11 Simple Steps to Build a Garden from the Scratch

To build a garden from the scratch you need to evaluate your site and design the garden. These 11 steps to build a garden form the scratch will turn a dull patch of grass into a rich environment you’ll use and appreciate. Finding space outside for a table and chairs is at the top of most homeowners’ wish lists, whether for open-air family dinners, casual get-togethers with friends, or simply relaxing with a good book.

Step by Step How to Build a Garden from the Scratch :


1. First step to build a garden from the scratch is evaluate your site and garden design

To comprehend the space you’re working with, and this is a critical topic you should have largely covered while planning your garden design. The major aim for this stage of the garden landscaping process is to identify any problems so that you can plan your efforts and supplies properly, saving you time and money in the long run.

Consider the following:

  • Clean up: Is there any trash to be removed?
  • Soil condition: Will you need to level a sloping garden?
  • Trees in inappropriate positions likely to hinder walkways or impede groundwork?
  • Existing planting: hedges, flower beds in the garden, and so forth.
  • Any existing buildings or features to be removed or worked with: Consider decks, a patio, fencing, garden rooms, water features, garden paths, and so on.
  • Drainage: Assess the condition of the space after a rainstorm, noting any places that get wet.
  • Topsoil: Determine the present state of any existing topsoil and whether more will be required.

2. Decide if you want to do it yourself or hire a garden landscaper.

The trick to build a garden is to understand your limits and budget. Planting, installing off-the-shelf water features, adding a new gravel path or lawn, and laying decking and garden fencing are all doable for the intrepid amateur; however, walling, laying expensive stone pavers, concrete rendering, and electrical work should be left to the professionals for a quality, safe finish, even if you have a small plot. That’s why building a garden from scratch requires deciding if you want to do it yourself or hire a professional.

3. Make the site clear

Before you build a garden you need to make sure if your site is clear. This includes eradicating weeds naturally (everyone’s favorite task) or using one of the best weed killers and any overgrowth and garden garbage. Visible trash is easy to remove, but disturbing the soil with a pick (if the soil is compacted) or a garden rake (if you’re lucky!) will help release any rubble removed below.

This can be a difficult task, but it is required, especially if you plan on doing a lot of planting and starting a kitchen garden. Significant rubble makes it difficult for plants to establish and obstruct drainage access.

Determine whether this is a simple job that you can handle yourself or if you will need to rent a skip.

4. Level the surface

This is an essential task to build a garden from the scratch since landscaping materials such as patios and decks cannot be installed until the ground is level.

If you have a tiny garden, you may be able to level the ground yourself with a heavy-duty garden rake purchased from a local hardware store. Break up large pieces of soil with the teeth, while the back can be used to level the surface by running it forward and backward to disperse the ground uniformly.

Terracing is arguably the most refined approach to dealing with a sloped garden since it allows you to have several degrees of interest in your space. If you have a large area with severely compacted soil, or if you are working with a particularly sloped garden, you may need to consider hiring a professional. A modest variation in level might help make a tiny yard or garden appear more prominent. Still, slanted grass is a no-no since it can rapidly become slippy and ugly.

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However, keep in mind that large excavations are costly. There’s soil to remove and retaining walls to build (to keep soil from washing away), so you’ll almost always need to hire a professional structural engineer, which can be expensive.

5. Include a stone patio.

To build a garden from the scratch, including a stone patio is a must. Paved areas near the house make sitting outside more comfortable and convenient. So landscape architect Paul Maue built a bluestone terrace directly outside the French doors that led to three critical parts of the house: the dining room, the great room, and the library.

The stone is cut in clean rectangles that mimic the lines of the home. Still, the patio has a natural, uneven shape that relates it to the rest of the land, encircled by curved gardens and trees. “Previously, the space was entirely exposed to the sky,” Maue explains. “As the new trees mature, their canopy will make it feel more private, pleasant, and safe.”

