. Some software comes with video tutorials for common gardening jobs. If the software is too complicated to install and use, you’ll probably give up on it!

Before you get started, you will need to measure and take stock of your existing landscaping: where the trees, deck, gazebo and other permanent elements are.

Here are 10 free (or free trial) resources to get you started. Enjoy creating a virtual tour of your garden, and feel free to share your own tips about computer gardening!

Photo Credit: hitsnooze via Compfight cc

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