How to design your garden

Good garden design provides a link between your indoor and outdoor living areas, so you and your family can take advantage of the Brisbane way of life. Find out how to start, things to consider and things to watch out for to plan your perfect garden.

Designing your garden

Site analysis

Good garden design begins with a plan. Ask yourself the following questions before moving to the design stage:

  • what do you want the garden to achieve? Grow food? Shade walls? Encourage wildlife?
  • what do you want to do in the garden? Where will your activity and play areas go? What about privacy?
  • which direction do breezes and storms come from? Which way is north?
  • do you have pets?

Other things to consider include:

  • check where water flows across your property
  • look at your visitors’ needs
  • where are underground and overhead services
  • identify wet, dry or steep spots
  • storage and maintenance needs
  • type of plants that suit the area, soil and conditions

Design plan

Prepare a garden design based on the opportunities and limitations that you noted during your site analysis.

Garden design checklist

You can check if your garden design is sustainable and right for you by checking the following:

Lifestyle designed

  • the plants suit your lifestyle - low maintenance, attract birds, provide shade and colour
  • your living needs are covered – pool, BBQ, pets, clothesline, play equipment
  • trees, shrubs and fences provide privacy and security
  • your garden suits your way of life now and in the future
  • children’s play areas can be seen from the kitchen or living areas
  • indoor entertaining areas flow into outdoor entertaining areas
  • the turf type suits your lifestyle and site conditions

Environmental design

  • your design considers neighbours, underground services, overhead power lines, threat of bushfires, summer storms and native animals
  • landscaping minimises stormwater run-off by channelling water into garden beds
  • you use existing site contours to add interest and work with the existing ground levels rather than changing them
  • fences and garden beds do not channel stormwater onto neighbouring properties
  • your design uses renewable or recycled materials
  • driveways and paths, fencing, retaining walls and garden edging are made to last. Pebbles and water-absorbent surfaces are used instead of large, non-absorbent areas (for example, concrete)
  • water features contain native plants and fish, and use solar pumps
  • you have incorporated rocks, logs and other structures as a safe shelter for native animals such as lizards and birds. Ensure that these have been sources responsibly and not removed from any natural areas

Low-cost design

To incorporate a low-cost garden design, ensure you have:

  • a water-efficient irrigation system that suits your garden design, plants and layout
  • designed your garden to be low-maintenance
  • included a rainwater tank to reduce potable/tap water usage
  • considered selecting plants that will provide homes and food for local wildlife
  • a compost bin and worm farm for organic household waste
  • grouped plants by their watering needs and reduced lawn areas
  • reduced your use of chemicals
  • not selected invasive plants and weeds that will cost time and money to remove or control
  • located your water feature in a shaded area to reduce evaporation

Things to watch

  • water features:
    • make sure you turn your water feature off when not in use
    • choose a model that recycles water
    • top it up with rainwater
    • add native fish that love mosquito larvae
    • avoid all aquatic plants that are invasive or declared weeds
  • noise from swimming pools and spas:
    • think carefully where to put your pump and filter
    • consider building a structure around them to reduce noise
    • always make sure your pool is fenced and secure
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