Patio Design Suggestions

  • According to landscape architect Paul Maue, “make sure the patio is large enough.” “The hardest part is getting the scale right—you always need more space than you anticipate.” Set up a table and chairs on the grass first to assess their required space. Maui’s golden rule: Allow 25 square feet per person for seating and movement.
  • Consider a Grade Change: A few inches of elevation change may make a tiny yard appear more prominent and break up the expanse of a vast yard, making it more fascinating.
  • TOH landscape contractor Roger Cook removes enough loamy soil to allow for 8 to 10 inches of compacted gravel, topped with around 1 inch of stone dust, after estimating the finished slope of the patio. Because the thickness of bluestone varies from 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 inches, Roger combines ten parts of stone dust with one piece of cement. He wets it until it has the consistency of thick mud. “This aids in settling the stones and filling any gaps on the underside,” he explains. He’ll brush extra stone dust between the stones once they’re in place—where winters bring snow and ice, frost heaves will shatter a patio mortared in with concrete.
  • Plan for Irrigation: If irrigation or outdoor lighting systems aren’t entirely installed, Roger installs pairs of PVC pipes in the patio’s base. “You may come back later and run water pipes or electrical conduit without upsetting the hardscape,” he explains. Indicate the location of the pipes with stones or make a note of it on the plan.
  • Get the Pitch Right: “The last thing you want is standing water,” adds Roger. To enhance runoff, slant the patio 1/8 inch each foot away from the house. Stones must also be leveled for a smooth, sturdy walking surface. So, before he starts, Roger places two string lines about 1/8 inch above the final surface. To determine the grade, he places control lines on either side of the patio, leveling them and inspecting the slope. Then he establishes a starting level line for laying the stone by establishing a header line along the edge nearest to the house. He runs another string line 4 feet from the header so he can inspect each stone as it’s laid with a 4-foot level. After finishing that row, he runs another “set line” 4 feet down—and so on until the entire surface is paved.

6. Plan your garden with the four seasons in mind.

Year-round color is provided by a well-chosen combination of annuals, perennials, flowering shrubs, and decorative trees. When the bulk of blooming perennials, shrubs, and trees bloom in spring and early summer, most gardens are ablaze with blooms.

With a bit of forethought, though, there can be something to please the senses in a garden at any time of year. Spring daffodils, tulips, forsythia, azaleas, lilacs, rhododendrons, and dogwoods give way to summer poppies, peonies, daylilies, iris, catmint, astilbe, and hydrangeas in this garden.

The foliage of shade-loving hostas and golden Hakone grass brightens beds. The attractive bark of these trees, as well as the red fruits of the hawthorn tree and the enduring form and color of the conifers, which range from towering blue spruces to long-needled white pines, offer interest throughout the winter. Annual petunias and impatiens keep their color until autumn when Japanese maple leaves become fiery red and birch leaves turn golden.

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Please keep a record of what flowers bloom when to figure out what gaps in the calendar you need to fill to accomplish a similar succession of bloom and continued interest in your yard, regardless of its size. Then, research in books or catalogs, as well as at local nurseries, to learn about plants with attractive value during specific seasons.

7. Allow for moving water.

To build a garden from the scratch water is one of the most important part. Water features have a naturalizing effect on a location, attracting birds, frogs, fish, and beneficial insects. Waterfalls, streams, fountains, and fish ponds attract wildlife and provide calming music outside your door. The sound of running water is soothing; it may also hide undesirable noises such as road traffic and neighbors’ lawn mowers.

The Goodwins’ stream runs directly by the rear French doors, leading to a waterfall and koi pond at one end and a fountain built of bluestone pavers stacked like books at the other—appropriate for the home of a pair of writers. The water features may be seen from most of the house’s downstairs sections and heard from the second-story bedrooms. Water-loving frogs signal the arrival of spring, and birds visit throughout the winter. “The wonderful thing has been how it has brought us closer to nature and the changing seasons,” Doris explains.

The Goodwins’ water element is created like a gunite swimming pool, with the filter above ground (and screened from view); pipes are placed to recirculate the water.

Create a fountain

A fountain can be as simple as a concrete birdbath, terra-cotta urn, or stone trough equipped with a recirculation pump and a piece of tubing to propel water upward. A pump should always be plugged into an outdoor GFCI outlet for safety.

  • Ensure the Pump’s Longevity: Never allow the water level to drop so low that the submersible pump’s housing becomes exposed. Bring the pump inside until spring if you plan to heat the water basin or keep the fountain running all winter in places prone to intense freezes. Keep it soaked in water mixed with a few drops of dishwashing liquid indoors to prevent calcification.
  • Determine the Power Required: A standard garden center pump will suffice for a tabletop fountain. Look for one that can recirculate 15 to 20 gallons of water per minute for a larger-scale installation.
  • Create the appearance of a ground-source spring. A “pebble fountain” can be erected at ground level for a natural-looking DIY installation, with the water draining back to an underground basin. Check out the diagram above to see how a stacked-stone pebble fountain could be built.

8. Garden walkway

Paths steer us in the right direction and encourage us to explore. Curving walks reduce the pace and highlight essential landmarks along the way. One that winds its way shows the landscape gradually, adding a surprise with each twist and turn. Bends in the road focus your attention on what’s ahead of you, whether it’s the papery white bark of a multistemmed birch or a stunning natural rock structure.

By cutting a swath and laying down a layer of mulch, pine needles, or loose stone, you can easily create an informal route among planting beds or woodland. This informal paving blends in with the environment, offering just enough definition to highlight the plant material on each side while keeping strollers in line. Remember, though, that such surface materials naturally decay and scatter with time, so you’ll need to renew them regularly.

9. Construct a garden arbor

Vertical architectural components connect the landscape to the house and balance out the horizontal lines of a yard. Arches and arbors, like those pictured above, can be used to dress up a walkway, frame a vista, support climbing plants, or mark an entry. Garden gates with an arbor roof feel pleasant and secure, signifying the passage from one setting to another—for example, from the driveway to the backyard.

This arch’s clean lines echo the home and the spindle-style picket fence. The curved top contrasts with the rectangular geometry of the surrounding structures, drawing attention to it even more. A garden arch should be between eight and ten feet tall. And, if it’s going to carry a double gate, as this one does, it should be at least 6 feet wide to allow for a courteous entrance that can handle two persons walking side by side.

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How to Build an Arbor

  • A natural cedar or redwood arbor requires little upkeep. If you want it to be a bright white (or another color), skip the paint and use a solid stain instead. Solid stains fade over time without blistering or peeling, making future maintenance much easier.
  • You always see them at the garden center: wooden arbors with ground-level feet. These are suitable for use as a trellis for vines or as a roof over a freestanding bench, but they will not withstand the strains of a fence line or a swinging gate.
  • Pro Fence’s Mike McLaughlin, who custom-fabricated and installed the arbor here, recommends sinking the posts 30 to 36 inches below grade to support that load. Where the soil is naturally gravelly, backfilling the hole with it and hand-tamping it every few inches may give enough stability and drainage.
  • Where the soil is sandy or clay, a better choice is to sink the bottom of the post in 4 to 6 inches of tamped gravel, then fill the hole with a tamped mix of soil and gravel, pressing it around the post slightly over grade and sloping it away from the post. Sink the post ended in gravel first to prevent it from standing in water, then fill the hole with a slanted concrete base.
  • Driving two 12-inch pieces of 1/2-inch rebar through the submerged portion of the post will help keep it grounded. Seal the seam where wood meets concrete with silicone caulk to prevent moisture from rotting the post.

Even a well-built gate with high-quality stainless steel components must contend with gravity. Install a diagonal wooden brace from the upper latch-side corner to the lower hinge-side corner to reinforce and protect it from sagging.

If a gate is already starting to droop, put a turnbuckle along the other axis that allows you to tighten threaded rods to raise the sinking corner.

10. Include a play area

To build a garden from the scratch play area plays an important role. Play places for young children have been in suburban yards for as long as there have been subdivisions. However, at-home leisure places do not have to be limited to children or too expensive, space-consuming tennis courts and swimming pools. Croquet lawns, greens, and horseshoe pits are becoming more common in backyards as homeowners attempt to create locations for family and friends to enjoy their property.

The Goodwins believed they were installing the bocce court to benefit their three grown sons who reside nearby. “But we go out there with visitors all the time,” Doris explains.

A basic bocce court, like the one pictured above, may be built in a couple of weekends for around $750: It only needs a few 2x12s and wooden pegs to build a 12-by-60-foot frame, several tons of gravel for a well-tamped base, and stone dust for a 6-inch playing surface. The bocce balls are not included.

11. Choose a peaceful location.

No landscape should be complete without a seat under a tree’s canopy, tucked in the curve of a woodland walk, or positioned at the far end of the yard with a view back to the house, with all its hustle and bustle. After all, the objective of gardening is to spend time outside, enjoying the feel of the warm sun and cool breezes, the aroma of freshly cut grass and blooming flowers, the buzz of insects, and the twittering of birds. You can do this by sitting and remaining still for a few moments.

Consider how close it will be to the house when selecting a bench; the closer it is, the more it should resemble the style of your home. An elegant metal bench would look great outside a brick house with wrought-iron railings. In contrast, a basic white-painted wood bench would look great outside a humble cottage.

However, natural-looking materials integrate best with the landscape further away from the house: plain stone slabs that will become mossy or encrusted with lichen over time; water-resistant woods such as teak and cedar that will weather naturally; and even a fallen tree hollowed out for a seat. But whatever material a bench is made of, the invitation it extends is the same: why not relax and rest for a while?

Do the articles on how to build a garden from scratch help you get a rough idea of how to build a garden? If you are interested in a sloped garden, you can also read how to make sloped backyard ideas on a budget.